Thursday, April 16, 2009

Debtor's prison, redux

Even though federal debtor's prisons were outlawed in 1833 and the Texas Constitution forbade them in the Lone Star State in 1836, they are making a comeback today.

County officials around the state are looking at ways to collect court-ordered fines and fees from parolees who have been released from prison.  Some parole officers are filing motions to revoke parole for those who are behind in their payments -- in other words, threatening to put them in prison because they don't have any money.

As a way of raising revenue, the Texas Department of Public Safety thought instituting surcharges on license renewals would be an excellent deterrent (punishment) for driving while intoxicated, without insurance or with too heavy a lead foot. The effect of the surcharge program, however, has been to create criminals out of those who can't afford to pay the king's ransom for the privilege to drive in Texas.

The DPS will hit you with a $1,000 a year surcharge for three years on your first conviction for driving while intoxicated - or else your license is suspended. If you are convicted of driving without insurance, you'll owe the DPS $250 a year for three years. Should you accumulate too many speeding tickets in a three-year period, be prepared to pony up at least $100. And if you can't afford these surcharges and you get caught driving on a suspended license (suspended for non-payment of surcharges) -- open up that wallet because you are on the hook for $250 a year for three years. You are also subject to being arrested and taken to jail for driving on that suspended license.

Worse yet, these surcharges don't even take into account the reinstatement fees for which you are responsible.

In addition to motorists arrested and jailed for not paying their surcharges, the State of Texas can also jail for you not paying your court-ordered child support. In the IV-D courts (child support enforcement courts), if you're behind you could get hit with a contempt order and be subject to jail time for not obeying the court's order. Of course since you're not making any money while in the cooler you're falling further and further behind and digging a hole from which you may very well never find your way out.

And, if that's not bad enough, piss someone off enough and you could find yourself facing a state jail felony for criminal nonsupport. At least there you have the defense that you couldn't afford the payments.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The child support arrears really suck. I fell for the lie that I didn't have to attend. So when she lied and told the judge that I new about the child she got 16 years of arrears. I immediately owed 48,000 dollars in arrears. It is now up to 87,000. I need help but I can't afford it. disabled and living on SS I have to pay her $256 out off my meager ss. I will have to pay her until I die, not long to go im 70 now.