‘Book ‘em Danno’ now done electronically with e-warrants

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By Larry Rowell

A judge issued a warrant for your arrest three years ago because you forgot to pay that fine for a speeding ticket.
And thanks to the new eWarrant system, if you get stopped for another violation, it’s a sure thing that you will be arrested on that previous warrant.
The system went online the first week of February within the 29th Judicial Circuit, which serves Casey and Adair counties.
The new electronic warrants system is being hailed by law enforcement and court officials as a way to clear the backlog of outstanding warrants.
Casey County Attorney Tom Weddle said he thinks the new system will increase the number of arrest warrants served.
“I think it’s the best thing to come down the line for law enforcement in a long time,” Weddle said.
Casey County Circuit Court Clerk Craig Overstreet agreed with Weddle that law enforcement officers will prefer the new system.
“It’ll be handier for the police officer on the beat — it’s really a police officer friendly tool,” Overstreet said.
Under the old system whereby a paper warrant was issued, either the county attorney or commonwealth’s attorney would issue the warrant and then send it to a judge to sign. It was then delivered to the Casey County Sheriff’s Office to be served, Overstreet said.
But now, under the electronic system, warrants are created electronically and sent to the judge for an electronic signature and then placed into the eWarrant system, Overstreet said.
If the person under an active warrant is stopped in Casey or another county, the officer — after entering the person’s name in the new system — will be able to serve that warrant immediately, Overstreet said.
“An eWarrant was served recently in Covington on a person under an active warrant since 1996,” Overstreet said.
The new system houses all traffic, misdemeanor, felony and circuit criminal arrest warrants.
Additionally, the system includes criminal complaints and other summonses, Overstreet said.
And, under the new system, more people will be served outstanding warrants, said Shelley Johnson, Deputy Communications Director in Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway’s office.
In Casey County Circuit Court, of the 75 warrants that have been entered into the system in just under a month, 26 have been served, representing a service rate of 34 percent.
However, in Casey District Court, Johnson said, only 24 out of 904 warrants (2.6 percent) in the new system have been served.
“Service rates for warrants rise from as low as 10 percent under the old paper system to roughly 50 percent immediately after implementing the eWarrant system, and as high as 80 percent in the long-term,” Johnson said.
Casey County Sheriff Jerry Coffman said that although he believes the new eWarrant system will clear the backlog of warrants, it could end up costing his office more money.
“The biggest drawback that I see is if somebody gets picked up on the other side of the state for alcohol intoxication (A.I.), we might have to go get them,” Coffman said, adding that last week a person in Kenton County, near Cincinnati, was arrested on a Casey County warrant.
Kentucky’s eWarrant system began as a pilot project in 2005 to address a backlog of nearly 300,000 unserved warrants in the state, Johnson said.
Implementation in Casey County brings to 31 the number of counties that have received the eWarrant system under a $3.9 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grant awarded to the Office of the Attorney General in 2009, Johnson said.
“We hope to have the eWarrant system implemented in 100 rural counties by the end of this year,” Johnson said.