Friday, November 05, 2004

The Saga Continues

Is It A Warrant Yet?

No, not quite yet.

At this point, an APA has exercised her massive intellect and experience and determined, based on the information she has before her, that the specified charge can be proved to a jury, beyond a reasonable doubt. She has marked up the request packet with the statutory language of the charge or charges, making the language specific to this offense and this offender. She’s noted any special notices that need to be added. (E.g. habitual offender, felony involving a minor, felony involving a motor vehicle, etc.) She’s marked the witnesses to be subpoenaed for the probable cause hearing, and, finally, she has initialed and dated the authorization box. At this point the packet goes to a warrant clerk to be prepared.

Slight digression -- before the request is sent to an APA for review, the intake section has logged it in, assigned a tracking number, made sure all the required bits are there, and entered the basic information into the case management program. In fact, this is all done more or less at the same time. The unique tracking number is assigned by the program when the request is logged in. This number stays with this request/case from now on, come what may. After this administrative folderol is accomplished, the request is assigned to a screening APA.

Back to the main event. The APA has authorized the issuance of a warrant to arrest some poor unsuspecting criminal. How does that get into the hands of the folks who are charged with making that arrest? The warrant clerk takes the packet and calls up the initial case file using the tracking number. The defendant's name and basic information, along with the statutory citation for the requested charge, have already been entered so the next step is the fine detail. The actual charge as customized by the screening APA. Any notices that have to be included. The names and addresses and witness type for all of the listed witnesses. The ones the APA has marked for subpoenas are flagged. Any special categories of crime are noted at this point. E.g. domestic violence, firearm, major narcotics, etc.

Once the program auditor is satisfied that all the required information has been entered, a warrant set is printed. In our case, it's a plain paper warrant generated via an HP LaserJet. The warrant clerk assembles the whole packet in the proper order, staples it together and puts the whole thing back in the APA's box for final review and signature.

Generally, within a hour or two of the final packet being dropped in her box, the screening APA will review the warrant for correctness (no typos, no mis-marked variables, proper notices) and sign and date the authorization block. Then the whole thing goes back to the warrant clerk to be sorted in the holding bin for the appropriate police agency.

Are We There Yet?

No. The APA, acting on the authority of the Prosecuting Attorney, has authorized the issuance of the warrant. It's still not a warrant. Looks a lot like one, but it hasn't been issued because it's missing two important things. First, the signature, under oath, of a police officer (or other witness) attesting to the facts on a complaint. A complaint is part of the warrant packet, and looks a lot like the companion warrant. The complaint sets out the facts that show a crime was committed. The complaint is usually signed by an officer "on information and belief" but sometimes it's a civilian witness with actual, personal knowledge of the facts. Either way, that signature says that, to the best of the signatory's knowledge, the crime alleged in the warrant happened, and the defendant named thereon did it. This oath and signature can be administered/witnessed by a judge, a magistrate, or a clerk of the court. If the complaint is signed before a clerk, it's set aside for final review by a judge or magistrate. If it's sworn to and signed before a judge or magistrate, in the normal course of events they will review the warrant and determine if they agree with the APA that there is, at this point, probable cause to believe a crime was committed and that the named defendant committed it.

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