Hats off to city judges for warrant amnesty day

Monroe City Court judges are pretty tough on those who skip court; they will issue warrants to arrest court skippers in the blink of an eye.

But at the core they are all soft hearts! That’s a good thing!

Once a year, the city judges host an amnesty day that allows all of those who have warrants against them to come to court, take care of their fines, and straighten things out without being arrested or charged a fee associated with the warrants.

The judges are so friendly on amnesty day that they even provide coffee and donuts for the hundreds they expects to show up. 

The amnesty day, which is December 13th this year, is a good idea that began a few years ago when Judge Tammy Lee blessed hundreds with the first amnesty day. It was such a good idea that now, all of the city judges are part of the experience. 

The amnesty idea helps many people because it reduces their exposure to arrest, saves time, and reduces their out of pocket costs.

It’s also a good idea because it reduces the backlog of warrants that have accumulated over a year. The court deals with literally thousands of bench warrants that are issued each year. Hundreds of cases involving warrants are resolved every year.

The city court amnesty day is unique and serves the public interest. All three judges kept their promises to be human beings and considerate of everyone’s unique circumstance.

However, there is another aspect to the problem that the amnesty program does not approach: There are hundreds of people each year who have warrants but are not aware of them. Maybe the judges can look at this problem, too.

How is it possible for a person to have a warrant and not know that it exists?

Ask rapper Eric B, the famous rapper how he recently wound up in jail last month. The rapper was jailed on a 17-year-old warrant that he didn’t know was floating around waiting to land on him. It was a minor offense, and he had a lawyer, who told him to skip his sentencing hearing because his presence wasn’t required.

Wrong. Unbeknownst to the rapper, New Jersey authorities had issued a warrant for his arrest. When he was stopped last month on a non-related issue, his 17-year-old warrant popped up. He was jailed for several weeks before getting bail. He never knew about the warrant.

Every day judges like the city court’s “benevolent triumvirates”  routinely issue arrest warrants for offenses as minor as failing to have a driver’s license available to failing to show up on a traffic offense. Citizens usually know about these warrants, but they may not know that a neighbor swore out a warrant against them for disturbing the peace.

Further, they may not know that neighbors may have accused them of assault, which is speaking to them in a threatening way, or battery, which can be as little as touching them with a pinkie finger. The neighbors  may have reported the encounter to the police, and it resulted in a warrant.

Often police make the warrant reports, and judges sign them, but the warrants are not always acted upon. Sometimes weeks, months, or even years pass before their existence is even known.

Unfortunately, a person may not know that the warrant exists until they are stopped for a traffic violation, or apply for a job. Whenever a full background check is done, up pops the warrant.

It can happen to anyone.

Warrants can be life-changing events. That’s why the city judges’ amnesty program helps. Those who dodge police all year because of financial reasons never know when they will get stopped. That arrest could be when they are on their way to pick up a child from school or in the middle of a family emergency.

At least the amnesty program gives citizens some relief.

But if the other courts would jump on board, it could be expanded.

Wouldn’t it be nice if citizens received a text message or an email when a warrant has been issued? Wouldn’t it be nice if these notices were given repeatedly, at least annually, to give people a chance to make things right? What about pubic notices in the media to make sure they know about the warrants?

It will probably cost a bundle to send the notices, so it probably won’t be done, but it’s a dream worth having.

Thanks to the combined effort of the judges, folks will get a  little help in city court. The judges will listen to their issues all day long. The lines usually wrap around the building. The judges will not set new dates; they’ll listen to every one.

Some will resolve their issues in one day. Some will even walk away with their charges dismissed after their side of the story is heard.

It’s a good idea.

Especially, the free donuts and coffee.