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The majority of us earn a living through hard work.  Nothing irks me more than one person trying to take the easy way out at the expense of another.  For the past few years, scammers have used the public information act to obtain information on persons having traffic tickets and warrants to steal money from the unsuspecting individuals they contact. The Houston Municipal Courts and the Harris County Municipal Justice Bar Association have notified the media and news reports were made on the matter.  Nevertheless, the scam is ongoing because many are still unaware of it.  I firmly believe the more light shed on this scam, the less likely others are to become victims to it.

The Scam

Scammers use text messages to contact a person and notify them they have a warrant or pending traffic ticket.  They then request payment over the phone to reset the cases or to get rid of the warrants.  The unsuspecting victim, pays over the phone and are assured their cases are taken care of. After some time, the victim receives notice from the Houston Municipal court that their arraignments are now in warrants.  The other way this plays out is the person is stopped during a traffic stop and is notified they have outstanding warrants.   Alternatively, upon trying to renew a driver's license, the person discovers the cases or warrants they paid to have taken care of are outstanding and now prevents them from renewing their driver's license or worse, has resulted in a license suspension.

The Scam's Underpinnings Revealed

In today's world, many of us rely on our phones to interact with our friends and loved ones and to even conduct our day to day business. Thus, when a person receives notice of an open ticket or warrants via text message, many think nothing of it because our cell phones are an integral part of everyday life.  Nevertheless, the Houston Municipal Court will not notify a defendant of pending traffic tickets or warrants via text.  For notice to be proper in a court of law, it must be given in person or via first class mail. A person therefore can spot a scammer by their methodology of contact.  If someone notifies you by text message and ask that you submit payment over the phone for upcoming traffic tickets or warrants for the Houston Municipal Courts, this is a scam.

Attorneys Will Not Seek Clients By Text Messages

An attorney will not initiate contact with a potential client via text message. Such conduct will get that attorney in trouble with the State Bar of Texas for the unlawful solicitation of legal services.  Please note, nothing prohibits an attorney from informing you of said tickets and warrants in a letter or postcard.  However the key here, is it is sent through the mail.  The letter or postcard should indicate that it is an advertisement, most likely, will have key details regarding the ticket number, and/or offense and will provide contact information for the law office.

Legitimate Ways a Warrant is Removed

There are three ways to get rid of a warrant.  The first is a person goes to the office of a bondsman or attorney who is a surety, gives their finger prints and pertinent information to complete the bond, and that bondsman or attorney submits the bond to the court and receives a new court date on your behalf. This will start the court process anew and give the individual an opportunity to defend against the alleged offenses in a court of law.  The second way, is to go to the courthouse yourself or hire an attorney to go on your behalf, speak with a prosecutor and/or judge in an effort to resolve the underlying case and thereby get rid of the warrant.  After that the person may ask a judge to remove the warrant.  It will be in the judge's discretion to grant or deny that request based upon the circumstances.  There are some cases where negotiation will not rid the person of the underlying fine because of prior negotiations between the person and court personnel.  However, usually a payment agreement will be possible.  The third manner is a person calls the court and pays the underlying cases and associated costs and fees that the warrants were issued for.  However, depending on the outstanding cases, paying the underlying cases could result in points on the person's license, conviction based surcharges owed to the State of Texas, potential problems renewing a license and/or a license suspension.

Author's Information:  Attorney Tracey A. Beecher represents persons accused of  class c misdemeanors and city code ordinance violations within the City of Houston Municipal Courts, Harris County Justice of the Peace Courts and Fort Bend County Justice of the Peace Courts.  

Legal Disclaimer: Each person's situation and circumstances are unique. As such, this article is given to provide general information only. It is not legal advice nor is it intended as a substitute for legal counsel. Should the reader need legal advice or counsel, it is appropriate to seek the assistance of a licensed attorney.