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Beginning Nov. 1, the Liberty Hill Municipal Court will offer a “safe harbor” docket to defendants with active arrest warrants issued for Class C misdemeanor cases.

This means that citizens with these types of cases, such as low-level criminal cases, city ordinance cases and traffic cases, will not be arrested if they come into court voluntarily during the “safe harbor” docket, which will be held at 1 p.m. on regular court dates, typically twice a month in Liberty Hill. Instead, the court will work to help them resolve their case, withdraw all warrants, and clear any driver’s license holds. 

Presiding Judge Kevin Madison said this will give defendants with active arrest warrants the opportunity to speak to him about their legal options, get their cases resolved, and get their arrest warrants recalled and lifted so they will not be arrested if stopped by the police.

“Many people don’t want to come to court because they don’t have the money to pay their fines, but you don’t have to have money to come into court and get your case resolved,” Madison said. “The whole point of this ‘safe harbor’ is to try and cut out the part where you’re going to get arrested, because that is unpleasant experience for everyone.”

Madison said when someone has a warrant, they are subject to arrest in any public place, on any public street and also at their place of employment. Once arrested, those defendants will be transported and booked into the county jail and may have to post bail before being released.

“If you are in your car, it could be towed and impounded, and if you are with your children, they would have to be taken into custody,” Madison said. “The bottom line is we want to get your case resolved without putting these people in jeopardy of being arrested.”

Madison said defendants who do not want to invoke their legal right to trial, who plead “no contest” and want to pay their fines and court costs, will be placed on a time-payment plan to pay off all court costs and fines over a three-month period. In special situations the judge may allow a longer period of time depending on the amount owed and the defendant’s financial situation.

“Judges in Texas have the authority to look at these cases and sometimes waive some of the costs, like the court costs that go to the state, and we can sometimes offer fine reduction as well,” Madison said. “In extreme cases we can waive the fines and order community service. There is a myriad of ways we can take care of payment of the mandatory fines.”

Madison added that other options he can provide defendants are things like probation or driver safety courses. Community service work, if allowed by the judge, is credited at a rate of $15 per hour and must be done for a nonprofit organization approved by the court.

“The bottom line is, you are not going to be arrested if you come in voluntarily,” Madison said. “We will work something out and get your case resolved. It’s beneficial for us, too, because it clears our docket.”

To get on an upcoming “safe harbor” docket, call the Liberty Hill Municipal Court at 512-515-5410. For more information on the program, visit Municipal Court of Record No. 1 | Liberty Hill, TX (libertyhilltx.gov).