Office of House Bill AnalysisH.B. 3498
By: Thompson
Judicial Affairs


The general perception among many people involved in the criminal justice
system is that very few criminal defendants are financially able to pay
fines and costs. This perception is being altered by innovative and
aggressive collections programs that are proving that a majority of
criminal defendants have greater resources to meet financial
responsibilities than is usually assumed.  Basic private sector collections
techniques and procedures are helping courts and counties statewide
identify and access resources previously thought to be inherently limited
or totally nonexistent. 

In February 1993, a fine collection pilot program was launched in Dallas
County with a two-person staff and a budget of $75,000, serving three
criminal misdemeanor courts. The pilot program had 12 months to produce an
increase of $250,000 in fine and costs collections. The pilot program is
now a fully selfsupporting department operating under the Dallas county
clerk's office, that serves all 12 criminal misdemeanor courts. The program
is credited with increasing fine collections an estimated average $6.45
million per year, providing the county with an additional $26.5 million in
revenue from inception through 1999. Dallas County has also recently
implemented a similar program to handle felony cases.  House Bill 3498
requires each county and municipality to biannually file a collection
improvement plan with the Office of Court Administration. 


It is the opinion of the Office of House Bill Analysis that this bill does
not expressly delegate any additional rulemaking authority to a state
officer, department, agency, or institution. 


House Bill 3498 amends the Code of Criminal Procedure to authorize the
Office of Court Administration of the Texas Judicial System (office) to
award grants no later than January 1 of each even-numbered year to counties
and municipalities to prepare a collection plan.  The grants are required
to reimburse the county or municipality for the cost of preparing the plan.
The plan is required to provide methods to improve the collection of court
costs, fees, and fines imposed in criminal cases.   The bill authorizes the
office to require the county or municipality to reimburse the state from
the additional collections as a condition of the grant. Each commissioners
court and each governing body of a municipality must file the first
collection improvement plan not later than January 1, 2002. 


September 1, 2001.