The law and you: Arrest warrants
How and why they’re issued and what they mean
BY SHERIFF GRADY HARTMAN
Special to the Star Journal
For a while now, the Star Journal has been assisting the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office in locating persons who have warrants for their arrest by publishing some of the newer warrants in their paper. Recently, the Star Journal has been receiving questions about how warrants are issued. There are several ways this can occur.
Numerous people have contact with law enforcement on a daily basis for incidents that are not crimes. An example would be a traffic violation. When a law enforcement officer issues a citation, the citizen is given the opportunity to show up in court and contest the citation or they can simply pay the fine on the citation and the incident is completed. If a citizen does not appear in court, contact the court to reschedule the court date, or does not pay the fine by the court date on the citation, a warrant can be issued for their arrest. This type of a warrant would be a failure to pay warrant and an amount will be attached to the warrant. If the person goes to the Clerk of Courts and pays this amount, the warrant will be cancelled. If they do not, the person will be arrested and will go to jail. If they cannot pay the fine, they will be credited $25 for each day they are in jail. For example if the warrant is $100, the person will be in jail for four days to satisfy this warrant.
In more serious cases like crimes, an arrest warrant can be issued at several different phases. A person may be arrested for a crime, make an appearance in court and be released on bond with a future court date. If the person does not appear for their future court date, the Judge may issue a body only warrant for the person. This means the person will be arrested and have to appear before a Judge before they can be released.
In some cases, the victim has identified the suspect/perpetrator of a crime, but law enforcement cannot find the suspected person. In cases like this, the law enforcement officer can request that the Judge issue an arrest warrant for the suspect by providing documentation that there is probable cause to believe the suspect committed the crime. This too would be a body only warrant requiring the arrested person appear before the Judge in order to be released from the jail.
There is another unique warrant that is not commonly issued. In some cases, law enforcement may not be able to identify the person who committed a crime by name or photo but instead only by their DNA profile. In cases like this, law enforcement can present the probable cause related to a specific DNA profile and the Judge can issue an arrest warrant for this specific DNA profile. These types of warrants are called John Doe warrants.
You may wonder why law enforcement would request an arrest warrant instead of just continuing to look for the person or attempting to identify the DNA profile. This all has to do with the statute of limitations for crimes or the amount of time a person can be held accountable for a crime. Misdemeanors such as disorderly conduct have to begin prosecution within three years.
Prosecution for a felony like burglary has to be begin within six years. Certain crimes like homicide and sexual assault have extended statutes of limitations. The issuance of an arrest warrant is the beginning of prosecution and stops the clock.
Oneida County has 1,081 active warrants that need to be resolved. Warrants do not expire. I am asking the citizens of Oneida County to assist the Sheriff’s Office in our attempt to resolve these warrants. If you currently have a warrant, please go to the Clerk of Courts and pay your fines. If you have a body only warrant, you can come to the Sheriff’s Office and turn yourself in. If you have information about someone who has a warrant, you can contact the Sheriff’s Office at 715-361-5100. There is a current warrant list on our website www.oneidasheriff.org. Thank you for your assistance.