A recent training session for Warren County judicial commissioners by newly appointed General Sessions Judge Bill Locke revealed some areas of concern.
“I think things are going well,” said Locke. “I don’t see much wrong, but there are a few areas. Let’s make sure the warrants are signed. We still, from time to time, find some that are not signed. I understand that sometimes we get in a hurry, but double check to make sure.”
Locke says more details of the offense need to be included in writing warrants.
“There needs to be enough facts in the warrant to show that a crime has been committed,” he said. “Public intoxication has more to it than just being drunk. Are they a danger to themselves or somebody? Are they bothering somebody?”
Just say no, says Locke.
“You don’t have to write warrants, if you don’t want to,” he said. “They call it ‘just say no.’ I know it is easier to write it than to tell them no because they are upset and mad. However, that’s what you signed on for. If you don’t feel comfortable with it, then stop it here before it gets to the courts.”
Locke says most of the problem with not saying no to an angry person that requests a warrant on a less-than-chargeable offense, is they are doing it out of anger and that will subside.
“They come up here on Friday night and want to press charges. Then, Monday morning they want to dismiss it,” said Locke. “You will still run into those people, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Just be careful when writing warrants in those situations.”
Cross warrants are frowned upon.
“Be careful about writing cross warrants,” said Locke. “I know some people charged with a crime want to come up here and press charges as well. Tell them to go to court on their charge. If its dismissed, we will write a warrant then.”
When the situation warrants it, write a summons instead.
“If it’s a private citizen and not a felony, you don’t have to arrest them,” said Locke. “You can give a summons. If you examine it and determine the situation is not a life-threatening situation and the individual will appear in court, give a summons.”
Some instances of domestic violence are not clear-cut situations. The law allows for a 12-hour hold, or less.
“You don’t have to hold domestics for 12 hours,” said Locke. “It’s not bad to do it. It gives the victim a chance to get to safety. If you don’t think it’s a danger, you can give less than 12 hours.”
In some cases when the officer cannot determine the primary aggressor in a domestic situation, both parties involved will be arrested. One commissioner questioned if both parties should be held for 12 hours or if one should be sent home.
“I don’t have a good answer on that,” said Locke. “In most situations hold them for 12 hours. It will at least allow a cooling off period.”
All judicial commissioners undergo training to keep them updated on changes in the law and to address problem areas with writing warrants. The session was held at Warren County Jail on Thursday.