Most Police departments in larger cities have thousands of unserved arrest warrants. These arrest warrants range form serious violent felonies to single unpaid traffic tickets.
Arrest warrants remain unserved because law enforcement does not have the time or manpower to track down the “fugitives” and serve the warrants.
Police in Fort Lauderdale have found a unique solution to the problem of unserved warrants. Instead of the officers going out to find the defendants, the police have the defendants come to them. As reported by the Miami Herald:
Police in Florida are using the promise of a stimulus check to make some arrests.
Authorities in Fort Lauderdale say they sent letters to fugitives offering them stimulus money. The suspects were asked to call a hot line and set up an appointment to pickup a check from an auditorium where “South Florida Stimulus Coalition” banners hung.
When the fugitives arrived, they were identified and about 75 were arrested on offenses ranging from grand theft to fraud to attempted murder.
Police spokesman Sgt. Frank Sousa says the two-day sting was dubbed “Operation Show Me The Money.” Sousa says the sting saved man hours and allowed police to make arrests in a controlled environment.
Sousa said Thursday the department may try something similar in the future.
I suspect some of those arrested had no idea they had an arrest warrant, and were shocked to discover the police waiting with handcuffs.
Arrest warrants never go away. Warrants remain active until the defendant is arrested. In some cases, many years pass by before warrants are served.
When the police have to track down a defendant to serve an arrest warrant, the consequences can be severe. The potential for the defendant to be hurt when the police do the “take down” is high. The defendant is considered a “fugitive,” and the officers serving the warrant have little, if any, information about the underlying case. Because of this, warrant officers sometimes use a higher level of force when making the arrest.
In addition, it is likely that bail has not been set when the arrest is made. That means a defendant may sit in jail for an extended period of time waiting for a bail hearing. Further, because the defendant was a fugitive, the Court may refuse to set bail at all. That means the defendant sits in jail until the case is resolved.
These consequences are totally avoidable. A person who has a warrant for his arrest has options.
Believe it or not, the police do not want to have to kick down the defendant’s door to arrest him. Both police and prosecutors prefer what is called a “negotiated surrender.”
On numerous occasions, I have been contacted by people who have warrants for their arrest. To avoid arrest and an extended period of pretrial incarceration, we contact the officers responsible for serving the warrant. We let them know that the defendant wants to resolve the case and does not want to run from the police. The police almost always agree to stop trying to serve the warrant while we attempt to arrange the surrender. Then, we contact the prosecutor who is handling the case to reach an agreement on bail, and have the Court enter an Order setting bail. Once these arrangements are made, we will set a time for our client to go to the sheriff’s office to surrender. Finally, we arrange for a bail bondsman to meet our client at the jail.
The benefits of the negotiated surrender are (1) the police will stop trying to serve the warrant, thereby eliminating the risk of an embarrassing arrest and injury to the client; (2) bail is set before the client goes into custody; and (3) the fact that the client surrendered usually causes the Court and prosecutor to treat them more favorably than someone who had to be caught by the police.
Because we have a bail bondsman at the jail at the time of surrender, the client can go to the jail, get booked, have the bondsman post a bond, and turn around and walk out. Instead of weeks in jail, the client never sees the inside of a jail cell and is typically back home in a couple of hours. The negotiated surrender is always preferable to being arrested. If you think you may have warrants, you should contact a criminal defense attorney immediately.