Program helps clear warrants

December 29, 2008 10:43:00 PM PST
In Santa Clara County there is a month-long program that offers some people a way to avoid arrest and jail.

Landreu Belong was cited in October for being drunk in public. When he missed his court date, a judge issued a $5,000 bench warrant for his arrest.

Belong knew he was in trouble and admits he was stressed.

"I didn't have the $5,000 to clear the warrant and you know I was worried about getting locked up again; I just came out of Elmwood not too long ago and it's not pretty," Belong said.

Anyone like Belong who has an active warrant and qualifies has until the end of business on Wednesday to take advantage of Operation Second Chance. They can take care of the paperwork at any Santa Clara County law enforcement agency.

Operation Second Chance is aimed at clearing misdemeanor warrants, but not all of those are eligible.

"There's certain misdemeanor warrants, usually those involving violence, domestic violence, weapons and or providing false information to a police officer, those are the types of warrants that will not qualify for the program," Santa Clara County Sheriff's spokesperson Sgt. Don Morrissey said.

The month-long amnesty program began in 2005; in that first year, 649 active warrants were cleared. The numbers dropped significantly in 2006 and to a record low of 226 last year.

This year the numbers are back up; so far 400 warrants have cleared, saving law enforcement agencies time and money.

Instead of arrest, Belong simply went to the sheriff's department and got a new court date for February.

"I'm going to tell everyone, everyone to remind me because I don't want to have to go through this again," Belong said.

There is no guarantee Operation Second Chance will be in place next year, but it helped Belong end 2008 on a positive note.


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