The Hawai`i State Judiciary's new electronic bench warrant system (eBench Warrant), launched in March 2009, is receiving positive reviews as it speeds the delivery of traffic warrants from the District Courts to law enforcement by eliminating the manual delivery of paper warrants. The new system has been providing online access to sheriffs at the Department of Public Safety (DPS) Sheriff Division and officers at the Honolulu Police Department (HPD) 24-hours a day, seven days a week.
The new eBench Warrant system was developed by Hawai`i Information Consortium (HIC), the State of Hawai`i Internet Portal Manager. The design and development process, spanning over a year, involved many collaborative meetings with representatives from the Hawai`i Criminal Justice Data Center of the Department of the Attorney General, DPS, Office of the Public Defender, Honolulu, Maui, Hawai`i and Kaua`i Prosecuting Attorney's Offices, Honolulu, Maui, Hawai`i and Kaua`i Police Departments, Department of Transportation Harbors and the Hawai`i Paroling Authority.
Traffic warrants are served by sheriffs during periodic "sweeps" of a geographic area. eBench Warrant's database of traffic warrants issued statewide can be easily sorted by law enforcement officers to locate individuals with multiple warrants or streets where a large concentration of outstanding warrants exist. Previously, paper warrants were sorted manually by Sheriff Division staff.
Warrants are also served by police officers during traffic stops. On O`ahu, when a motorist is pulled over by a police officer, the officer calls a dispatcher to determine if the motorist has any outstanding warrants. If an outstanding traffic warrant exists, a police officer must drive to where the Sheriff Division stores the paper warrants to obtain the certified document for service to the apprehended motorist. Now, HPD officers can view and print certified copies for service 24/7 at the main station.
After three months of use on O`ahu and positive reviews from the Sheriff Division and HPD, the Judiciary will make the system available to Hawai`i, Maui and Kaua`i police departments.
"The Judiciary has placed a tool in the hands of the Sheriff Division that allows us to make more arrests in a shorter period of time. Scofflaws who previously thought they had time on their side when ignoring court dates and bench warrants should take notice," said James L. Propotnick, DPS' Deputy Director of Law Enforcement. "Because of the eBench Warrant system, we'll be seeing them sooner rather than later."
HPD Chief Boisse Correa said, "Electronic bench warrants are saving money and our officers' time. We look forward to having the system expanded to include additional types of warrants in the future."
Although eBench Warrant currently contains only traffic warrants, criminal and grand jury warrants will be added when the courts' existing felony and misdemeanor database systems are converted to the Judiciary Information Management System known as JIMS.
For the near future, plans to further automate the warrant-generation process will eventually result in the electronic creation of warrants in the courtroom upon order by a judge.
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Contact: Marsha Kitagawa, 539-4909
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