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3 - SITE DESCRIPTIONS AND ANALYSES

CALIFORNIA, COLORADO, INDIANA, MASSACHUSETTS, NEBRASKA (Douglas) NEBRASKA (Lancaster), NEW YORK, OHIO, OREGON, PUERTO RICO, TEXAS, UTAH, VERMONT, WASHINGTON

 

This section presents an overview of the project sites and, for each location, includes the site description, a description of the assembled data, and any findings. In addition, programs meant to deal with persons who fail to appear in court and/or complete sanctions are outlined under each associated site. In some instances, data were received for an entire state.

 

CALIFORNIA - Merced County

Description

Merced County, located in the central part of California in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley, stretches from the coastal ranges to the foothills of Yosemite National Park. The County covers approximately 2,020 square miles and has a population of approximately 201,000 according to the 1999 U.S. Census Bureau estimate. Merced, the largest city (population 62,000), is also the County seat. Agricultural related industries are a major source of employment along with food processing, retailing, and light manufacturing. The 1993 median household income, as reported by the Census Bureau, was $26,203.

Data and Findings

Marshals in Merced County serve in California courts and have been well aware of problems with DUI offenders failing to appear in court, not completing their sentences, and not paying their fines as dictated by State law. In addition, there is a danger of warrants becoming eligible for dismissal because of a law relating to the lack of due diligence (i.e., no attempted service). In fact, on July 1, 1999, the Marshal's Office reported that there were 3,695 active DUI warrants up to three years old in Merced County. Over a one year period, 730 of these cases were dismissed for lack of due diligence. Of the remaining total of 2,965 outstanding DUI warrants, 454 were for repeat offenses. There were 139 individuals with outstanding felony DUI warrants, 48 of whom were repeat offenders. The Merced County Marshal's Office proposed to the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) to increase service of arrest warrants relating to DUI offenses. OTS responded favorably and awarded a grant beginning in June of 1999. As a part of the project, television and radio public service announcements were broadcast in both English and Spanish languages, during which a hot line telephone number was displayed to enable citizens to report the locations of persons with known DUI warrants. The increased warrant service activity was accomplished by using overtime funds to pay for DUI warrant service teams. The Marshals had proposed that increasing warrant service could, in turn, reduce alcohol-involved collisions, as well as total fatal and injury collisions in Merced County, because a large percentage of DUI offenders would be brought into compliance or would be jailed and off the streets if wanted on a felony warrant or if the person were a multiple DUI offender. The Marshal's Office deputies are tracking the numbers of fatal and injury collisions; however, it is too soon after the start of the project for these numbers to be calculated.

The program is described in more detail under the next section. Despite the decline in DUI-related arrests in Merced County (Figure 1),

FIGURE 1: line graph "DUI arrests, 1988 - 1997"

the numbers of outstanding warrants for DUI offenses grew steadily. The warrant service program funding year begins in June. From June,1999 through June, 2000, the first year of operation, there were 770 DUI warrants served; the breakdown by warrant type is shown below in Figure 2.

FIGURE 2: bar graph "DUI warrant by type, June 1999 - June 2000"

Felony warrants are typically issued for DUI cases involving death or injury. The category of misdemeanors with priors include drivers with prior DUI convictions, and misdemeanors are first-time DUI offenders. Of these 770 warrants served, 372 were cleared by arrest and 398 were cleared by issuing citations (no additional fees or fines assessed). These figures included 186 warrants served to persons outside of Merced County. The service of out-of-county warrants was accomplished through cooperation of the Merced County Sheriff's Office, with the Sheriff agreeing to transport the absconders at no cost to the program or to the Marshal's Office. Of the total 770 DUI warrants served, 59 or 7% were returned to warrant status.

In addition to serving outstanding warrants for DUI offenses, which is the primary mission of this warrant service program, 531 outstanding warrants also were served for driving on a suspended license. In fact, a total of 2,409 warrants were served under this program during the first year of operation. In addition to the DUI warrants served, warrants were also served for wide-ranging types of offenses (e.g., spousal abuse, brandishing weapons, burglary, theft, welfare fraud, and failure to pay family support). Please note, the ability to serve these additional warrants was an additional benefit of the program. These individuals were also wanted on outstanding DUI warrants, or they were in the company of individuals wanted for DUI-related offenses who had been targeted by the Deputy Marshals.

The Marshal's office reports 3,483 unsuccessful warrant service attempts during the first year. During the second year of operation, plans are being made to access an additional data system which will hopefully yield more current residential addresses which, in turn, will allow the deputies to locate more defaulters.

During the first year of operation, $156,142 in fines and fees owed were collected, and arrangements were made with DUI offenders for payment of an additional $689,280 on payment schedules.

There was a 42.7% increase in warrants served reported during the first two months of the second year of the project (590 warrants served versus 338 during the same period of year one). The Marshal's Office hopes to continue this trend throughout the second year of operation.

Programs to Deter FTA / FTC

As reported above, the Merced County DUI Warrant Service Project, was first funded in June of 1999. Project goals were given as follows.

Project objectives included creating and airing public information and education messages, setting up a tips hot line (over 2,600 calls received during the first year), conducting 52 warrant service sweeps during the first year of operation (51 were actually conducted), setting goals for the number of warrants to be served, issuing press releases, and measuring the impact of the Warrant Service Project against the goals outlined above, as well as on any impact on other types of crimes. This was to be accomplished by tracking non-traffic related arrests handled during the DUI warrant sweeps and/or other activities or operations such as narcotics arrests, stolen vehicles recovered, and other criminal arrests.

Much of the first few months were spent working with the County data processing center staff to set up a method of receiving lists of persons with outstanding DUI warrants and enough pertinent information to begin searching for these individuals. In March of 2000, an agreement was reached with the Sheriff's Office which allowed DUI warrants to be entered into the State's wanted persons system.

Since the program became operational, on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, two teams of two Deputy Marshals each attempt to locate persons on the outstanding DUI warrants lists. The teams only work two evenings to lessen the impact on the Merced County jail. The jail is operating under a federal mandate to curb overcrowding, meaning if the jail population reaches 90% capacity, inmates must be released before more may be accepted. With cooperation from jail and court officials, it was agreed that individuals could be held in holding cells overnight, if they could be brought before the court the next morning. This arrangement has worked and has given the court the opportunity to confront the absconders and defaulters faster than normal.

While a large amount of owed fines have been collected, all DUI related fine monies are earmarked for sources other than the warrant service team. The Marshal's Office has contacted legislators in an attempt to divert a portion of the collected monies to help fund the costs of serving the warrants. To date, these efforts have not been rewarded. Fortunately, OTS has extended funding for another year and has expanded the funds to include extradition of felony DUI offenders who have fled the State. By all accounts, this program looks promising despite the problem of funding.

 

COLORADO - El Paso County

Description

El Paso County is located in the eastern central area of Colorado. It is approximately 2,126 square miles in size, and includes the city of Colorado Springs. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the 1998 population estimate for El Paso County was approximately 490,000 individuals. Per capita income in 1996 was approximately $18,800.

Data and Findings

The number of DWI arrests by the Sheriff's Office in El Paso County were provided for 1994-1998. Roughly two percent of these were juvenile arrests.

FIGURE 3: line graph "DWI arrests, 1994 - 1998"

While data are compiled on outstanding warrants, attempts by project staff to obtain the data from either the State Court Administrator's Office or the Sheriff's Office were unsuccessful. However, the site was included because the County Fugitive Unit, which is described in the next section, is a program which could be utilized by other jurisdictions.

