What if I Can't Pay?
If you've been charged with an offense and you don't wish to contest the charge, but are unable to pay fines, fees and court costs due to financial constraints, it's crucial to address the situation promptly by contacting the court. Failure to respond could result in additional charges being filed, additional fees, a hold placed on your driver's license or registration, and/or a warrant being issued for your arrest. Timely responses and continued communication with the court will minimize additional charges filed and fines or fees owed. Additionally, taking care of fine-only misdemeanor charges will prevent you from being arrested in relation to the charges. Below, you will find further information regarding the laws and protections available for individuals facing financial hardship.
If a judge determines that you have an inability to pay due to a lack of resources, the judge will find you to be indigent. Defendants found to be indigent must be given alternative means to discharge their judgments. While there is no definition in the law for indigence, the judge may make a determination by examining your sources of income and your expenses.
There are several alternative means defined under Texas law.
- Installment Payments - The judge may allow you to pay your fines and costs over a period of time at an amount that is manageable to you. Defendants that pay any amount more than 30 days after judgment are required by state law to pay an additional $25 time payment fee. This amount would be added to the total amount owed on your judgment. An application must be approved by the court for a payment plan.
- Community Service - The judge may order an indigent defendant to discharge a judgment through community service. There are several different types of community service that you may request or be offered by court staff. (Ask about job skills training or how to get your GED, for example) The Gainesville Municipal Court allows $100 of your judgment to be discharged for each 8 hours of work you perform for an approved governmental agency or nonprofit organization. An application must be approved by the court for community service.
- Tutoring - If you are a child (under the age of 17) who has been charged with a crime committed on the school grounds where you are enrolled, the judge may allow you to discharge your judgment by completing tutoring.
What if I am Broke but not Indigent?
If you have an inability to pay right now, but are not indigent, the judge may still allow you to pay your judgment at a later date or in installment payments. An application must be approved by the court for a payment plan.