Ohio Warrant Reform Recommendations Released

COLUMBUS, OH (STL.News) – Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and members of the Ohio Governor’s Warrant Task Force Friday released a report outlining more than a dozen recommendations for improving Ohio’s system of issuing, prioritizing, and serving arrest warrants throughout the state.

Governor DeWine created the task force in February in response to Ohio’s estimated accumulation of at least 500,000 unserved warrants.

“The absence of an organized, statewide warrant system in Ohio has led to an overabundance of outstanding warrants for minor offenses and a growing backlog of unserved warrants for serious, violent crimes,” said Governor DeWine.  “The recommendations issued today should serve as a guide to improve Ohio’s criminal justice system to better protect the public, crime victims, and law enforcement.”

Throughout the course of their research, task force members identified more than two dozen Tier I offenses that they recommend law enforcement officers prioritize when seeking wanted suspects.  These crimes include offenses of violence as defined by Ohio Revised Code Section 2901.01(A)(9), other felony offenses that pose a substantial risk to public or officer safety, and the offense of misdemeanor domestic violence.

The group also recommended that authorities be required to enter warrants for Tier I offenses into Ohio’s Law Enforcement Automated Data System (LEADS) and the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) within 48 hours of the warrant being issued.  Currently, law enforcement officers are not required to enter any warrants into either of these information-sharing systems, creating an unnecessary risk to public safety.

“While many agencies do use their own local warrant systems, many agencies do not enter all of their warrants, or even all of their felony warrants, into the state or national databases,” task force members wrote in their report.  “This creates a substantial risk to the public, to victims, and to law enforcement officers who unknowingly encounter dangerous, wanted suspects.”

The task force also recommended that Ohio commit to the development of an electronic warrant system that allows for warrants to be issued, processed, stored, and served within a single statewide database.  The Ohio Governor’s Warrant Task Force will form a subcommittee to examine the feasibility of such a system, identify funding, and create a timeline for full implementation.

The task force issued several additional recommendations related to the timely service of warrants; the reduction of outstanding bench warrants; funding for the transport of suspects arrested on Tier I warrants; funding for enhanced involvement of local law enforcement in fugitive apprehension teams; and updated training on LEADS and NCIC warrant entry.

“The goal of the task force was to provide narrowly tailored recommendations that are specific enough to be acted upon through the implementation of legislation or policy.  These recommendations, however, still account for the limited resources and personnel concerns of local government agencies,” task force members noted.