Letcher County’s new electronic warrant management system will decrease the time it takes to issue and serve warrants, according to Letcher County officials.
The Kentucky Attorney General’s Office funded the implementation of eWarrants in Letcher County as part of a $ 3.9 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (stimulus) grant awarded to the Office of Attorney General in 2009.
The eWarrant system facilitates sharing information among all law enforcement concerning active warrants in jurisdictions throughout the Commonwealt via the Law Enforcement Information Network of Kentucky (LINK), which is administered by Kentucky State Police.
“It allows the staff at the county attorney’s office to enter all relevant information into a computer program and instantly send it to the district judge’s inbox for approval and signature,” said Letcher County Attorney Jamie Hatton. “And upon approval the warrant is instantly sent to all police agencies throughout the Commonwealth for service.”
Hatton said police agencies can print the original warrant from their cars or from any computer and have the person served a warrant on the spot.
“The old system involved a written complaint being filled out and hand delivered to the judge for consideration and then hand delivered to the local sheriff ’s department where it would be placed into a file until the offender was found,” said Hatton. “If the offender was found out of county, calls had to be made to the local police department where someone would have to try to find the warrant and then have it sent to the county that had the person in custody.”
Letcher District Judge Kevin R. Mullins said the eWarrant system is quicker easier and simpler than the old method.
“The best part of it is to have 24-hour accessibility to get warrants signed,” said Mullins. “I can actually sign warrants on my cell phone.”
Hatton said the new system will have a positive impact on the efficiency of the court system by greatly increasing the speed and convenience of getting warrants served on individuals.
“ In the counties that have already implemented eWarrants, served versus unserved warrant ratios have increased by nearly 75 percent in the first couple of months after implementation,” said Hatton.
Letcher County is now one of 104 counties in Kentucky using eWarrants.
The Office of the Attorney General, in partnership with the Administrative Offi ce of the Courts (AOC), the Kentucky State Police, the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security and Open Portal Solutions, Inc., provided training and support for the new electronic warrant management system.
Service rates for warrants rise from as low as 10 percent under the old system to roughly 50 percent immediately after implementation of eWarrants, and as high as 80 percent in the long-term. More than 559,000 warrants/ summons have been entered into the eWarrant system.
Mullins said 1,400 outstanding bench warrants issued in Letcher County were entered into the eWarrant system last week and penitentiary officials served some of those warrants on their prisoners.
Kentucky’s eWarrant system began as a pilot project in 2005 to address a backlog of nearly 300,000 unserved warrants in the state. A backlog in the service of warrants, or a misplaced or lost warrant, could allow a person charged with a violent crime to evade arrest.
The stimulus grant was awarded from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance under the category of Facilitating Rural Justice Information Sharing. Under this category, the Bureau of Justice Assistance makes awards to help law enforcement in rural areas to improve the criminal justice system by aiding communities in combating crime and drugs.
The eWarrant program is being offered to Kentucky’s counties at no cost to local communities. The stimulus grant used to set up the system has created 16 jobs for Kentucky residents.