Programs to Deter FTA / FTC

The County has a Fugitive Unit comprised of two detectives from the Colorado Springs City Police; and five detectives and one sergeant from the Sheriff's Office. One of the detectives is concurrently assigned to the Federal Fugitive Apprehension Task Force. The seven detectives in the Unit are devoted full-time to serving warrants and have organized themselves into three teams. Each day one team is assigned to administrative tasks, and the other two teams are out in the field. The administrative team is charged with sending someone to the court to pick up the list of warrants issued the previous day. Daily lists from the court contain approximately 50-250 names. The court does not check if these people are already in jail, so the Unit first has to check if the individuals are already in custody.

Felony and misdemeanor offenses are treated separately. The Unit devotes one or two days per week of high-intensity work to locate felons. The squad does not target individuals wanted for misdemeanors, but officers will arrest such individuals if: 1) the squad receives a reliable tip from an informant; or 2) the individual is found in the company of a wanted felon.

Defaulters wanted on misdemeanors charges, such as DWI, are often apprehended when patrol officers stop a vehicle for a routine traffic violation, and officers learn from dispatch that the driver has an arrest warrant outstanding. There are four civilians in the Investigations Division who are available to help patrol officers check the databases, so the Fugitive Unit detectives do not need to spend time assisting patrol officers in this matter.

In addition, the squad performs 4 stings/roundup sweeps per year. Typically, DWI offenders are targeted during one of these annual sweeps.

The Unit employs volunteers who come in the evenings to make phone calls, and notify defaulters wanted on misdemeanor charges that a warrant has been issued. They suggest that the individual would benefit from resolving the issue with the court him/herself, rather than risk being apprehended by the police.

Periodically, the County provides a list of 20 DWI offenders' names to Fountain Valley News, a small publication that serves the southern district but does not have a large readership. The County does not pay for this service; rather, they wait for the newspaper to call when they want to publish a new list.

MADD has purchased equipment (e.g., breath testing devices) and donated them to the LEA to assist in the fight against drunk driving.

The State of Colorado provides grants to pay officers to work overtime for DUI patrol. However, the County cannot count on receiving this funding consistently every year.

There has been discussion of developing a new system where warrant information from the court computer could be electronically transmitted to the CBI (Colorado Bureau of Investigation). CBI could, in turn, transmit the information electronically to the Sheriff's Office. For all misdemeanors, this automated system would also print out a postcard addressed to the offender, warning him or her that a warrant has been issued.

 

INDIANA - Hancock County

Description

Hancock County, Indiana is a bedroom community located east of Indianapolis. One major interstate, highway I-70, passes through the County. The 1990 census population estimate was 45,500, but the community has been growing and the U.S. Census Bureau estimates the current population close to 55,000. The largest community within the County is the city of Greenfield.

Data and Findings

A warrants officer position (part-time) was created in the Hancock County Sheriff's Department. Although the warrants officer has been working since 1996, due to a change in the administrator of the funding organization and some computer problems, our sources were only able to provide warrant data for 1999. The total number of warrants served in 1999 was 334, of which roughly 25% were for DUI-related offenses. This percentage does not include alcohol-related probation violations. The breakdown of warrants served is displayed below in Figure 4.

FIGURE 4: Bar graph "number of warrants by type of offense"

1 = Probation Violation (usually of alcohol/drug use violations)

2 = DUI offenses

3 = Other

4 = Possession of Marijuana

5 = Minor Possession of Alcohol

6 = Public Intoxication

7 = Possession of a controlled substance

8 = Dealing Marijuana

According to the warrants officer, the total number of warrants he served during 1999 was typical of the previous three years. The number of old unserved warrants, prior to the hiring of the warrant officer, is unknown. However, the warrant officer has been able to handle the number of current warrants which are issued, and he works on old files as time permits.

The number of arrests made by the Hancock County Sheriff's Department for DUI-related offenses, 1995-1999 are displayed in Figure 5 below and indicate an upward trend (dotted line).

FIGURE 5: Line graph "number of DUI arrests, 1995 - 1999"

Programs to Deter FTA / FTC

The presiding Judge of the Superior Court II for Hancock County, Indiana noted an ever increasing number of outstanding warrants for offenders who failed to comply with court orders. The local Sheriff's Department is the law enforcement agency decreed by Indiana statute to serve warrants but, as with many law enforcement agencies contacted during this study, the Department did not have the personnel nor budgetary resources to routinely serve warrants, except in cases related to felony crimes.

On several occasions, at the request of the Judge, deputies would attempt to locate defaulters, but funding these attempts was always an issue.

The Judge was reportedly tired of being thwarted in efforts to make certain that offenders complied with court orders. He was frustrated that, in addition to a large number of existing outstanding warrants, that the total number of outstanding warrants was increasing weekly due to new warrants being issued. He decided that the defaulters must be located. As a jurist he was concerned that a wrong message was being sent that court-ordered sanctions could be ignored without fear of reprisal. For these reasons, the Judge, with the support and cooperation of the Sheriff, decided that a warrant officer was needed. The duties of the warrant officer would exclusively involve locating defaulters and serving warrants. Funding was secured through a local grant from NASA (Neighborhoods Against Substance Abuse) which funds local programs using countermeasure fees paid by DUI offender's court costs, part of which is funneled back to local communities. Please note that while the countermeasure fees help fund the warrant officer position, warrants are served for all offenses, not just DUI, although DUI offenders make up a significant percentage of defaulters in this jurisdiction. A full description of the Warrant Officer Program implemented in Hancock County, Indiana is included in Appendix A of this report.

 

MASSACHUSETTS - Statewide, Peabody and Lynnfield

Description

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the estimated population for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in July, 1999 was approximately 6.2 million. This New England state covers 8,257 square miles. Per capita income was $27,972 in 1999.

Data and Findings

Massachusetts has a statewide electronic warrant database known as the Warrant Management System (WMS). It is administered by the Criminal History Systems Board (CHSB). The creation of WMS in 1995 was prompted by the murder of a Boston police officer by a man who had a warrant for his arrest in connection with another shooting. This event and other high-profile, dramatic incidents pointed to serious problems in the handling of arrest warrants. Prior to WMS, knowing whether a person was wanted outside of a police officer's own jurisdiction was difficult, if not almost impossible, to determine. Today, a police officer is able to check whether a person is wanted by another law enforcement agency (LEA) in the Commonwealth by querying the computerized warrant database. Whenever a warrant is issued by a judge, the court clerk is responsible for entering the information directly into the database. The system is operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Although the establishment of a centralized computer tracking system was certainly a step in the right direction, the Commonwealth continues to face criticism for its handling of warrants. For example, a 1999 Report of the Massachusetts Senate Committee on Post Audit and Oversight concluded that warrant management in Massachusetts had become more passive, in some respects, than before the creation of WMS. The report found that, as reliance on the computerized system has increased, active warrant practices (such as mailing notification letters to people who are issued an arrest warrant for a misdemeanor) have been dropped. Our conversations with state police officers and probation officers confirmed that Massachusetts has a “paperless” warrant system; that is, the offender is not notified in writing that a warrant has been issued. However, according to the Criminal History Systems Board, “the Commonwealth's criminal procedure does not call for notification of an accused upon the issuance of a warrant, nor has there been such a procedure in place historically. Such notification serves to increase the risk of flight by the wanted individual.” This sentiment is shared by other jurisdictions we have studied, and we have heard about concerns over officer safety as well as the risk of flight issue.

Other problems noted by the Senate report include the following:

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts should be commended for setting up a Warrant Management System to track outstanding warrants, especially considering the daunting backlog of old warrants, and for implementing corrective legislative measures. While other additional measures may be needed to fully realize all the capabilities of such an informational system, the potential is there for a comprehensive database which could be a valuable resource to LEAs and courts.

