What is the Safe Harbor Court?
Safe Harbor Court in Houston, TX
This week, Houston announced the launch of a “Safe Harbor” court, allowing those who cannot afford court fines to resolve their cases without an arrest warrant. The announcement came from Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and the Municipal Courts Department director, Judge J. Elaine Marshall, on Friday, October 23, 2020.
Although it is not immediately clear when operation begins, this new court is available to anyone who can prove their inability to pay fines. Two designated judges will be available Monday through Friday between the hours of 3 – 9 pm.
According to Mayor Turner, this Houston safe harbor court might apply to more than a third of 100,000 cases currently in delinquency. He added that these cases date back to 2008.
The Impact of Safe Harbor
Delinquencies and arrest warrants often lead to arrests. However, they have unexpected impacts on people’s lives, as well. For instance, they can result in a hold on someone’s driver’s license.
In turn, this cascades into a series of effects that impact your ability to keep a job, housing, and necessities. When people find themselves caught up in a whirlwind of fines, they are disproportionately people of color.
As Houston criminal defense attorneys, we understand how severe the impact of these fees can be on people. Moreover, an arrest warrant carries a heavy toll on those who fall into delinquency. It is important to understand that how judges resolve the case is their decision.
According to Judge Marshall, they have the authority to waive fees, reduce fees, or even grant community service alternatives. Marshall hopes that Houston residents will fully utilize this safe harbor court to avoid arrest warrants, increased fees, and potential jail time.
Will I be arrested when I go to the Safe Harbor court?
During the announcement, Judge Marshall addressed this concern, stating that she’s heard it from many Houston citizens.
“If you come down to the city of Houston’s municipal court,” she said, “you will not be arrested.”
She continued, encouraging people to utilize the court so that the city can help people to clear their records. Mayor Turner added that this effort is a key reform recommendation from his Task Force on Policing Reform.
In their recommendation, the task force called for an improvement to the fairness in municipal courts. To do so, they recommended requiring alternatives to jail time when people are unable to afford their fines.
Questions About Safe Harbor Court? Call Our Criminal Defense Attorneys
Oftentimes, people are wary of initiatives put forward by city officials. With a variety of tactics used to lure in people with arrest warrants, this is understandable. If you feel hesitant about using the safe harbor court to clear or reduce your fines, feel free to contact our Houston criminal defense attorneys.
Our legal team can work with you to explore your options and ensure you pursue the best possible outcome. Contact us today for a free consultation.