Court makes amnesty offer
It's not exactly in the holiday spirit, but Lansing Municipal Court is offering what amounts to a $50 present to more than 600 people this month.
Through Dec. 15, the court is offering an amnesty to people who have outstanding warrants for failure to appear or failure to pay fines levied by the court.
In exchange for meeting the requirements of the amnesty, the court will drop a $50 warrant fee from the amount due on the offender's account. The court also will waive the arrest order against those named on the warrants.
Terms of the amnesty require that people who owe fines pay at least 10 percent of the total, make arrangements to pay the balance and then meet the payment timetable. People who have missed court must schedule a new court date and show at that time.
With more than 600 outstanding warrants issued by the court for people who either have failed to show for a hearing date or pay their fines, paperwork is choking both the court staff and police, Police Chief Steve Wayman said. Municipal Judge William Pray decided the amnesty offer would be the best way to try to pare the mountain of outstanding warrants, Wayman said.
"Our warrant list has just gotten so massive, this is a way for people to just come in : and set up a payment schedule or schedule a court date without the fear of being arrested," Wayman said.
How many people will take advantage of the offer remains to be seen. Wayman said many of the warrants were for speeding fines that were owed by out-of-towners who may have just forgotten to pay. But the consequences of not paying a fine can be severe. If the driver is stopped for another infraction, he or she faces being arrested on the warrant charge.
In a letter that is to go out this week to people with outstanding warrants announcing the amnesty, Pray warns recipients of the outstanding warrant.
"If you are arrested on it, you will be brought to the Leavenworth County Jail and required to post bond, or be held until the next session of the Court," Pray wrote.
Wayman said taking up the court on its offer without delay would be a wise move.
"We're offering people an opportunity," Wayman said. "You work with us, we'll work with you. You don't work with us, we won't work with you."
Once the amnesty period expires, police will use other means to try to pare the list of outstanding warrants, Wayman said.
"Sometime after the 15th, we will be going out and doing what we call 'warrant sweeps,'" Wayman said. "Basically, we assign an officer to go into other cities and pick up people with outstanding warrants."