TFDP prepares materials for the Legislature and state agencies in support of policies that improve the criminal justice system. TFDP also publishes policy briefs and implementation guides to inform local officials and communities about new legislation and other policy developments.
We have an ambitious legislative agenda for this upcoming 2019 legislative session. We hope to pass bills that will require courts to consider sentencing alternatives to fines, such as community service and waiver; and repeal and reform programs that result in the loss of driver’s licenses due to inability to pay fines, fees, and surcharges.
License suspensions for unpaid fines, fees, and surcharges are filling our jails with low-income unlicensed drivers. HB 2785 (White, J.) would reduce class B charges for driving with an invalid license to class C misdmeanors, except when the underlying suspension is for driving while intoxicated.
Every year, thousands of Texans who have been convicted of drug offenses struggle to rebuild their lives. That struggle is made more difficult by Section 521.372 of the Transportation Code, which was passed in response to a federal mandate requiring states to suspend the driver’s license of anyone who is convicted of a drug offense – regardless of whether that offense had anything to do with driving. This resolution and corresponding bill will allow Texas opt out of the federal mandate and repeal this law, helping to ensure that former drug offenders can get back on their feet and provide for themselves and their families.
Low-income people throughout Texas become trapped in a cycle of poverty and jail when they cannot afford to pay traffic tickets and other citations. S.B. 1913 (Zaffirini) will help low-income Texans across the state escape this cycle by expanding community service and waiver options, limiting incarceration for nonpayment, and removing barriers to drivers licenses and vehicle registration.
Testimony submitted to the House Committee Committee on Appropriations in support of increased funding for indigent defense services.
The Texas House is currently accepting short comments on HB 4191 (Sanford). This bill would make it much easier for Texans to restore their driver’s license after losing them for unpaid debt.
GO HERE to submit your short comment (a paragraph or two) before THIS THURSDAY's hearing.
To submit a comment, select HB 4191 (Sanford), fill out your personal information, and write your comment. A few things to keep in mind:
* Keep comments to 3000 characters or less. That's about 2 paragraphs!
* Make clear whether you're representing yourself or an organization
* Submit comments BEFORE the end of the hearing (which begins 10:30 Thursday)
Below are some crucial talking points that may help you when writing your public comment:
Here are some sample comments that may help you when writing your own comment:
I want to thank Representative Sanford for filing HB 4191. This is a great bill that would improve public safety, reduce wait times at license offices, and help hundreds of thousands of people drive legally after losing their licenses solely due to unpaid debt. Having a driver’s license is so important in Texas, and under the current system once you lose your license you fall into an inescapable cycle of debt and incarceration. If you don’t drive, you can’t pay off your tickets and get your license back. But if you continue to drive, you get more tickets, more debt, and more license holds. You can also get a class B misdemeanor offense for driving with an invalid license, which carries jail time. Nobody should go to jail or lose their license just for being too poor to pay tickets. That’s why I support HB 4191.
I support HB 4191 by Representative Sanford. I am a single mother and fulltime student doing everything I can to get my license back. Unfortunately, no matter how hard I try I keep getting slammed with more holds and more tickets. I remember when the DRP was repealed, I was overjoyed and thought I’d finally be able to get my license back. But then I learned that I still had OmniBase holds, which are even harder to get rid of because they don’t lift even if you’re making payments. I’ve been arrested in front of my children for driving without a valid license, and it was extremely traumatic. I want to thank Representative Sanford for bringing this bill, which would make it easier for me to get my license back.
Pro Bono Attorney who has taken a case:
I am an attorney practicing in INSERT COUNTY I am part of a pro bono program that helps people get their driver’s licenses back after they’ve been lost due to unpaid court debt. HB 4191 is a great bill that would make it much easier for my clients to go to court, take care of their tickets, and get back on the road without having to constantly worry about being pulled over and arrested for driving without a valid license.
I want to tell you about one of my recent clients, who never would have been able to get her license back without the help of a pro bono attorney. <Client story here without names/identifying info>
Attorney with general concerns:
I am an attorney practicing in INSERT COUNTY I am part of a pro bono program that helps people get their driver’s licenses back after they’ve been lost due to unpaid court debt. HB 4191 is a great bill that would make it much easier for indigent clients to go to court, take care of their tickets, and get back on the road without having to constantly worry about being pulled over and arrested for driving without a valid license.
I find it to be incredibly concerning that Texans can get their license suspended without being entitled to an attorney to help them with their Class C tickets. I believe that this bill is a step in the right direction to putting Texans back on the road.