An Eastern Kentucky University campus security officer requested a warrant from the county attorney’s office, which it created at 10:44 a.m.

An hour and six minutes later, at 11:50, Madison District Judge Earl-Ray Neal had reviewed it and authorized that it be served.

The Richmond Police Department received it at 12:04. An hour and 42 minutes later, an RPD officer had located the suspect, served the warrant and booked him at the Madison County Detention Center on a charge of receiving stolen property.

The old adage about the wheels of justice grinding slow may not be appropriate for the 21st century.

The warrant described was not a paper document that had to be hand delivered to the judge and then taken to the police department.

It was an e-warrant that the judge could have reviewed and authorized on a smart phone or tablet computer.

A printed warrant was not generated until the suspect was booked at the jail.

On Wednesday, Madison County began using Kentucky’s new electronic warrant system that has been several years in the making.

The idea was first discussed about seven years ago by a group of prosecutors that included Madison County Attorney Marc Robbins and is being implemented by a joint effort of the Kentucky Department of Homeland Security, the state Attorney General, Administrative Office of the Courts and Kentucky State Police.

The state’s criminal justice system has been using radios and the Internet for years, but its use of technology is taking a giant leap forward with what are being called e-warrants, Robbins said.

The county attorney said he expects the speed at which warrants are served to increase dramatically, increasing public safety.

Counties already using e-warrants have seen their rate of service jump from as low as 10 percent to about 50 percent immediately and eventually to more than 80 percent, said Mary Halmhuber, chief information officer for Homeland Security in Kentucky. She was in Madison County on Wednesday to oversee implementation of the system.

With the addition of Madison and Clark counties, which make up the 25th Judicial Circuit, only seven counties remain to be added.

The system first was implemented in the state’s rural counties using federal economic stimulus funds, according to a statement from Attorney General Jack Conway. No local funds were used to implement the system.

Robbins said he expect Madison County’s warrant backlog to be worked down fairly soon, thanks to e-warrants.

More than 6,800 warrants from Madison and Clark counties are now in the system and ready to be served, according to the attorney general’s office.

“The e-warrants will provide us with an effective and efficient way to ensure that warrants are served in a timely manner and that our community is protected,” said Madison Circuit Judge Jean C. Logue.

Law enforcement personnel will not have to second guess themselves when releasing someone from custody, Robbins said, because of the accuracy and instantaneous information the system provides.

Rapid and widespread delivery of information can mean the difference between life and death when warrants or court orders, such as emergency protective orders, are issued for violent offenders, he said.

Whenever a traffic stop is made or an arrest is made on another charge, the officer will have instant access to any outstanding warrants for the suspect, even if issued by another county. Previously, in some cases, a person could be stopped for a minor offense in one county and then released before law enforcement could learn of the more serious crime, Robbins said.

Confusion about whether an older warrant has been served also will be eliminated, the county attorney said, because the new system tracks every step in the process, including who did what with the warrant and when.

In the past, he said, officers making an arrest could not be certain whether an older warrant had already been served.

Bill Robinson can be reached at brobinson@ richmondregister.com or at 624-6622.

 

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