WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Starting this week, drivers charged with certain offenses can avoid paying fines through a new court program in Williamson County.
Judge Evelyn McLean, the justice of the peace for Williamson County’s precinct three, said she now has another option when first-time driving offenders enter a plea. Rather than making them pay a fine, they can instead attend a financial literacy course offered once a month for free.
“If we can keep people out of jail for something that’s fairly minor, then we want to do that,” McLean said, “but we also want to hold them accountable.”
Experian, a consumer credit reporting company, approached McLean with a $32,000 grant that allowed the court to partner with the Financial Literacy Coalition of Central Texas to begin offering the course.
In 2018 this court alone had 1,341 cases of driving without a driver’s license and another 1,176 cases for people driving with an invalid license. Staff members, like Alicia Alcazar, saw that growing number of driving offenses hurting low-income families the most through escalating expenses and no way to drive to work.
“They take a course that not only helps them learn how to manage money better and how to build their credit and learn how to take care of it, why it’s important to have a driver’s license and insurance,” Alcazar said, “but it also makes it to where once they complete that course, it’s just dismissed. It doesn’t count against them and having surcharges, more violations on their record, things like that.”
The pilot program began on April 1. The course lasts approximately an hour and is offered once a month at Williamson County’s Georgetown Annex, located at 100 Wilco Way.
People in the program will have 30 days to complete it. Once they do, they have to turn in proof to the court.
The first course will be held on April 17. There’s only room for 30 people, and the judge expects it to be full.