Warrant data pertinent to DWI offenses were received from WMS. Figure 6 displays those numbers of warrants (all offenses) outstanding by the year in which the warrants were issued. These numbers do not include all legacy warrants (the backlog of warrants issued prior to the implementation of the WMS). WMS staff are routinely working to include more information, so this should be considered current as of February, 2000. (Information received on 216 additional warrants issued prior to 1980 are not included because they span more than 20 years.)

Of the 43,632 DWI-related warrants issued over more than forty years, 84% were issued to residents of Massachusetts, 10% were issued to drivers residing in other New England states, 4% were issued to residents of states outside the New England area or foreign countries, and 3% were not identified.

FIGURE 6: Bar graph "number of DWI warrants, 1980 - 1999"

Warrant Service in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts State Police maintains a Violent Fugitive Arrest Squad (VFAS) that provides warrant apprehension services. Our conversations with the VFAS revealed that their officers do not have the resources to serve warrants for DWI offenses, nor misdemeanors in general. The VFAS estimates that each day they receive approximately 200 new warrants. With only six state troopers assigned to this unit, the squad concentrates almost exclusively on tracking down felons. Defaulters charged with misdemeanor offenses, including DWI, are generally sought only if the person is also wanted in connection with another “more serious” crime.

As a result, warrant apprehensions in Massachusetts (particularly in the case of misdemeanor offenses such as DWI) are often a result of routine traffic stops. The most common example is when a police officer stops a vehicle for speeding or running a red light and takes the driver's license number, requesting that dispatch run a query on WMS. The officer discovers there is a DWI warrant pending for the arrest of the driver; and brings the individual into custody.

With regard to municipal police departments, only the largest cities in the state (Boston and Springfield) have full-time warrant apprehension units.

It appears that an increase in local law enforcement resources and personnel, relying on the WMS, would be an appropriate remedy for reducing the number of outstanding warrants throughout the Commonwealth.

Extent of the Problem in Peabody District Court

Project staff interviewed the Chief Probation Office (CPO) for the Peabody District Court, which has jurisdiction over two suburban municipalities in northern Massachusetts: the towns of Peabody [2] and Lynnfield [3].

The typical procedure for a DWI arrest is as follows: a police officer makes an arrest and takes the offender into custody; upon consultation with the district court, the individual is released either on recognizance ($25 fee) or set bail ($25 fee plus amount of bail). When released, the accused is given a citation slip, requesting his/her appearance in court for arraignment, usually the next business day. At the first court appearance, it is determined whether the offender will need an assigned public defender or if he/she will hire private legal counsel. In addition, a date is set for the pre-trial conference, usually 3 to 5 weeks later. DWI cases seldom reach the trial stage. The negotiations during the pre-trial conference typically result in either a second pre-trial conference, or in a “disparate plea,” where the District Attorney and the defense attorney differ on the terms of the sentence. In this case, the matter is settled by a judge.

The CPO does not consider that FTA is much of a problem in his district. He feels that people care enough about having their driving privileges suspended to avoid defaulting on court appearances. The majority of warrants are issued because the individual has failed to pay the agreed fine, or because he/she failed to complete the court-ordered alcohol education program.

Programs to Deter FTA / FTC

The names of DWI defaulters in Peabody and Lynnfield are made public through a local newspaper as well as a local radio station which report the names of DWI defaulters on a weekly basis as a public service. Results of this practice are mixed. Occasionally, offenders will turn themselves in; sometimes, a disgruntled spouse or relative will call to report the whereabouts of an defaulter. However, many weeks go by without any information being reported.


Footnotes

[1] The Massachusetts RMV does have a system in place to prevent people with outstanding warrants to renew their driver licenses; however, there is no system in place to prevent them from getting a new license.

[2] Town of Peabody: 1996 estimated population was 48,365 residents; 1989 per capita income was $17,002; Source: Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

[3] Town of Lynnfield: 1996 estimated population was 11,232 residents; 1989 per capita income was $26,193; Source: Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

 

NEBRASKA - Douglas County

Description

Omaha is located in Douglas County, Nebraska and covers most of the County. Douglas County is located mid-center on the eastern border of Nebraska, directly west of Council Bluffs, Iowa. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, the total estimated resident population of Douglas County in 1999 was roughly 446,277 persons. The 1990 census reported approximately 396,000 individuals lived inside the Douglas County, Nebraska urbanized area (Omaha), and approximately 20,500 individuals lived outside the urbanized area and in rural areas. The 1995 median household income was reported as $38,852.

Data and Findings

Approximately 95% of the population in Douglas County resides in Omaha. Due to this population placement, the Omaha Police Department arrests the majority of DUI offenders. Most of these cases are handled by the County Court; felony DUI cases are handled by District Court.

Reportedly, the majority of warrants issued for DUI-related offenses in Douglas County Court are for individuals who fail to appear when scheduled for court appearances (during the adjudication process). Warrants are forwarded to the police precinct which covers the area where the individuals live or work (depending upon available information). The Police Department mails letters to those persons urging the individuals to come in and handle the matter. Officers, when there is time, follow-up and arrest people with outstanding warrants. But, in reality, this is rarely done; the majority of arrests for outstanding warrants are made during traffic stops.

From time to time, there is an “open call” type session, so that people with outstanding warrants can come to the courthouse without being arrested and booked. If they appear on that specific date, sometimes referred to as a “walk-in” calendar, the warrant is canceled and arrangements are made to continue the adjudication process (e.g., new court dates).

We have arrest data from the Omaha Police Department by month from 1992 through 1999 (Figure 7). The dotted line indicates a consistent trend in the DUI arrest rate.

FIGURE 7: Line graph "number of DUI arrests, 1992 - 1999"

Our contacts in the County Court have provided information on persons charged with DWI offenses from 1994 to the present who still have warrants out for their arrest. Unfortunately, the computer system purges warrant information three months after the warrant is canceled by the defendant's arrest or appearance in the court. Therefore, the following data are not complete.

FIGURE 8: Bar graph "number of persons charges with DWI, 1994 - 1999"

We can only make a simple assumption that the 1998 warrant data are the most complete data (least likely to have had records purged) available. Based on 1998 arrests for DUI, it would appear that roughly six percent of individuals arrested for DUI-related offenses during 1998 had outstanding warrants for the referenced offense as of January, 2000. This does not tell us the real percentage of individuals arrested for DUI offenses in 1998 who defaulted, because we do not know how many cleared the system before January, 2000.

Figure 9 shows the total number of outstanding warrants for first-time offenses versus multiple offenses and also breaks out the numbers by offense for those arrested in 1998. A fourth or higher DUI offense is a felony under State statute which is handled by a higher court.

FIGURE 9: Bar graph "number of outstanding warrents, first offense versus multiple offenses"

During a recent related project on DWI conviction rate procedures (Wiliszowski, et al, 1999), this same site participated. During that study, the data we used to calculate conviction rates consisted of 4,089 records of DWI charges extracted from the city prosecutor's files for 1997. Data covering just the first six months of DWI arrests (January-June 1997) were extracted to allow at least a full year after arrest for case disposition. There were 1,993 cases of which 8.3% had no finding. The “no finding” cases consisted of those where the persons failed to appear in court at some point along the judicial process, so that no disposition of these cases appeared.

An assistant city prosecutor, who was asked for his opinion, stated that it is his belief that people don't show up because they do not believe the matter is serious, and often court dates are 40 days in advance and “a lot happens in 40 days.” And he believes that providing them the opportunity to show up during the open call sessions only reinforces the idea that outstanding warrants are not important.

