HUMBLE, Texas (KTRK) — When Mary Alice Vaca received a postcard in the mail saying there could be a warrant out for her husband’s arrest, she was confused.
The ticket was from 20 years ago and the alleged crime was not wearing a seat belt and not having proof of insurance.
The notice also said a Montgomery County Justice of the Peace wanted $ 922.90 – money she doesn’t have – or someone could come arrest her husband.
“On the back, it says driver’s license suspension, warrant round-up warning,” Vaca told ABC13’s Ted Oberg.
Vaca said her husband, who became worried about going to jail, was diagnosed with Huntington’s Chorea, a debilitating illness that’s left him unable to talk or drive for the last decade. The ticket dates back even further, to Nov. 14, 2001. The couple doesn’t recall getting the ticket in the first place and didn’t understand why the strongly-worded warning was sent nearly 20 years later.
“How much time do you have to be dealing with this?” Oberg asked.
“I don’t,” Vaca said. “I needed guidance on what to do. What’s my next step?”
When Vaca said she couldn’t solve the problem on her own, or get the court or its collection agency to agree to a payment plan, she emailed the Turn to Ted team. We called the court, and although they couldn’t talk to us about her husband’s case, the tickets were dismissed hours after we reached out.
We asked Vaca, what changed?
“Ted Oberg changed it!” she said.
We asked Montgomery County Justice of the Peace Precinct 4 Judge Jason Dunn why someone would be threatened with arrest for minor tickets like this.
“Our court processes thousands of cases annually. The desire of the court is to adjudicate these cases in a fair, impartial and timely manner,” Judge Dunn said in a statement. “When a judgement is entered, the offender has a variety of ways to satisfy the judgement with permission from the court. Examples would be community service, payment plans, waiver of costs and/or fines by proving to be indigent or showing the payment of fines would bring undue hardship upon the person. In order for the court to assist the individual, the person would have to make contact with the court.”
He told us after 61 days, unpaid fines go to a collection agency, like the one that sent the Vacas that strongly-worded postcard.
Judge Dunn wouldn’t say if he supported that language.
He did say, “This court makes all reasonable efforts to dispose of cases new and old with parties that communicate with the court.”
And in this case – after our call – he’s right.
For the latest investigations, follow Ted on Facebook and Twitter.
Have a tip for Ted Oberg? A problem to solve? Get in touch with us on our tip page, or send a tip below. (On mobile? You can open our form by tapping here.)
Follow Ted Oberg on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Copyright © 2021 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.