Warrant amnesty program announced

People who have had arrest warrants issued against them in Baker City Court may take advantage of an amnesty program during February to avoid unexpectedly winding up in jail.

City Court Judge Kirk A. Williams said people who have not responded to summonses to appear in court, paid outstanding fines or taken care of other obligations likely have had bench warrants issued for their arrest.

Police Chief Mike Knaps, who is the court’s marshal, said more than 6,000 bench warrants are outstanding and police will form “round-up teams” in March to try to whittle down the backlog.

During February, however, anyone who has an outstanding warrant may come to the City Court Clerk’s Office, have the bench warrant recalled and get a new court date, if needed, to settle their case, the judge and police chief said.

Williams said issuing a bench warrant adds a $50 fee to any fines and costs that a person may owe.

The amnesty program will not dismiss the $50 fee, but it will give the defendant extra time to pay it and the other costs, the judge said.

If someone with an outstanding bench warrant is cited for a traffic violation or arrested for another reason, the person would have to come up with all of the money owed to the court to be released from jail, Knaps said.

“This gives them time to pay without going to jail,” Knaps said of the amnesty program, but he and Williams emphasized the program does not reduce the amount owed.

The court will hold extended hours, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., on Feb. 19 and Feb. 26, to assist defendants in resolving their cases, Williams said.

Anyone who is not sure if a warrant for their arrest is outstanding may check on their status by calling the Clerk’s Office, (225) 778-1866, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, or the Police Department, (225) 775-6000, after 4 p.m.

The program will not extend to bench warrants issued in February, only those issued earlier.

Other agencies will join Baker police during the March roundups, Knaps said.

“This is your opportunity to help yourself,” he said.