Additionally, he pointed out that many times officers record the address of the offender as it appears on the driver's license, without asking the person if he or she currently resides at that address. If the person has moved, often times law enforcement and court correspondence is returned as undeliverable.

Programs to Deter FTA / FTC

At times, the names of persons with outstanding warrants are published in the newspaper. There are mixed reviews as to whether this has proven an effective method for encouraging individuals to report to the court. Also, reportedly, when an individual fails to appear in court, that person's driver license is suspended. However, usually the only time these individuals are apprehended is if they are stopped for a traffic violation and the officer checks and learns that the driver's license has been suspended. As mentioned above, from time to time, there are open call court sessions when individuals with outstanding warrants can come to the courthouse without being arrested and booked.

 

NEBRASKA - Lancaster County

Description

Lancaster County is located in southeastern Nebraska and contains Lincoln, the capital of the state. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the 1998 population estimate for Lancaster County was almost 444,000 persons. Lincoln, the second largest city in the state, contains a population of roughly 200,000. While the city of Lincoln claims Government as its largest employer with city, county, state and federal offices located there, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that in 1992, 77% of the land in Lancaster County was used for agricultural purposes.

Data and Findings

The Lancaster County Attorney's office handles felony DWI charges for multiple offenders and individuals charged with DWI offenses outside of the city of Lincoln. The Lancaster County Attorney's office reports that they began tracking FTAs at the end of 1996. The first year for which an accurate count could be provided was 1997 when there were 322 DWI-related cases scheduled with 38 individuals failing to appear (roughly 12%). In 1998, almost 17% of the 335 cases for DWI-related offenses (55 persons) failed to appear in court.

The Lincoln City Attorney's office handles first-time DWI offenders. While they were not able to provide data, we were able to discuss the process. If an individual fails to appear, a bench warrant is issued and the DMV is notified to suspend the driver license. Individuals wanted on outstanding DWI warrants are not actively sought by law enforcement. However, if pulled over for a traffic offense, or if otherwise caught, those persons are charged with driving under suspension. Typically, the City Attorney's staff will deal away the FTA charge rather than prosecute, if the individuals plead guilty to the DWI charge.

Programs to Deter FTA / FTC

Reportedly, when an individual fails to appear in court, that person's driver license is suspended. As in other sites, there is doubt whether this sanction deters driving.

 

NEW YORK - Chemung County

Description

Chemung County is located along the southern border of New York State and covers approximately 408 square miles. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that in 1998 the estimated population was approximately 92,000 persons. The 1996 per capita income was approximately $17,700. Elmira, the County seat, is the largest city in the County. There are seven law enforcement agencies (LEAs) operating within the County which covers eleven townships. All seven LEAs enforce anti-drunk driving laws.

Data and Findings

The numbers of arrests for DWI offenses were received from the seven LEAs which operate within Chemung County. Figure 10 depicts the number of arrests from 1994 to 1998.

FIGURE 10: Line graph "number of DWI arrests, 1994 - 1998"

DWI warrant information was received for the Chemung County Sheriff's Office (CCSO), Elmira Police Department (EPD) and Elmira Heights Police Department (EHPD). (The New York State Police have a separate database and the remaining three agencies are either very small and/or do not handle many DWI cases.) Project staff were provided with DWI warrant data for the past ten years, however there were very few warrants in the database for 1990-1994. According to our site contact, judges began issuing warrants when the pervasive extent of errant behavior by DWI offenders was brought to the judges' attention, ostensibly by the STOP DWI program.

Figure 11 shows the total number of all DWI warrants in the database (588), separated by LEA. Forty-three people had two warrants and five people had three warrants. Included in the database are records of warrants issued both to individuals who failed to comply and to those who failed to appear. While we cannot determine exactly how many warrants were issued in each of these two categories, it was estimated by our contacts in Chemung County that 90% of the warrants issued were for FTC reasons, usually non-payment of fines

. FIGURE 11: Bar graph "number of DWI warrants by agency"

Figure 12 shows the number of warrants (515) for five years (1995-1999) for these three LEAs separated by type. Active indicates the numbers of warrants in the database which are still outstanding, arrested are the numbers of warrants served, and recalled are warrants which have been canceled by the court.

FIGURE 12: Bar graph "number of warrants by type, 1995 - 1999"

Figure 13 displays the status of warrants issued within each of the past five years. Closed warrants include those which have been served or recalled, open are the warrants which remain active. Clearly a very high percentage of the warrants have been closed. And those which remain open are not purged from the database. Therefore the possibility exists that they will be served at some point in the future.

FIGURE 13: Bar graph "warrant status by percent, 1995 - 1999"

Programs to Deter FTA / FTC

Each county in New York State has a STOP DWI program, funded through the return of fines for alcohol-related offenses. The mission of these programs is to reduce the incidence of drinking and driving by: 1) Increased public awareness of the risks of drinking and driving; and 2) Increased law enforcement in this area by getting the drinking driver off the road, as well as the timely and consistent application of the legal penalties for DWI.

The Chemung County STOP DWI program includes a Coordinator and two police officers dedicated full-time to the program's activities, including apprehension of individuals with DWI warrants. Names of defaulters are published on the County's Internet site. Inter-LEA cooperation is present when additional officers are needed to conduct a warrants sweep; officers are paid with STOP DWI funds.

The Coordinator of the Chemung County STOP DWI program believes that FTAs do not represent a huge problem in his County; rather, he believes that defaults on fine payments, and failure to comply with court-mandated educational programs, constitute a much more serious and difficult problem. A complete program description is included in Appendix B.

 

OHIO - Pickaway County

Description

Pickaway County is a largely rural area which lies directly south of Columbus (Franklin County) in south, central Ohio and covers approximately 502 square miles. According to the U.S. Census Bureau data, the population of Pickaway County was 52,500 in 1996 and has been growing steadily (1998 estimated population of 53,700). In 1990, the Census Bureau reported a population of 48,300 with 11,700 residing in urban areas and 36,600 living in rural areas. Per capita income in 1996 for Pickaway County was approximately $15,000. The largest urban area in Pickaway County is Circleville. According to our site contacts, Circleville currently has a population of approximately 14,000 and the population of the County is approximately 55,000.

Data and Findings

Data regarding DWI-related warrants were obtained from the Sheriff's Office. The following graph (Figure 14) depicts the breakdown of the 680 warrants relating to DWI offenses which were resolved in some manner (arrest made or recalled, etc.) by the Sheriff's Office in Pickaway County for the years 1985 through 1998.

FIGURE 14: Bar graph "number of DWI warrants, 1985 - 1998"

Figure 15 depicts the breakdown of the 84 active warrants still outstanding for DWI failure to appear offenses.

FIGURE 15: Bar graph "current number of outstanding DWI warrants by year issued, 1993 - 1998"

Programs to Deter FTA / FTC

Occasionally there are problems with individuals arrested for DWI offenses (referred to in Ohio as OMVI - operating a motor vehicle under the influence) who fail to appear at arraignment or trial. In these cases, warrants are issued and that information goes into the state's law-enforcement automated data system. It varies by jurisdiction as to when or if those warrants are served. Certain sheriff's departments have active warrants squads designated to make arrests specifically when the warrants are forwarded to their agency for processing. In the departments that do not have specific warrant execution details, arrest typically does not occur unless there is subsequent contact between a law-enforcement agency and the individual who has defaulted (e.g., a traffic violation stop).

 

OREGON - Deschutes County

Description

Deschutes County is located in central Oregon, and is approximately 3,018 square miles in size. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the 1998 population estimate for Deschutes County was approximately 105,600 persons. The 1996 per capita income was approximately $19,200.

