Dallas may open a 24-hour court to process people arrested for many minor infractions immediately, reports the Dallas Morning News. The change could eventually save the city about $1 million a year. Chief Municipal Court Judge Jay Robinson proposed the court, likening the current situation to a “debtors’ prison,” because dozens of people arrested every day for not paying fines on tickets are left languishing in jail overnight or longer waiting to see a judge. He said the process penalizes those with the least ability to pay fines and court costs.
The county jail’s population could fall if fewer arrested people would be going to the jail, but the impact is likely to be minor. The court would process people arrested for Class C misdemeanor tickets. Others are taken into custody for failing to pay such tickets. They are usually picked up by police after routine additional traffic stops or in other situations where police check their records. Ryan Turner of the Texas Municipal Courts Education Center said the judge’s idea follows the spirit of an early 1970s Supreme Court ruling in a Houston case, mandating that indigent people charged with fine-only offenses be afforded an alterative means of taking care of fines and court costs.