Comments | Recommended Email Print RSS Social Bookmarking Garland asked to pilot driver Scofflaw Program 11:08 PM CDT on Friday, June 19, 2009 By RAY LESZCYNSKI / The Dallas Morning News firstname.lastname@example.org Dallas County officials have picked Garland to become the first city in the area to block vehicle registration to those who haven't paid traffic court fines. Dallas County early this year became the third county to implement the Scofflaw Program, which was introduced to the Garland City Council this week. A law passed in 1997 allows taxing authorities to refuse vehicle registration. County Commissioner Mike Cantrell said that Dallas is next and that the program could be expanded to include every city in the county. "There is $210 million in outstanding county fines," said Cantrell, who asked Garland to pilot the program. "If you add all 26 cities in, it could reach more than a billion dollars." Garland Court Director Paige Bobbitt said that there are about 3,800 new traffic warrants in Garland this year and that the program will focus on cases at least 60 days past due. "This particular program is going to apply to criminal traffic violations and also red light cameras, which are civil violations," George Kauffman, the city's managing director of finance, told the Garland City Council. The Garland council is expected to approve the program July 7. Bobbitt hopes it can be up and running within a month and says Garland should know how effective the program is within six months. Dallas probably will implement the program by the end of the summer. And judging by the flood of calls, Bobbitt said, several other Dallas County cities won't be far behind. While an effective tool, blocking registration hasn't proven to be the key to closing the floodgates on unpaid fines. The program was implemented in El Paso County in 2003 and has been responsible for clearing about $2.6 million in city and county fines to date. Bobbitt said Garland hopes to collect on about 25 percent of eligible cases. "Some people, when they hear about this program, are going to come in and pay on their own, like when we announce a warrant roundup," she said. "So there will be others that we collect that we can't say were covered by this particular program." Those who clear their fines at the Garland Municipal Court can take the proof of payment to the county offices a half-mile away to get their vehicle registrations. And Garland will update cleared cases daily so that warrants don't keep showing up in county records. The program will cost the city less than 5 percent of the revenue it generates and is focused on bringing people into compliance, rather than arrests. "All we want them to do is take care of their business," Cantrell said. STEP BY STEP: HOW PROGRAM WORKS The county initiates an interlocal agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation to mark or flag Texas motor vehicle registration records. TxDOT charges the county $23 per file submission, plus 12 cents per file transaction. The city initiates a similar interlocal agreement with the county. The vehicle owner attempts to register the vehicle. The county tax assessor-collector denies registration and directs the registrant to the appropriate county office to pay the outstanding fine, fee or tax. The vehicle owner clears his or her record, obtains a release form to give to the county tax assessor-collector's office. In Garland, the release form must bear the city's raised seal. The county submits a "clear" request to TxDOT and registers the vehicle.