Data and Findings

The office of the Deschutes County Sheriff provided project staff with statistics showing that DWI arrests have increased significantly within that agency in recent years. In fact, DWI arrests made by all LEAs combined have increased in Deschutes County (Figure 16).

FIGURE 16: Line graph "number of DWI arrests, 1994 - 1999"

It is believed that most DWI warrants are issued because the individual failed to pay the full amount of his or her fine, or failed to complete a court-mandated program, rather than failing to appear in court. Detailed data are shown in Figure 17

FIGURE 17: Line graph "cumulative percent of open warrants by month, 1994 - 1999"

regarding the number of DWI warrants closed in the County over recent years (1994-1999). Out of a total of 4,041 warrant records received which pertained to DWI offenses, 89% were closed (n=3,594). Of those warrants which have been closed, roughly 70% were closed within six months of issue date, 80% were closed within one year of the issue date, and the longest (n=1) was outstanding for 56 months.

Figure 18 shows the length of time the warrants were open by type (misdemeanor versus felony). Within six months of issue date, almost 80% of outstanding felony warrants were closed compared to roughly 70% of all misdemeanor warrants. The following figure shows the amounts of the original bail set, by warrant type, for those warrants which have been closed. The vast majority of misdemeanor warrants (73.3%) had bail amounts up to $5,000, while roughly 44% of the felony warrants had between $5,000-10,000.

FIGURE 13: Line graph "cumulative percent of open warrants, felony and misdemeanor"

 

FIGURE 19: Bar graph "felony vs misdemeanor for closed warrants by percent at various bail levels"

An assumption may be made that those with zero bail for felonies might have been in jail. A similar pattern held for the bail amounts set for warrants still open as shown in Figure 20. The largest amount of misdemeanors had bail amounts set at less than $5,000.

FIGURE 20: Bar graph "felony vs misdemeanor for open warrants by percent at various bail levels"

The following (Figure 21) shows the percentage of open warrants which indicate that 67% of the individuals with open warrants have one warrant outstanding; 18% have two (cumulative 85% have one or two), roughly 8% have three (cumulative 93% have 1-3 warrants outstanding), and 7% have between 4-9 warrants outstanding

. FIGURE 21: Scatter graph "Percent of offenders with open warrants by number of warrants"

Looking back again at the closed warrant records (Figure 22), roughly half of the individuals had more than one warrant issued (22% had two warrants, 11%-3 warrants, 7%-4 warrants). Roughly 10% of the individuals had five or more warrants issued in their name.

FIGURE 22: Scatter graph "Percent of offenders with closed warrants by number of warrants"

One individual had 24 warrants (the number of offenses is not known). The mean for the group was 2.26. The cumulative percentages show that 72% of all the individuals who had warrants issued which were closed had one or two warrants, and 93% had between one and five warrants per person.

Finally, we compared the following variables for the total data set.

Warrant History Warrant Type Bail Amount
Prior
Felony
No Bail
No Prior
Misdemeanor
$0-$5K
   
>$5K-$10K
   
>$10K

After looking at all the possible combinations for these variables, the following subset of individuals with outstanding warrants was closed within the shortest time frame: individuals with prior warrants, a misdemeanor warrant (for the subject warrant), and no bail set. The group which took the longest time to close were individuals with no prior warrants, a felony warrant had been issued, and greater than $10,000 bail had been set. The following figure (Figure 23) illustrates the time frame for these two groups.

FIGURE 23: Line graph "Time frame to close warrants in percent"

It was initially difficult to speculate why such a high percentage of warrants are closed within a relatively short period of time without any formal warrant service program, until we spoke with individuals at the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office. We were told that current data is constantly available to officers, who often serve warrants between services calls.

Programs to Deter FTA / FTC

Law enforcement officers will actively serve a warrant if there is an urgent request from the court, or if they receive a reliable tip as to the defaulter's whereabouts. Deschutes County does not have a squad dedicated to serving warrants. However, there is a current, outstanding warrant listing available from the data system to all law enforcement officers. Reportedly, many of the officers print out the listing at the beginning of their work week and then try to locate as many of the "wanteds" in their times between responding to calls for service. Some of the officers have made warrant service a priority.

Our contacts also indicated that DWI warrants are typically resolved either as the result of a routine traffic stop, or because the defaulter is subsequently arrested for a different offense. The County Sheriff's office maintains the county-wide database, which officers are required to consult when they stop an individual for questioning or make an arrest. There is also a statewide database that officers will consult in these cases.

In the past, local newspapers have published a list of weekly DWI arrests, but this has been a sporadic public service.

 

PUERTO RICO

Description

The island of Puerto Rico is 3,459 square miles in size. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated the population of Puerto Rico in July, 1999 at approximately 3.8 million persons. Rather than cities and counties, the island is subdivided into administrative units called “municipios,” or municipalities.

Data and Findings

DWI is not a priority for law enforcement, in particular it was reported that the municipal police do not make any significant number of DWI arrests. Most of the DWI-related arrests are made by the State Police.

The State Police do not maintain a register of people arrested for DWI (with information such as names/drivers' licence numbers, etc.) because, reportedly, the agency was behind in the technology needed to maintain this type of information. When a police officer makes an arrest and writes up his/her report, one of the carbon copies is forwarded to the courts, and another copy is sent to the police statistics department. The statistics department keeps a tally count of how many people have been arrested for DWI in any given year; however, there is no electronic database containing the personal information of people who were arrested.

Totals were provided by the State Police regarding the number of DWI arrests for 1992 through 1997, with the exception of 1994, where the total was not available. Figure 24 indicates the number of DWI arrests have been declining in recent years.

FIGURE 24: Bar graph "number of DWI arrests, 1992 - 1997"

When an arrest is made, the offender is usually taken to court immediately, provided the courts are open; if the courts are closed (e.g., over the weekend), the police typically will keep the offender in custody until the next business day. Under this system, it is not possible to have an FTA for the initial court appearance, although it is still possible during subsequent court appearances. Also, a judge will not accept charges brought forth by a police officer if the offender is not present in court, and thus no warrants would be issued in such circumstances.

The State Court Administrator provided summary information on the number of DWI cases entered into the Commonwealth's courts from 1993 through 1998, including the number of open and closed cases (broken down by disposition) at the end of each fiscal year (Table 2). While we can be certain that some cases remain “open” because the offender failed to appear or otherwise failed to comply with the court's orders, there is no way of determining the actual number of such instances.

Fiscal Year # Cases pending from previous fiscal year New cases Total cases for fiscal year Convictions Dismissals Archived Transfers Total resolved cases Total pending cases
93-94
4,023
8,584
12,607
7,089
466
1,793
62
9,410
3,197
94-95
2,925
9,004
11,929
6,500
440
1,629
69
8,638
3,291
95-96
3,147
8,908
12,055
6,506
440
1,594
49
8,589
3,466
96-97
3,278
7,928
11,206
n/a*
n/a*
n/a*
n/a*
8,090
3,116
97-98
3,046
9,260
12,306
6,775
375
1,754
55
8,959
3,347

*n/a = data not available

Neither the State Police nor the court system in Puerto Rico maintained a warrants database at the time of our inquiry.

Programs to Deter FTA / FTC

There are no programs currently to deter failure to comply. (Failure to appear is apparently not a large problem.)

 

TEXAS - Austin

Description

Austin is the capital of Texas and is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. Centrally located between San Antonio, Dallas and Houston, Austin ranks as the 27th largest city in the United States. With 225 square miles inside the city limits, the 1999 population was estimated at 567,566. The Austin metropolitan area encompasses 2,705 square miles and approximately 1,057,000 people. Currently, Austin is one of the top-rated cities in the United States for business, housing more than 800 high-tech firms. The wide-range of restaurants, attractions, and ethnic backgrounds in Austin attest to its great diversity.

