Fine-Only Offenses in Texas

Date

2021-05

Authors

Maksoud, Rylan

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Abstract

In Texas, “fine-only” criminal offenses are pervasive and have placed millions of Texans in jail. Traffic violations are well-known, but even non-drivers face boundless criminalization. This report analyzes primary material, such as case law and training documents. Secondary sources and direct observation, litigation of civil and criminal cases in justice court, provided evidence of de facto practices. Ultimately, these fines and fees constitute discretionary regressive taxes. Lacking representation, those who cannot afford to pay enter a vicious cycle, landing into modern-day debtors' prisons. The Legislature passed tepid reforms in 2017 and 2019, but far more is needed to live up to our promise of a just, fair society.

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