Whether you’re fighting a red-light ticket in El Paso or need a speeding ticket lawyer in San Antonio, the absolute worst thing that could happen is having a warrant issued for your arrest.

If you have and active warrant, you could be arrested anytime when going about your daily life.  

Can you imagine being carted off to jail in front of your co-workers?  Your kids?  Your baby mama? That pretty much guarantees your mugshot will make its way onto social media!!

If you’re arrested, you will usually be booked into a county or city jail until you are able to see a judge.  In large counties, like El Paso or Bexar (San Antonio), you’ll usually see a Judge quickly, maybe in a matter of hours.  In smaller counties, like Ector (Odessa) or Midland, it could take up to 48 hours. 

And there’s nothing you can do about it … 

unless you want to pay the full price of the traffic ticket and any traffic warrant fees that go with it.

Do I get jail credit?

For every 24 hours you spend in jail, whether it’s waiting to see a judge or after you see a judge, you should be given at least $100 of credit towards your unpaid fines.  A judge has the option to give you more than $100 a night if he/she wants to. 

What happens next depends on the type of warrant and which judge you see:

  • If you’ve previously failed to appear and are brought before the court that issued the traffic warrant, the judge may ask you to enter a plea on the original traffic citation.
  • If you plead Guilty or No Contest to that traffic ticket, you’ll be sentenced at that time and usually order to pay a fine and court costs.

Here’s an example …  

If you have $500 in speeding tickets and you get picked up on your warrants, you’ll be booked into jail.  Let’s say you serve two days and jail credit is $100 a day.  You appear before a judge after those two days and plead No Contest.  Right off the bat, you’ve knocked $200 off your tickets, so you owe $300 more.  A judge may be nice and reduce your fines so you are “time served” on your traffic tickets.  Or, the judge may order you to pay the remaining balance of your tickets ($300).  Bummer.  

If you cannot pay, follow the steps outlined here: http://tickethelptexas.org/guide/introduction/ive-been-ordered-pay-amount-i-cant-afford.

Want to fight the ticket?  You better hire a traffic ticket lawyer!  To fight the ticket, you’ll plead Not Guilty in front of the judge.  If you plead Not Guilty, a trial date will be set, and you’ve basically served time in jail for NO REASON … but at least your traffic warrants are removed.  

If you plead Not Guilty and are released, remember that those tickets are still pending.  If you miss another court date (e.g., your trial date), more traffic warrants will issue and you’re back to square one.

Consider the consequences of each plea at http://tickethelptexas.org/guide/introduction/what-happens-my-first-appearance-court or, seriously, hire a traffic ticket dismissal lawyer. 

Could I ever be sentenced to more jail time?

You should never be sentenced to more jail time (sometimes called “sitting out” or “laying out” fines) UNLESS the judge finds that your nonpayment was willful – meaning intentional or purposeful.  Basically, you knew about the tickets/warrants and you blew them off. 

Judges are rarely that mean when it comes to traffic citations, but I’ve seen a few. 

The judge can only sentence you to more jail after making a finding that:

  • You had the ability to pay but refused to do so; OR
  • If you’ve been sentenced to perform community service instead of paying, that you had the ability to perform the community service without undue hardship, and you failed to do so.

Don’t want to stay in jail?  Explain to the judge that your failure to pay was not on purpose.  Tell the judge how much money you make, how many children you have, mention any other people in your household who depend on your income, and outline your biggest expenses.  Tell the judge how much you have left over at the end of your paycheck and how difficult it would be to give that money to the court.  If you get benefits like TANF, SNAP, Medical/CHIP, Section 8 housing vouchers, SSI/SSDI, or free school lunches for your children, you will most likely be found indigent

If you’re indigent, the court must offer you alternatives to jail time (an extension of time to pay, a payment plan, community service, a reduction or waiver of the fines, etc.). 

How does a warrant affect my license?

Having an active traffic warrant on your record will stop you from getting/renewing your driver’s license, registration and insurance.  It’s best to hire a traffic ticket lawyer in El Paso, San Antonio, or Odessa to make sure no warrants issue for your arrest and to clean up any warrants on your record.  Most traffic ticket dismissal lawyers are also license restorations lawyers so they can help you get your driver’s license back too!

If you don’t know whether you have warrants or need a free warrant check, call my office and we’ll give you a free check of both Municipal and Justice of the Peace warrants.

Don’t spend your stimulus on bailing out of jail!