Data and Findings

DWI arrests made by the Austin Police Department are shown below.

FIGURE 25: Line graph "number of DWI arrests, 1985 - 1999"

Programs to Deter FTA / FTC

The Austin Police Department operates a Fugitive Apprehension Section which serves warrants on persons suspected of crimes who have not had a first court appearance. The usual procedure for DWI offenders is for them to be held overnight in a county jail holding facility and to be arraigned the next morning. Thus, only in rare instances would this unit be concerned with serving warrants on DWI offenders. The primary responsibility for serving warrants on Austin DWI offenders who fail to appear for court falls on the Travis County Sheriff's Department.

If a defendant fails to appear for trial, a warrant is issued by the County Court for misdemeanors and the District Court for felonies and is entered into the Texas Criminal Information Center (TCIC). Thus, information about the outstanding warrant becomes available for computer inquiries. There is no formal feedback system to the arresting agencies about FTAs or FTCs for their arrestees.

As stated above, the task of serving DWI warrants falls mainly to the Travis County Sheriff's Department. The Sheriffs's Department Fugitive Apprehension Unit is divided into two sections. One section is responsible for serving felony warrants. This fourteen officer unit also serves as the Sheriff's Department's SWAT team.

Felony warrants are issued for FTA for second and subsequent DWI offenses or DWI behavior resulting in serious or fatal injury. The typical priority the felony warrants division observes for warrant service follows the priority structure for the federal Uniform Crime Report (i.e., murder; sexual assault, other assaults, etc.). DWI warrants are close to the top of the priority list. The number of warrants in the higher priority crimes area is relatively few and, generally, most are fairly easy to serve because the offender and his or her general whereabouts are known to the police agencies, or are difficult to serve because the offender has fled. In that case, the unit makes the determination the offender has fled and monitors the situation. Reportedly, felony DWI warrants receive a good deal of attention from the warrant officers because the offender's address is usually known and he or she can be found and served fairly readily. This helps in demonstrating productivity by the Sheriff's Department Fugitive Apprehension Unit.

For misdemeanor warrants, the serving officer may not enter homes to enforce the warrant. Similarly, officers do not go to places of employment to serve warrants for misdemeanors. Thus, the two person misdemeanor warrants section relies largely on the mail to serve those warrants. In Travis county there are as many as 40,000 misdemeanor warrants outstanding at any given time. Of those, approximately 75% are for hot checks. Due to the shear volume, one can see that the two person unit is unlikely to be able to personally serve many DWI warrants. They find that mail service actually works fairly well because many first offenders respond to the threat of arrest and incarceration and turn themselves in. Often the failure to appear is the consequence of misunderstanding or a hope that the case will disappear, and the mail notification is enough to impel these first offenders to appear.

The warrants unit reports that when time is available, serving DWI warrants is a fairly easy task in that most of the felony offenders consider a DWI a fairly trivial arrest in the larger scope of things and don't flee to avoid that warrant. The exceptions are those for persons who have other serious pending crimes or for undocumented aliens who fear being turned over to the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

The warrants unit seldom is involved in warrants service for failure to comply. That usually involves a violation of conditions of probation and the probation department staff work to get the offenders into compliance or revoke their probation.

 

UTAH - Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Other Utah Jurisdictions Combined

Description

The U.S. Census Bureau estimated the 1998 population of the State of Utah to be approximately 2,099,750 persons. The State is approximately 82,168 square miles in size. The 1996 per capita income for Utah was approximately $16,100. The state capital of Utah is Salt Lake City, located along the banks of the Great Salt Lake, in the northern part of the State. Utah's main urban areas are located along the Wasatch Mountains on the eastern edge of the Salt Lake Valley. The majority of Utah's population is concentrated in this strip of land, which is less than 100 miles long, stretching from Ogden to Provo. The four counties in the Wasatch Front — Salt Lake, Davis, Weber and Utah — contain more than three-quarters of the State's population.

Salt Lake County is one of 29 counties in Utah. While the County is the sixth smallest in the State, covering only 492,213 acres of land, the County population of 845,913 ranks first in the State. The County population is 93 percent white, 2.8 percent Asian, and 3.4 percent other races. Six percent of those residing within Salt Lake County are Hispanic. Salt Lake County had a per capita personal income of $26,100 in 1998. This ranked second in the State and was 117% of the State average of $22,240 and 96% of the national average.

Salt Lake City is the most populous city in the State with a 1998 population of 174,348 persons and covers roughly 111 square miles. By 2020, the state capital is expected to have a population of approximately 187,935 persons. The County's average annual growth rate through the 1990s has been 1.6%, below the State average of 2.3%.

Data and Findings

Data were provided by the office of the State Court Administrator located in Salt Lake City. Among other administrative support activities, the State Court Administrator's office is responsible for compiling adjudication and sentencing information from each of the district, circuit, justice and juvenile courts throughout the State. It is, however, the responsibility of the clerks for each individual court to input data and updated information into the statewide system.

Relevant information from the State Court Administrator's databases is selectively transmitted to other agencies needing the information, such as the State prosecuting attorneys and public defenders. The court administrator also provides the Utah Diver's License Division with conviction and sentencing information for DUI cases.

Data provided to project staff by the State Court Administrator included DUI warrants issued by courts throughout the state from 1994 to 1998, inclusive. The number of DUI arrests, statewide, for that same five-year period, were as follows:

FIGURE 26: Line graph "number of DUI arrests, 1994 - 1998"

Arrest figures were provided by the Utah Highway Safety Office.

A total of 60,003 DUI-related warrant records were received for the entire state. The data were separated into three districts: Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, and the remainder of the State for which records were received. The courts involved are listed below in Table 3.

Site
Courts
Salt Lake City: Salt Lake City District    
Salt Lake County: Murray District Sandy District West Valley District
Other Utah Jurisdictions: American Fork District

Bountiful District

Brigham City District

Castle Dale District

Cedar City District

Coalville District

Duchesne District

Farmington District

Fillmore District

Heber City District

Layton District

Logan District

Manti District

Moab District

Monticello District

Morgan District

Nephi District

Ogden District

Orem District

Park City District

Price District

Provo District

Richfield District

Roosevelt District

Roy District

Spanish Fork District

Tooele District

Vernal District

First, the “types” of warrants were defined and sorted into three categories: FTA (failure to appear, FTC (failure to comply) and Other. These are illustrated below in Table 4.

Table 4: Utah Warrant Types Defined

Designation Definitions Included
FTA (Failure to Appear): Failure to Appear

Failure to Appear for non-mandatory court violation

Bond Revoked - Defendant Fled

Failed to Appear after being Booked

Pretrial Release Revoked - Defendant Fled

FTC (Failure to Comply): Failure to Comply with Court Order

Failure to Comply with Terms of Probation

Failure to Initiate Probation

Failure to Pay Fine as Agreed

Other: Defendant in Contempt of Court

Based on Probable Cause Statement

Unable to Locate

Figure 27 below illustrates the number of DUI-related warrants, arranged by the three districts and also by the warrant type: FTA (failure to appear) or FTC (failure to comply). There were a small number (23 warrants) in the Other category which are not included in this Figure.

FIGURE 27: Bar graph "number of outstanding warrants by location"

By statute in Utah, DUI-related warrants automatically expire three years (36 months) after issuance. When looking at the provided data, this in fact appeared to be the case in the Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County Courts; the data revealed a mean length of 35.4 months. Figure 28 below shows the bulk of the warrant expiration dates clustered around the mean.

