Oct 10, 2012

What happens when someone is served with a warrant?

Everyday in the Sandusky police blotter there are numerous people arrested on warrants. What happens to them? Jailed, fined or just let go? Seems like there are always a lot of criminals walking around our streets. — Larry on Camp Street.

Great question, Larry. To answer it, I called Erie County Sheriff Paul Sigsworth, who gave me a break down of different warrants and their purposes. I'll try to simplify.

Warrants for arrest on complaint. The court issues this kind of warrant when charges have been filed against a suspect, but he or she has not yet been arrested or taken before the court. Let's say, for example, there is a domestic violence incident.  Police learn a wife was beaten by her husband. They'll gather evidence to charge the husband with domestic violence and the court will issue a warrant for the arrest of the husband. The police will attempt to serve the husband with the warrant at his residence or workplace. Sometimes they'll pull someone over for an unrelated traffic violation and see he or she has a warrant shown in the computer system. Once arrested, the person is taken to the Erie County jail. When people are arrested on warrants for minor, non-violent crimes, they will typically be allowed to sign a recognizance bond, which is essentially a legally binding promise that they'll show up for their court date. Then they are free to go. If it's a more serious crime, especially a violent crime, there is a set bond schedule, designating how much money a person will have to post to be let out of jail. The more serious the crime, the higher the bond. Sometimes there will be no bond until the person is arraigned, to give the judge time to consider how much a threat the person may be to society. Remember, warrants and bonds are set by the court. The police act as officers of the court to enforce the court's orders. Police can work together to serve warrants, so if Perkins police pull someone over and find the person has a warrant through Sandusky police, Perkins officers can take the person to jail where he or she will be served with the warrant by Sandusky police.

• Bench warrants. Bench warrants are issued when a person has already been through the court system, but has failed to comply with an order of the court. For example, if someone is ordered by a judge to pay a fine or to serve a few days in jail and he or she fails to do so, the court will issue a warrant. Police or deputies will arrest the person on the warrant, then the judge will decide what penalties the person will face for failing to comply with the orders of the court.

• Governor's warrants. These warrants are used to transfer wanted offenders from state to state. For example, someone gets pulled over on U.S. 250 for speeding and the Perkins police officer making the stop finds the person is wanted in New York state for murder. The Perkins police officer will detain the suspect and the state of Ohio will notify the state of New York. The New York governor's office will then issue a governor's warrant (Sigsworth says they've very official looking documents with ribbons), so officers from the state of New York can come to the Erie County jail to pick up the suspect. Whether or not another state will send officers to collect a wanted suspect depends on several factors, including costs of transport and the level of the crime. Sometimes warrants will stipulate how far a state is willing to go to collect a suspect. For example, officers in Ohio may see a person is wanted in Florida, but the warrant will only apply to adjacent states (Georgia and Alabama). In those cases, Ohio officers will tell the person he or she has a warrant out of Florida, but the suspect will not be detained.

Hope this long-winded explanation helps!


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