Delaware courts will host a special day in May to let those with warrants or other charges have their cases heard quickly and clear their records.
Safe Surrender Day will take place May 12 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Leonard L. Williams Justice Center in Wilmington.
It’s being billed as a chance for those with warrants or other charges to have their case heard in a more favorable environment, not as a way out of the charges.
The last time an event like this was held in Delaware was in 2009 when 1,073 people surrendered for various charges, including sex offenses, escaping the police, robbery, weapon charges, drug charges, and felony assaults.
A total of 4,131 warrants were cleared at that event.
Roger Roof, management analyst at the Delaware Justice of the Peace Court, said that they tried to do this event in 2017 but didn’t have enough funding. They planned to try again in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic squashed it.
Roof said the 2009 event lasted three days, but the costs associated with doing it will limit it to one day and the courts expect 600 and 700 people to attend.
Over a dozen judges and courtrooms will be set aside to help clear people charged with any failure to appear, failure to pay, or outstanding warrants.
Those who have previously failed to appear may have a new court date scheduled and those with violent felony charges may be arrested, though they will all be handled on a case-by-case basis.
According to a press release, judges will “be giving special consideration to those who proactively come forward to clear their names.”
It is unclear exactly what the difference in charges will be for those that come to the event.
Those with a failure to pay warrant will be sent to a payment center to either pay off their debt or get a payment plan to resolve the warrant.
Those attending the event can bring one friend with them during the process, but no more.
Roof said that if the Wilmington event goes well, the Delaware Judiciary plans to hold a similar event in Kent and Sussex counties, and maybe another one in Wilmington.
The Office of Defense Services will have public defenders available on-site, and there will be local civic organizations, churches, and state agencies with tables in the courthouse plaza.
Roof said four groups have responded to invitations to participate and the courts plan to reach out to more.
Sen. Darius Brown, D-Wilmington, said in a press release that the event is helpful for people to come forward in a safer environment.
“All too often, a working parent or someone that is juggling multiple jobs may be so busy and overwhelmed with their daily responsibilities that they forget to pay a traffic fine. It can happen to anyone,” Brown said. “We should be doing everything in our power to give people an opportunity to come forward and settle their matters with the court without fear of further consequences.”
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