FIGURE 28: Scatter graph for Salt Lake City and County "number of outstanding DUI warrants by number of months open"

However, for the remaining courts, a mean of 20.3 months to DUI warrant expiration was puzzling. A closer look revealed peaks at 12 months and again at 20 months, which perhaps suggest other warrant recall policies. A peak also occurs at 36 months.

FIGURE 29: Scatter graph for other Utah jurisdictions "number of outstanding DUI warrants by number of months open"

Every DUI-related warrant in Utah is eventually recalled, if not for some other reason (e.g., the person is arrested for another offense or picked up on another warrant, the person is discovered to already be in jail in another jurisdiction, the person is deceased, administrative errors, etc.), then it will expire 36 months from the issue date. The reasons for recalling DUI-related warrants in Utah are classified into one of four designations. These designations are defined in Table 5.

Table 5: Utah Warrant Recall Designations

Designations Definitions of Designations
Expired: Reached expiration date (generally 3 years from issuance)
Court Ordered: Recall based on court order (By order of Judge; For many reasons)
Apprehended: Defendant was apprehended

Defendant was booked

Satisfied: Bond posted

Fine or Fee paid

Defendant appeared

Defendant telephoned

Defendant released - signed promise to appear

Other: Undefined or to be determined

Clerical error when entering warrant

Programs to Deter FTA / FTC

Project staff spoke with the Salt Lake City Police Department, the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office, the Salt Lake County Constable's Office and the Utah Highway Patrol. All of the law enforcement agencies emphasized that all warrants are entered by the court clerks into a statewide database, and that most of the arrests for warrants issued on account of a misdemeanor, including DUI, occur when an officer makes a routine traffic stop and checks the database.

The Utah Highway Patrol does not have a dedicated warrant squad; the Salt Lake City Police Department has a team of three officers in its Fugitive Unit, but they target only “most wanted” felony cases. The Sheriff's Office also has a Fugitive Unit consisting of three Investigators and two Detectives, but they only serve felony bench warrants. The County Constable's Office is in charge of serving misdemeanor warrants, including DUI warrants, throughout Salt Lake County. There are 44 deputies, five of whom are dedicated full-time to serving all warrants (not only DUI). Records are kept on the numbers of warrants served, but not by offense.

 

VERMONT - Statewide and Chittenden County

Description

The state of Vermont is largely rural and is approximately 9,249 square miles in size. In 1999 the U.S. Census Bureau estimated the population to be approximately 593,740 persons. The per capita income in 1996 was approximately $19,437.

Chittenden County, located in the northwest section of Vermont, covers 539 square miles. The County's western border runs along Lake Champlain and New York state. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated the 1999 population of the County to be 143,947. The median household income in 1995 was $43,464. Burlington is the largest city in Chittenden County. South Burlington is a separate city located 2 miles southeast of Burlington. South Burlington is home to the University Mall, the largest mall in Vermont, and the Burlington International Airport. South Burlington retains a separate police force of approximately 40 employees.

Data and Findings

In the state of Vermont, when individuals failed to appear for arraignment in relation to a DUI offense, their criminal history records are flagged by the courts. This information has been collected on a state-wide level in Vermont since the end of 1997. As the system was in the set-up stages at the time of our inquiry, reportedly the only reliable information to date was in 1998 when 574 individuals charged with DUI offenses failed to appear for arraignment. There were 166 persons during the first six months of 1999 who were charged with DUI offenses and who failed to appear for arraignment. The system implementation is progressing and should reach its full potential in the near future. The Vermont Incident Based Reporting System (VIBRS) was a state police agency records system which has evolved into a statewide records network for all law enforcement agencies operating within the State.

The South Burlington Police Department provided information on outstanding warrants from their agency for criminal motor vehicle offenses in Chittenden County. These warrants were revealed by law enforcement personnel reviewing copies of records. It has not been recorded which warrants were issued for FTA and/or FTC behavior, nor how many individuals have multiple warrants outstanding. There were 110 of these outstanding DMV warrants as of March 21, 2000 which had been issued between October 14, 1999 and March 21, 2000. (There was no certain way to determine the total number of warrants which were issued and cleared for any given time frame.) Figure 30 shows the breakdown of those 110 outstanding DMV warrants.

FIGURE 30: Bar graph "Number of outstanding DMV warrants by type"

A records clerk in the South Burlington Police Department had entered warrants into NCIC and now has begun to enter warrants into VIBRS as well. Eventually, Vermont law enforcement agencies will have the ability to query VIBRS as to warrants issued for specific offenses.

Key: DUI 1 = warrant outstanding in conjunction with a DUI first offense

DUI 2+ = warrant outstanding, issued to a multiple DUI offender

DLS 1 = warrant outstanding in conjunction with driving while license suspended, first offense

DLS 2+ = warrant outstanding, issued to a multiple DUI offender

Other = warrant outstanding in conjunction with careless and negligent operation (CNN), leaving the scene of an accident (LSA), Attempting to Elude (ATE) or operating a vehicle without the owner's consent (OOC)

Reportedly, many of the driving while license suspended (DLS) warrants were cases where the license had originally been suspended for a DUI offense.

Programs to Deter FTA / FTC

The Police Department in South Burlington, Vermont has received a grant “to establish an interagency program to address the number of outstanding warrants for criminal motor vehicle offenses in Chittenden County.” [1] The grant money will be used to fund a warrant squad comprised of officers from all participating law enforcement agencies operating within the County. Officers will receive over-time pay from the grant to seek defaulters, including those with outstanding warrants for failure to appear in court or failure to pay fines relating to DUI offenses. The grant was requested when an officer noted that there were comparatively large numbers of outstanding warrants (1,600-1,700) in relation to the County population (estimated at 143,947). Previously, annual warrant round-ups had been conducted to search for defaulters.

In addition to Chittenden County, project staff were informed of a program operating in Rutland County, Vermont. Most cities and towns in Rutland County are participating in a court-ordered testing program. Offenders are often released on condition that they do not drink. Participants in the program must report to the Rutland County Sheriff's office for chemical testing to prove their abstinence from alcohol. The Rutland County Sheriff's Office is centrally located within the County, which is why it was chosen as the testing location.


Footnotes

[1] From the Chittenden Area Warrant Team Grant Application to the Vermont Governor's Highway Safety Representative.

 

WASHINGTON- Pierce County

Description

Pierce County, Washington covers 1,790 square miles and is located in a western section of the State just south of Seattle and King County. From Mt. Rainier National Park in the east, the County curves north to touch Puget Sound on its western border. Tacoma, located on Puget Sound is the largest city in Pierce County and the third largest city in the State. According to the United States Census Bureau, the 1997 population in Pierce County totaled almost 665,000 individuals with most residing in or near Tacoma. The largest court in Pierce County is Pierce County District Court Number One, which also handles the highest number of DUI-related cases within the County. It was from this Court that data was obtained on outstanding DUI-related warrants.

Data and Findings

DUI warrant-related information in Pierce County, Washington has been maintained since 1990 in a statewide judicial information system. The Washington State Supreme Court has dictated that clerks entering information into the database must go through a series of checks to insure they are matching up records with the correct person. Therefore, database administrators believe the data contained within the system are as accurate as possible.

The Court Administrator's Office in Pierce County District Court Number One (PCDC 1) was most helpful and willing to provide information pertinent to this study. The number of DUI-related cases filed in PCDC 1 from 1995 through 1999 totaled 8,812; these are displayed in Figure 31 by the year in which each case was filed.

