City Corner: Municipal Court improves access to justice with new docket formats | Government

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If tomorrow you received a speeding ticket, would you be able to pay it?

Most people commit a traffic violation or other minor offense at some point in their lives. Too often, the deciding factor that turns a small mistake into a chronic struggle is something beyond a person’s control: they can’t pay their fines, or they can’t show up in court because of work schedule or lack of transportation.

One of my most important goals as a judge of the Municipal Court of the City of Victoria is to ensure that all citizens can access our services, regardless of their circumstances. We can offer payment deferrals, reduced fines, community service, and many other flexible options to help you clear your record, avoid arrest, and get back on track.

Some citizens find it difficult to appear in court because they have jobs that do not allow them to be absent during the day. For these residents, we offer weekend and evening registries so they can come on their own schedule.

Our virtual case files provide an additional avenue for citizens who cannot attend court due to a lack of transportation. We created the Virtual Folders out of necessity when COVID-19 hit, but they proved so useful that we kept them as a permanent feature.

February is warrant resolution month for the court, and we are making a special effort to help citizens resolve their cases this month by hosting additional cases. You can resolve your warrant during one of our online sessions at 9 a.m. Feb. 26 or 1 p.m. Feb. 28 by clicking the E-Court Appearance link at victoriatx.gov/municipalcourt.

We’ll also be hosting a walk-in from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on February 25, so busy citizens can tune in or stop by whenever their schedule allows. You can attend the walk-in court in person at the Municipal Court Building, 107 W. Juan Linn St., or online through the E-Court Appearance link.

We are also planning a new program for vulnerable citizens who cannot go to court and do not have access to a Zoom file. Through our new “Awareness Cases,” we will meet with citizens at local nonprofits and other accessible locations to help solve their cases. If you would like to partner with the court in organizing an outreach case, please complete our Community Outreach Form at www.victoriatx.gov/courtoutreach.

We will be holding our first outreach pack from 8:30-10:30 a.m. on March 5 at Martin Luther King Jr. Park as part of the Keep Victoria Beautiful Silver City Cleanup. I will be there with a laptop to help citizens research their cases and discuss their options.

Taking care of a speeding ticket shouldn’t be a struggle. If you’ve fallen behind on your payments and aren’t sure how to get back on track, please contact the court at 361-485-3050 or [email protected] so we can discuss your options.

Vanessa Heinold is a Municipal Court Judge for the City of Victoria.

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