Help Me Avoid the Long Arm of Texas Justice!
August 1, 2007 4:40 PM   Subscribe

I've ignored Texas justice for 23 years. Is it about to catch up with me?

In 1984, on my way home to the Northwest from my college in Florida, I was ticketed for a moving violation (speeding) in central Texas. I left the state, ticket in hand, and never looked back. Many years later, I received a notice that a bench warrant had been issued for my arrest in Texas for failure to pay the fine. This, too, I ignored. I've been back to the state a number of times through the years, and I've been a very cautious driver. Now, however, I'm interviewing for a job not an hour away from the site of the infraction. In fact, I'll be in the state in a week or two for on-site interviews which I'll be driving to.

Am I screwed? Is this going to show up on background checks the employer is likely to do? Where do I even begin to find out about clearing this up? Your thoughtful, non-judgemental advice is very much appreciated!
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Lawyer up, cowboy.
You might first try a call to the municipal court in that jurisdiction to find out what you can do. (Most likely it will involve your wallet).
posted by artdrectr at 4:55 PM on August 1, 2007

Well, the Austin Municipal Court website says that the warrant will most likely be canceled if you go to the court and plead No Contest or Guilty and pay the fine. If I were you I would do just that before the interviews, because it's entirely possible that it will show up on a background check, and this way you can truthfully say it's resolved and show proof to that effect should it be necessary.
posted by cerebus19 at 5:09 PM on August 1, 2007

Wow. After 23 years you would assume there would be some sort of statue of limitations, but it IS Texas so who knows? I mean after all what do you expect from a state who's unofficial motto is a threat?

The one thing you have going for you regarding your employer is that is such a minor infraction.

You've got weigh telling them about it before the background check. I'd say, "Look, this is probably nothing, but I do have an unpaid speeding ticket from 1984. I'm looking into it and trying to get it straightened out."

I wouldn't mention the bench warrant (suddenly to the employer's ears a speeding ticket turns into a warrant for your arrest ???) as it would only raise unwarranted (heh) red flags.

Start making phone calls to see if you can find someone to talk with about the ticket and resulting warrant. I wouldn't specifically give your current residence or show up in person, but then I'm told I'm paranoid.

A phone call to local lawyer who specializes in traffic (read: DUI) violations may provide you with some good information.
posted by wfrgms at 5:09 PM on August 1, 2007

Incidentally, I realize that Austin may or may not be where the court in question is, but I figured that what they say about warrants and fines is probably applicable in the rest of the state. You can find out for sure by, as artdrectr says, calling the specific court in question.
posted by cerebus19 at 5:10 PM on August 1, 2007

this will definitely show up on any basic background check done in texas. and, increasingly, states are beginning to share information for background checks. within a few years, it will likely start showing up on background checks done in any state.

you need to call a lawyer.
posted by Flood at 5:13 PM on August 1, 2007

contact the court and get it taken care of.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 6:39 PM on August 1, 2007

oh, and you may want to check to make sure you're operator's license is not suspended.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 6:40 PM on August 1, 2007

I don't see why you'd need a lawyer - just call the appropriate municipal court and ask them how big a check you need to write to make this go away. The Texas courts are busy. All they want from you is some money. Who knows, you might luck out and find there is a statue of limitations and there is no record of your misdeeds.
posted by selfmedicating at 7:31 PM on August 1, 2007

There is no statute of limitations involved here-- there never is with a citation and certainly not with a bench warrant. If you don't obey the citation and appear at the time stated, you're a fugitive, and limitations won't apply. I'd say try and figure out which court is involved (I'm assuming you threw away the notice of bench warrant), find them online (this may help), contact the court, find out what it will cost to settle it. If they're not forthcoming (there's no telling until you call), go to the State Bar of Texas' website, where there are several lawyer search tools under "find a lawyer." But I wouldn't call the lawyer first-- it's not in his or her interest to provide you with free information on how to solve your problem. IAAL, but IANYL.
posted by missouri_lawyer at 8:07 PM on August 1, 2007

I was representing a family member in small-town traffic court (not in Texas) a week or so ago, and was informed by the prosecutor that this same family member had skipped out on a ticket in the same small town about eleven years ago. The prosecutor said, "At one point, she had a warrant, but it is so old that the warrant was recalled." She just had to pay the $95 fine and the matter was resolved.

The same thing may happen in your case ... but get a lawyer.
posted by jayder at 10:11 PM on August 1, 2007

Once your warrant is paid, keep proof of this with you when driving. It's not unheard of for the warrant not to get taken off the books properly.
posted by yohko at 11:35 PM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

You don't need a lawyer. Call the responsible court and tell them you'd like to take care of it. They'll tell you where and how much money you need to bring in. You'll have to pay the warrant fee and probably the fine, first, then you usually have an option to either schedule a court date or plead guilty/no contest.

If you don't mind scheduling the court date and appearing, the charges will most likely be dropped (the ticket-writing officer probably isn't going to show up for a 23-year-old ticket), and the fine (but not the warrant fee) will be refunded to you.

IANAL, but I have extensive experience with traffic infractions. I was ticketed 32 times and dealt with several warrants by the age of 25, and most of them were in Texas.

I've never had legal trouble other than traffic violations. I'm glad I now live in a city with excellent public transportation - I haven't owned a car for more than 7 years.
posted by syzygy at 2:39 AM on August 2, 2007

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