Santa Clara offers holiday 'get out of jail' card

The "Operation Second Chance 2008" program will allow all law enforcement agencies in the county to hand out citations with a new court date for those with outstanding warrants instead of booking the people into jail.

Only individuals with non-violent misdemeanor and traffic warrants will be allowed to participate in the program, which runs from Dec. 1 to Dec. 31, sheriff's Sgt. Don Morrissey said.

The program is meant for people arrested for crimes such as petty theft, misdemeanor vandalism or reckless driving who are told to appear in court on a certain date and fail to do so. A warrant is then issued and the person can be booked into county jail if located.

With the Operation Second Chance program, people with these outstanding warrants can surrender to any law enforcement agency in the county and receive a citation with a new court date instead of being locked up, Morrissey said.

People under warrants with any bail amount, including warrants stamped with "No Cite and Release," "No Walk Over," and "Post and Forfeit," will be allowed to receive a warrant citation with a new promise to appear in court date.

The sheriff's department has had the Operation Second Chance program in place for the last three years, with more than 200 people surrendering last year.

"We've cleared about 1,000 warrants over the last three years through this program," Morrissey said. "It reduces the impact on the judicial system altogether."

Morrissey said that in addition to the people who will avoid spending the holidays in jail by setting a new court date, some cases are resolved on the spot with a fine or other resolution.

Those with felony warrants or warrants for violent crimes will not be allowed to avoid arrest but are encouraged to turn themselves in, Morrissey said.

Additional information about the program is available from the sheriff's office records at (408) 808-4717.

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