FIGURE 31: Line graph "number of DUI cases, 1995 - 1999"

Unlike databases in some states, outstanding warrants for DUI-related offenses are not purged from the statewide judicial information system in Washington. Project staff requested five years worth of data and received 7,956 records relating to warrants issued from 1995 through 1999 by Pierce County District Court for DUI-related offenses occurring in Pierce County, Washington. A total of 3,906 people received warrants for 4,141 DUI-related offenses (6% or 230 people had warrants issued for more than one DUI offense).

It would not be possible to identify the true number of multiple offenders contained in this data set from the “cut” of data which we requested (although had project time allowed, with a more sophisticated query, the data administrators reported they most likely could retrieve repeat offender information). It is possible to discern repeat offenders who had warrants issued between 1995 and 1999, but it is not possible to know how many of these offenders had other DUI offenses for which no warrants were issued. It is also not possible, based on our initial inquiry, to determine how many individuals whose records we received had DUI offenses before 1995.

Multiple warrants often were issued on a single DUI offense. Reasons for the warrants were probable cause, failure to appear, failure to appear at arraignment, failure to comply (which includes failure to complete education or treatment requirements) and failure to pay fines. Separate designations for these reasons were recorded in the database.

A total of 3,588 people had at least one incidence of failing to appear either at arraignment or at some other point in the adjudication process; there were 6,764 warrants issued to this group. There were 2,079 individuals (3,602 warrants) who failed to comply; and 665 people (with a total of 866 warrants) who failed to pay. The importance of seeing these numbers displayed in Figure 32 is that they show many defaulters have more than one warrant outstanding.

FIGURE 32: Bar graph "number of warrants per person by type of warrant"

Looking only at the three years for which there are the most records (1995, 1996 and 1997), Figure 33 displays the numbers of DUI-related warrants issued for failure to appear (FTA) combined with warrants issued for failure to appear at arraignment (FTAA) during those years.

FIGURE 33: Bar graph "number of warrants, 1995 - 1997"

Figure 34 shows those same categories of warrants (FTA / FTAA) split by the year in which each warrant was issued. So, for example, for all those arrested in 1995 for a DUI offense who failed to appear at some point in the adjudication process, 43% defaulted in 1995 (Year 1), 37% in 1996 (Year 2) and 20% in 1997 (Year 3).

Warrants are not always issued in the same year as the offense occurred. As Figure 34 illustrates, the bulk of the FTA/FTAA defaulters fail to appear during the year of the offense and the following year.

FIGURE 34: Bar graph "percent of warrants by year of default"

Due to the fact that DUI-related cases are adjudicated promptly in the Pierce County District Court, it would be logical that the majority of failures to appear at arraignment or any time in the adjudication process would occur within one year of arrest, and then would drop off in subsequent years. Figure 35 shows a decline in the numbers of warrants issued for failure to pay and failure to comply. This decline coincides with the retention of a private collections agency to deal with outstanding fines. Warrants are typically no longer issued only for failure to pay fines. In fact, the Court is currently attempting to purge the database of legacy warrants for failure to pay issues only and are forwarding these cases to the collection agency. We note that Pierce County allows offenders, who owe fines, to work out payment plans if necessary, and indigent offenders may serve on a work crew or provide community service in lieu of paying money. For individuals on welfare, the judges sometimes reduce fines to allow offenders to come into compliance.

FIGURE 35: Bar graph "number of warrants issued per year for failure to comply or pay"

It is also logical that warrants issued for failure to comply and failure to pay fines would occur later during the corrections and/or reparation stage of each case. And this was verified as indicated in Figure 36 below, which shows that 9% of all warrants related to failure to pay/comply issued for DUI arrests made in 1995 were issued during 1995, 52% were issued in 1996, and 38% were issued in 1997.

FIGURE 36: Bar graph "percent of warrants issued per year for failure to comply or pay"

Figure 37 below depicts the number of all FTA and FTAA warrants issued by year (for the three years for which there are the most data), with one or more other reason (i.e., one or more warrants for probable cause, failure to comply and failure to pay fines).

FIGURE 37: Bar graph "percent of all FTA and FTAA warrants issued per year"

Year 1 in Figure 37 above indicates that 62% of all FTA related warrants issued for DUI arrests made in 1995 were issued during 1995, 28% were issued in 1996 and 10% were issued in 1997. As stated earlier, DUI-related cases are adjudicated promptly in the Pierce County District Court, and so it would be logical that the majority of failures to appear at arraignment or any time in the adjudication process would occur within one year of arrest, and then would drop off in subsequent years.

We were provided with dates as to when warrants were served or canceled. This information showed that a high percentage of warrants were either canceled for some reason or were served within 12 months of issuance. Figure 38 below indicates the amount of elapsed time from warrant issue until either canceled or served.

FIGURE 38: Line graph "percent of warrants cancelled or served by month after issuance by warrant type"

The solid, bold line (“Other Only”) indicates probable cause warrants, failure to comply and failure to pay fines. The solid line (“FTA Only”) indicates failure to appear or failure to appear at arraignment. The broken line (“FTA & Other”) indicates multiple warrants for a single DUI offense with at least one FTA warrant plus at least one “Other” warrant. The mean time from warrant issue date to service date was 156 days. The mean time from warrant issue date to cancellation date was 103 days. The mean time for both categories combined (from warrant issue date until served or canceled) was 128 days.

Violation dates were also provided. The mean times from the date of the violation until the warrants are canceled or served are 219 days for FTA warrants and 559 days for other types of warrants.

It was not surprising to find that 82% of the database population were men, nor that 52% of the men were ages 21-34 at the time of the violation. The mean age for men was 33.3 and the mean age for women was 32.8. The mean times to serve or cancel warrants were very similar between genders.

Programs to Deter FTA / FTC

Pierce County District Court Number One (PCDC 1) has clerks who review cases daily to determine if individuals are in compliance with court orders. While many jurisdictions delegate this function to a probation department, this Court has determined it most efficient in this system to maintain vigilance within the Court. Reportedly, court staff believe this is unique within the State of Washington.

PCDC 1 also has a “Special Warrants Project” which requires a clerk to check all warrants issued daily and to make certain that each law enforcement agency (LEA) is notified of individuals originally arrested by their officers who have had warrants issued. Presumably this will help to deflect a large backlog of unserved warrants. However, each LEA has a separate policy regarding which warrants, if any, are actively served.

Years ago, a state trooper was dedicated to tracking individuals who had warrants outstanding. The trooper served warrants for all offenses, including DUI-related offenses. A separate database was maintained on the individuals being sought (this database no longer exists). Unfortunately, legislators decided that tracking and serving warrants was outside of the responsibilities of the state police and eliminated that position.

Outstanding warrants for DUI-related offenses grew to be such a problem by 1999 that a District Court Judge suggested a “Warrants Emphasis” patrol. PLEADD (Pierce Law Enforcement Against Drunk Driving) traffic safety emphasis patrols had been regularly rounding up impaired drivers in Pierce County for years. The Judge, noting that there were approximately 5,000 outstanding warrants for DUI offenses in PCDC 1 alone, suggested conducting a round-up of individuals with outstanding DUI warrants who were perceived to be a high risk to public safety and/or had extremely high warrant amounts. We discuss this “Warrants Emphasis” in greater detail in a Site Report located in Appendix C of this report.

With a database which is capable of identifying defaulters and a routine check of that system, Pierce County authorities are able to track the problem of DUI offenders with outstanding warrants. The LEAs operating in the County are dedicated to apprehending impaired and drunk drivers. However, the agencies have separate policies regarding warrant service. And, funding resources need to be identified to meet the added costs of locating and apprehending defaulters. With the level of cooperation between the law enforcement and judicial agencies, and the existence of a quality database, this County could achieve a long-term solution to the problem of defaulters.

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