OmniBase or Omni-Bust: How the Texas Department of Public Safety Marginalizes the Poor
December 14, 2018
Rolling stops, irregular parking, accidental speeding, and more – ticketed driving violations that the majority of Americans have made at least once in their lives.
Paying for our mistakes can be painstakingly expensive, but for most of us, paying a ticket fine doesn’t continue to significantly affect us for the rest of our lives.
However, for those experiencing financial hardships, this scenario is a completely different story. The hefty ticket fee at the start is an exorbitant price for people who can barely afford to buy food for their families. They are forced to pay for something they cannot afford, and without a means to pay for the ticket, they face dire consequences. In Texas, for instance, a failure to pay can result in the denial of one’s driver’s license renewal on top of other harsh penalties. This case serves as just one of many instances where the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and OmniBase Services use a corrupt, unfair law to target people without wealth.
When examining any law or idea, the actual real-world consequences should take precedence over the hypothetical intentions.
According to the official website of OmniBase Services, the Texas DPS denies “the renewal of a driver license for failure to appear or failure to pay or satisfy a judgment ordered by a court.” The idea behind the Failure to Appear and Failure to Pay Program is that it should serve as an incentive for individuals to appear in court and to pay court-ordered debts. However, when examining any law or idea, the actual real-world consequences should take precedence over the hypothetical intentions. In this case, the Failure to Appear and Failure to Pay Program has targeted low-income individuals.
“Failure to Appear” and “Failure to Pay” are titles that have been carelessly slapped onto the program without examining the cause of both cases. For instance, Failure to Appear suggests that a person is either careless or trying to avoid the law. In reality, so many factors such as inflexible work hours, a lack of transportation, or stress over other obligations like childcare or healthcare can lead to a person failing to appear in court. Moreover, these issues disproportionately affect low-income individuals, meaning that they are more likely to fail to appear in court. Rather than addressing this at the root of the problem, the Texas DPS and OmniBase Services want to exacerbate the issue by making transportation even more difficult for the individuals.
Equal Justice Under Law’s recent suit against the Driver Responsibility Program marks the first step to fighting wealth-based discrimination from the Texas DPS and OmniBase Service.
The Failure to Pay aspect also attacks low-income individuals. Instead of giving these people more feasible options such as monthly payment plans for their debt, the Texas DPS and OmniBase Services threaten to deny them their driver’s license renewals and add on a $30 administrative fee for each offense, making the debt even more difficult for low-income individuals to pay off.
One of the main reasons a person fails to pay a fee is because they cannot afford it.
Threatening someone because they can’t afford to pay is a gross abuse of governmental power.
With the revocation of a driver’s license, the individual’s ability to find and maintain work is put into jeopardy, making it less likely that they will be able to pay back the fine. Driving without a license can lead to arrest and other consequences. Public transportation isn’t always reliable and can impose hardships on riders, who have to factor in transportation expenses and make meticulous arrival time calculations.
Moreover, in areas without reliable public transportation systems, the cost of calling an outside transportation service to get to work or anywhere else can burn away a significant amount of a person’s income and leave next to nothing for him or her to buy groceries or pay rent, let alone a ticket fee. Asking friends or family for rides can burden others and decrease net productivity. In this way, a person falls further down into the cycle of poverty. Clearly, the only thing the Failure to Appear and Failure to Pay Program does is make the entire process harder for those who can’t afford to appear or pay.
OmniBase Services and the Texas DPS want to present an irrational contention that denying the renewal of driver’s licenses from people who have failed to appear in court or to pay a fine will magically serve as a panacea to a few of the state’s problems.
Yet, instead of creating legislation to address the issues that cause them in the first place, they have created a weak pseudo-bandage under the guise that it will incentivize attendance and payment. The Failure to Appear and Pay Programs don’t take into account the fact that the measure is not only unethical but also counterproductive in its intent. Refusing to renew a person’s driver license and charging a $30 administrative fee create personal and collateral problems that contribute to the cycle of poverty.
Asking someone to pay a small fine is an understandable nuisance. However, threatening someone because they can’t afford to pay is a gross abuse of governmental power. The Texas DPS and OmniBase Services cannot continue to uphold a scheme that aims to intensify a person’s inability to pay. Equal Justice Under Law is working to stop this injustice by filing a complaint about the Driver Responsibility Program. This action marks the first step to fighting wealth-based discrimination from the Texas DPS and OmniBase Services.
LIST SOURCES in this STORY
OmniBase Services of Texas. (1996-2018). Failure To Appear (FTA) Program. Retrieved November 2018, from OmniBase Services of Texas: http://www.omnibase.com/ftaDescription.php
Hill, C. (2017, October 19). Rethinking the Concept of “Failure to Appear”. Retrieved November 2018, from ACLU Ohio: https://www.acluohio.org/archives/blog-posts/rethinking-the-concept-of-failure -to-appear