|Since October 1, 2013, the DeSoto Municipal Court (hereinafter "Court") has sought to increase past due, unpaid fines and costs and to dispose of cases where there is an outstanding warrant because the Defendant failed to appear to enter a plea on their case. To that end, the Presiding Judge Scott Kurth and the Court Manager Jeremy Leonard have developed various methods of reaching out to defendants to request that they resolve their cases (e.g. text blasts, email blasts, license plate readers). During this same period, the Presiding Judge has repeatedly investigated the cost effectiveness of participating in the Vehicle Registration Denial Program aka Scofflaw that is currently operated by the Dallas County Tax Assessor-Collector John Ames (hereinafter "Tax Assessor") as outlined in the Texas Transportation Code Section 702.003.
Overall, the Scofflaw program allows the Court to submit warrant identification data of and concerning defendants out of the Court to the Technology Support Branch (TSB) of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV) relating to defendants who have outstanding warrants after failing to appear in court or failing to pay fines and costs owing on a traffic citation. Once the Scofflaw code aka a "flag" is placed on a defendant's vehicle registration, a renewal of registration will not be permitted until the defendant resolves the case with the Court.
Since October 1, 2013, the Presiding Judge has not participated in the Scofflaw program for the following reasons:
1. The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV) that administers the Scofflaw program statewide charges $.12 for each flag placed against a defendant's motor vehicle registration and the participating city must maintain a $500.00 deposit with TxDMV to secure payment of the probes (i.e. a search of the State's registration database for vehicles owned by the defendant), flags (i.e. placing hold on the renewal of the defendant's registration for unpaid fines and costs or failing to appear in court), or clearing of the flags (i.e. removing the flag once the defendant's case is resolved).
2. The law allows but does not require the Tax Assessor to honor the flags placed against a defendant's vehicle registration. Currently, the Tax Assessor operates his own Scofflaw program that is cost prohibitive to the Court.
However, in August of 2018, the Court's collection agent, Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson LLP (hereinafter "Linebarger") agreed to conduct the TxDMV Scofflaw program on behalf of the City of DeSoto as part of its delinquent collection process. Linebarger has agreed via the Memorandum of Understanding (hereinafter "MOU") attached hereto to pay all costs associated with the file submissions of the Court's outstanding warrants to the TxDMV for the probes, flags, and clearing of flags. Understanding that the Tax Assessor will not recognize a flag that is not generated through his program, the Court believes it will still:
(1.) capture significant past due and owing fines and costs previously adjudged;
(2.) dispose of cases by way of dismissals for compliance, pleas of guilty; or,
(3.) dispose of cases via not guilty verdicts after trial.
|The Presiding Judge finds that as currently proposed (See Background), the Scofflaw program administered through the TxDMV via Linebarger will cost the City of DeSoto nothing and increase the collection of previously adjudged, past due and owing fines and costs. Further, the proposed program will increase the final disposition of outstanding cases via either the payment of fines and costs assessed after a plea of guilty or after a trial, the dismissal of cases for compliance, or a finding of not guilty after a trial. The proposed Scofflaw program will be "free" to the Court, that is, Linebarger agrees to pay all of the costs incurred by the Court/City of DeSoto via TxDMV.