Why Did I Get a Warrant Notice in the Mail?

The Great Texas Warrant Roundup: What it is, why it exists and what you can do

Each February, thousands of Texans receive notices in their mailboxes, claiming they need to act immediately to avoid law enforcement action. Though it may seem like a scam or a joke, it isn’t: More than 300 law enforcement agencies and local courts from around the state participate in the Great Texas Warrant Roundup, an annual occurrence wherein officers threaten to jail citizens with unpaid fines or tickets in an effort to collect on them.

The letter is the first official warning—the beginning of the two-week grace period before March, during which officials encourage people with outstanding warrants to come forward and settle their business without additional penalties or fear of arrest. “In other words,” says Benson Varghese, a criminal defense attorney at Varghese Summersett in Fort Worth, “individuals who take care of their case during this time will not wind up in handcuffs, which is a big incentive for people who are afraid of being arrested at school or work.”Most citizens receive notices for Class C misdemeanors.

“Most people targeted during the roundup have warrants for unpaid traffic tickets or failing to appear in municipal court,” says Varghese. “Many can’t [originally] afford to pay their citation in full, so they don’t pay at all. Others simply forget about the citation and miss their court date. Some don’t understand how to take care of their ticket, so they do nothing. Most of these individuals are not hardened criminals—but people who, for whatever reason, failed to take care of a ticket.”

Other Class C misdemeanors, such as public intoxication and petty theft, are common crimes for which you may receive a letter. And even if the occurrence took place in a different city or county than where you currently live, law enforcement officials can still find and arrest you.

If you receive a notice, don’t panic.

“Do not run down to the municipal courthouse, or go online and pay the fine during the amnesty period without talking to an attorney first,” warns Varghese. “Paying the fine will result in a permanent conviction on your record, and you could be subjected to expensive surcharges, higher insurance rates and possibly even have your driver’s license suspended.

“Having a warrant out for your arrest for an unresolved citation is a very nerve-racking way to live,” he continues. “People are often afraid to try and resolve it after the fact, because they think they will be arrested. But it’s important not to pay the ticket or plead guilty without talking to an attorney first.”

If you have received a warrant notice in your mailbox, consult with an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney. They can come up with a plan of action, and potentially negotiate with a prosecutor to keep your record clean. 

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