'I really needed this help.' Arlington court program offers another way for people to pay fines
About 125 people in Arlington resolved outstanding tickets and low-level warrants during the city’s first community court event, according to city municipal court officials.
Instead of walking out with receipts for paid fines, they left with payment plans or options to attend classes or participate in community service instead.
Gavina Tamayo left the meeting space turned into a courtroom with the option to participate in a GED program that would connect her to job opportunities and daycare services for her toddler.
“I’m a single mother of three, and I really needed this help,” Tamayo says as she walks out of East Library and Recreation Center.
In one of the waiting rooms, Felicia Graves waited to ask the judge for help resolving multiple traffic tickets. Graves’ license was suspended over outstanding fines, meaning she and her son have had to find rides or hail a rideshare service like Uber of Lyft.
“It’s getting expensive, too,” Graves says.
Danielle Dulaney, an associate municipal judge, says the inaugural event was a way for the city to close out some of the more than 65,000 outstanding Class C warrants — especially as inflation stretches people’s wallets thin.
“We think there are a lot of people who really want to take care of these. They don’t want to have outstanding warrants. We think that they’re just not aware that, number one, they can come to the courthouse and they can talk with the judge,” Dulaney says.
And, more importantly, they can visit the courthouse without being arrested, she adds.
“People think it’s like a trap or something. It really isn’t. We’ve worked very hard not to only try to help people resolve these citations, but honestly, just to help them in general with everything going on right now,” Dulaney says.
The city cited Census statistics that 10.5% of Tarrant County residents live in poverty, as well as Tarrant County Homeless Coalition data that suggests more people entered houselessness than exited in January.
Arlington joins a handful of North Texas cities that have hosted or plan to host warrant forgiveness events. Fort Worth Municipal Court will host an event from 9 a.m. to noon Sept. 10 at Arlington Heights United Methodist Church.
Dulaney says she’d like to see future Arlington forgiveness events or a permanent community court if there’s a need in the community.
“Eventually if we’re able to do them on a continual basis or even have a home for community court, a permanent location, that’d be the long-term goal and the long-term vision that we’d really like to see,” she says.
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