Phone calls and visitors are starting to flood into Lubbock Municipal Court, all in order to take advantage of the court's amnesty program that started Monday. The program allows anyone with an oustanding warrant issued in 2003 or earlier to come in and work out an agreement without the fear of being arrested.
Under the program citizens are still responsible for the cost of the initial ticket, but "failure to appear" fines will be waived. The court will also work to arrange payment plans, work releases or community service in lieu of payment. On Monday Judge Robert Doty addressed questions about how this 16 day program will save money. "It'll be a trade off. Obviously we'll be giving up some money in order to collect some money, but some of these we may never have seen, never collected."
The court hopes at least a quarter of outstanding warrants will be settled throught he program. Total outstanding warrants from 2003 and earlier are valued at more than $9 million.
This is the first time in more than a decade Lubbock's Municipal Court has tried an amnesty program. Warrant holder, Leo Pollard, tells NewsChannel 11, "I took off work today to come down and take care of some very important business."
For Leo, that business comes to the tune of $1,400 in oustanding warrants. He has eight warrants on his record. He's been without a license for five years and has been passed up for promotions because of it. He says, "It just stands in the way of me buying cars and doing anything, getting a charge account or anything." One quick visit with Court Cashier Maria Maestas ended all that for Leo. He's now on a payment program. He'll pay $50 a month toward his warrants until they're gone.
A huge stack of papers in Judge Doty's office represents 23,000 outstanding warrants. If even a quarter of people holding them come in, cashiers will have their hands full. Marie says, "We're gonna be bogged down with a lot of work, but we're ready."
Marie and her co-workers will be working overtime and extended hours in order for citizens like Leo to wipe the slate clean. She says, "We're gonna try to help these people out." And for that, Leo is thankful. He says, "I can't tell you how hard it's been for me the last four or five years, being afraid of the law." No longer afraid, Leo left Municipal Court to go get a license.
If you have an oustanding warrant, you have more than two weeks to take advantage of the amnesty program. It ends on November 23rd. The Municipal Court is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 10th and Avenue J. There will be extended hours on Saturday, November 14th from 8:30 to noon. On Thursday the 18th and Tuesday the 23rd, the court will be open until 8:00 p.m.