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Prosecutors offer people with Lancaster County misdemeanor warrants chance to avoid arrest
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Prosecutors offer people with Lancaster County misdemeanor warrants chance to avoid arrest

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County and city prosecutors will offer people in Lancaster County the chance to avoid arrest and clear misdemeanor warrants next week in a first-ever effort to help them avoid jail time and move cases forward.

From Aug. 7-10, anyone with a city or county misdemeanor warrant can go to the Lancaster County Court Clerk's office from 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and request their case be sent into court, County Attorney Pat Condon said Tuesday.

Once in court, prosecutors have agreed to have the warrant recalled, to set a hearing date and a judge will release the person on their own recognizance, meaning they won't have to post any bail, he said.

Often, people miss their court appearances in cases and have warrants issued because they have a sick child or can't get off work and then are afraid of getting arrested, the county attorney said.

"Hopefully we get some of these warrants cleaned up," Condon said.

The "Warrant Week" project was a response to the ACLU of Nebraska's announcement in early July that it had created a fund to help low-income people post bail so they didn't sit in jail because they couldn't afford to get out.

As of Tuesday, there were 5,000 active felony and misdemeanor warrants in Lancaster County.

This project would only apply to misdemeanor crimes, which carry a maximum punishment of up to one year in jail.

Lincoln City Attorney Jeff Kirkpatrick called it a "win-win," as it helps clear open arrest warrants, speeds up cases and eliminates the risk of someone sitting in jail on a lower-level offense awaiting a ruling. 

"If we get 50 or 60, those are 50 or 60 people that when they're pulled over for a traffic ticket the police officer doesn't have to say, 'You've got a warrant. I've got to take you in,'" Kirkpatrick said.

Condon said they may do this regularly if it's successful.

ACLU of Nebraska Executive Director Danielle Conrad applauded the move, saying it shows local prosecutors are taking positive steps to address "persistent and unlawful debtors' prison practices."

Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or rjohnson@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.

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