Dallas implements new municipal court rules, upgrades technology

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Dallas, Texas municipal court officials are taking a comprehensive approach to streamlining their court system with new rules and new technology. On Monday, new procedural rules went into effect in the court that officials say are meant to make the court more efficient, even though the rules require more steps. Additionally, Dallas-based Tyler Technologies has signed a $2.9 million contract with the city for Tyler’s Incode court case management system, one of the largest Incode contracts in Tyler’s history and a big contract for the city.

On the procedural side, the new rules require a pretrial conference and a pretrial hearing. The two new pretrial events will be the place where all parties can clear up housekeeping issues like the need for interpreters or any other special situations that might arise. A video will also be presented to defendants giving them the full scope of their options.

Pleas can also be dealt with at this stage and may forestall going all the way to a trial just to end in a plea deal. The pretrial set up may also circumvent the need for a trial if an individual simply owes a fine and decides to pay, rather than contest a ticket in court. The addition of these pretrial appearances will likely also incentivize people to pay tickets rather than continue through three separate court dates. Police officers will also get significantly longer to show up and testify in court. Previously officers had 30 minutes, now in some cases, they may have up to an hour and a half.

The Dallas Morning News points out that the rule changes are unlikely to change the low opinion of the court which saw a significant turnover in judges last year, and is often the source of complaints for being too soft of scofflaws.

The new contract with Tyler Technologies is also focused on increasing efficiencies. Currently, Dallas has a number of outdated court-related systems and relies on paper-based transactions. Tyler’s Incode solution will put the city’s municipal court system on a single platform and will move Dallas toward a digital environment. Officials hope the change will lead to more accurate handling of citations and other court transactions that can significantly increase Dallas court revenues.

Using Incode, the Dallas Courts & Detention Services, Office of the City Attorney, and police department will be able to share information on one system, including data on jury subpoenas, web-enabled citation inquiries, and court docket schedules. The contract between Tyler and the City of Dallas includes software licensing fees, professional services and a multi-year maintenance agreement that includes all software updates for product enhancements and future state or federally legislated mandates during the maintenance period.

“The new system will deliver improved capabilities that will greatly enhance the ability of the Court and Detention Services and Community Courts to manage approximately 500,000 violations issued annually, while supporting the City’s move to a more paperless environment,” said Jill Jordan, Dallas Assistant City Manager.