Dallas municipal courts are overwhelmed with a seven-month case backlog and may leave hundreds of millions of dollars in traffic fines and court fees uncollected, says a city audit reported by the Dallas Morning News. City auditor Craig Kinton concluded that Dallas’ courts have an abysmal collection rate of 15.3 percent and that the city has failed to implement better ways to get people to pay, including working with the state to deny vehicle registrations or offering reduced fines for timely payments. The audit found that between 2002 and last year, the city “has accumulated 1.1 million delinquent citations totaling $424.1 million in fines, court costs, and fees.” At a time when the city is facing a major budget deficit, most of that money is gone for good, the audit said.
The probability of collection is substantially reduced because 78 percent, or $330,767,771, is over one year old and has not been collected,” the audit states. Gloria Lopez Carter, director of city Court and Detention Services, said many of the criticisms are being addressed. The primary problem is too many cases for too few courts, she said. By the time many ticket cases come to trial, they are dismissed because police officers who wrote them either can’t make it to court or have no recollection of the incidents.