Delaware's second safe surrender day is Friday, May 12. (Jarek Rutz/Delaware LIVE News)

Courts hope safe surrender day will clear 750 warrants

Jarek Rutz Headlines, Government

Delaware's second safe surrender day is Friday, May 12. (Jarek Rutz/Delaware LIVE News)

Delaware’s second safe surrender day is Friday, May 12. (Jarek Rutz/Delaware LIVE News)

Delaware Courts are trying to ease the stress of 750 First Staters with outstanding warrants with its second ever safe surrender day set for Friday, May 12.

“As of the end of March, we had a total of just over 55,000 cases in warrants issued through the Delaware courts,” said Roger Roof, operations manager at the Justice of the Peace Court, during a press conference Monday. “This is a great step forward for the courts to be able to have people come in and clear some of those.”

At the event, which runs from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Leonard L. Williams Justice Center in Wilmington, more than a dozen judges and courtrooms will be set aside. 

Public defenders, police, probation and prosecutors will all be on hand to help people clear any pending failure to appear in court, failure to pay or other outstanding warrants quickly and efficiently.

The safe surrender day is for Delawareans across the state, not just in New Castle County, and those with capias won’t be outright amnestied  but they will have their warrants cleared during the day. 

A capias is similar to a warrant, but is issued to a guilty party. Being amnestied would mean the charges against a person are forgiven, similar to a pardon.

“They may have low level offenses, and instead of incurring fines, they can do community service projects to improve those neighborhoods where some of their undesirable activity occurred where they obtained charges,” said Sen. Darius Brown, D-Wilmington. 

The last safe surrender day in Delaware was in 2009. About 1,000 people had their warrants cleared. 

In 2009, Brown said, a few folks had warrants out for more than a decade, and luckily they never got pulled over by a police officer, or they would have been in jail. 

“Thankfully, they never got pulled over and  never came in contact with a police officer,” he said. “We don’t want that to become an impediment and a barrier for individuals for employment or providing for their families or even just being able to pick up their child from daycare.”

The safe surrender day is a way for them to come forward to the courts, have their warrants cleared, sort out any missed payments and have a judge decide any punishment or community service. 

Roof said that 15 years ago, less than 1% of people were taken into custody when they turned themselves in, and the judges are usually favorable towards those who safely surrender.

He expects that number to be slightly less for the state’s second safe surrender day.

Roof said safe surrender is an easier way to appear in court if someone has a minor traffic offense, a missing court date or even a missing payment and they do something as simple as roll through a stop sign. They’ll get pulled over by a police officer and wind up in the back of a cop car.

“That’s something that we don’t want to have happen,” he said. “We want to try to get these cases, these minor issues cleared as much as we can, as quickly and efficiently as we can.”

Liz Petrick, an administrator at the Justice of the Peace Court, said the courts are hopeful people will show up so that they can have those weights lifted off of their backs. 

“We will have a big tent outside with tables for [civic, social and church] organizations to be there so that the people of their community are more comfortable coming,” she said, “because we do understand that many people are scared and they’re afraid to come to court as they’re afraid of what might happen.”

While she can’t promise those who turn themselves in won’t get locked up, she said outside of violent felonies, that is very unlikely to happen. 

Participants can bring one individual to accompany them.

For more information on May 12’s safe surrender day, click here.

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