CHANCE TO CLEAR FINES: Houston municipal courts kick off amnesty program

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- If you have a warrant for failure to appear at Houston Municipal Court, there's a way out.

The "Fresh Start Spring Amnesty Program" launched Friday morning, that will discount delinquent cases, saving people money while they resolve their ticket issues.

As many as 250,000 tickets issued by HPD for violations including expired licenses, no proof of insurance, and missing license plates are outstanding each year. If tickets aren't addressed, and the driver misses a court date, an arrest warrant is issued.

"People with warrants live in fear of flashing lights and police cars," said Presiding Judge of Houston Municipal Court, J. Elaine Marshall. "We want you to come out of whatever is on top of you."

Denesia Joseph had tickets from 2010 that had gone unpaid, and a warrant for her arrest.

"Something told me to come down to municipal court today," Joseph said. She didn't know an amnesty program was in effect until she arrived.

What would have been a thousand dollar bond for her accumulated tickets was waived by a judge. She still has to take care of the violations, but there is no longer a warrant for her arrest.

"I'm free. God is good," Joseph said as she left the courts building.

The amnesty program applies to cases delinquent before Feb. 1. It does not apply to parking tickets, administrative violations, bond forfeitures or civil cases. It also does not apply to a defendant in custody already.

Anyone who appears at municipal court during the amnesty period, which runs through April 6, will be permitted to resolve their eligible delinquent cases, including failure to appear cases, and will not be subject to arrest.

Questions about the amnesty program can be answered by calling 3-1-1, or 713-837-0311.

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