Many people in the New Orleans area with outstanding warrants and fines could soon have their records cleared. Last week, New Orleans City Council members comprising the Criminal Justice Committee, voted to push forward an ordinance that would abolish many outstanding charges from the Orleans traffic and municipal courts. Misdemeanors like disturbing the peace, public intoxication, or simple possession of marijuana are some of the criminal charges that would be rescinded under the new ordinance. Outstanding warrants and fines may also be dropped as part of the ordinance. According to NOLA.com, “there are more than 55,000 outstanding warrants for more than 44,000 people in [Orleans municipal and traffic] courts dating back to 2002.” Local advocacy group Stand with Dignity has suggested that these fines and warrants unfairly impact homeless and poverty-stricken people in the city. The system continues to pile on fines and more severe penalties when people are unable to deal with simple ticket and misdemeanor charges.
The High Cost of Unpaid Tickets and Missed Court Dates
When not handled correctly, traffic tickets and misdemeanor charges can result in compounded expenses and serious penalties. Unpaid traffic tickets accrue further fines and can result in a suspended license or even an arrest warrant. Many people may not even be aware that their license has been suspended or that a warrant has been issued. Unfortunately, we often get calls from folks that were pulled over for a routine traffic stop only to find out that they are driving on a suspended license or that there is a warrant out. Next thing they know they are getting arrested, and facing a whole wealth of legal issues. These types of issues disproportionately affect lower income folks, as Stand with Dignity points out. The system seems designed to work against them, insofar as people who can’t afford to pay initially, or who do not have a means of making it to court, are then punished with further fines and penalties. Without a valid driver’s license, one may have trouble finding employment, or making it to work and holding a job. Similarly, a criminal record can affect a person’s ability to find work.
A Step In the Right Direction
The city council decision will ask the City Attorney’s Office to dismiss many of these low-level fines and charges. The ordinance would also instruct judges at the Municipal Court to consider whether an individual can afford to pay a fine prior to assigning one. The move would not only disrupt the cycle of poverty which the current system perpetuates, but would also serve to more efficiently allocate law enforcement resources. Arresting and prosecuting people for these types of low-level, nonviolent crimes is ultimately a waste of time and money that contributes very little toward making our city safer.
Do You Have Traffic Tickets or Pending Misdemeanor Charges?
Bloom Legal helps the citizens of New Orleans deal with their traffic tickets and misdemeanor charges the right way. We have a proven track record of getting charges and tickets reduced or dismissed, saving you money and trouble in the long run. We talked a good bit above about the perils of not paying a traffic ticket. However, simply paying a traffic ticket is not always the best option either. In Louisiana, paying a ticket is equivalent to pleading guilty in court. That means the infraction will go on your driving record, which can often result in your insurance rates rising. Likewise, pleading guilty or being found guilty of a misdemeanor crime can cause more long-lasting issues, for instance when seeking employment. Even charges like drunk in public, disturbing the peace, or drunk and disorderly. These are what we often refer to as “party crimes.” They’re fairly harmless charges in the grand scheme of things, but they can still have an impact on your life if they make it on to your record or you’re forced to spend time in jail. That’s where Bloom Legal comes in. We will help you deal with your legal issues the right way, saving you money and protecting your record. At Bloom, we understand that everyone makes mistakes. Our job is to make sure those mistakes can be put behind you. Give us a call today. Our consultations are always free and we would be happy to go to work for you.