By EILEEN MCCLORY
Those who have Findlay Municipal Court warrants can get the warrants canceled and avoid arrest by going to a “Safe Surrender” event between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Thursday in municipal court.
This is not a joke or a trap, court officials say.
The event will be held at the Findlay Municipal Building, 318 Dorney Plaza, in Room 206.
The offer only applies to misdemeanor charges issued through Findlay Municipal Court.
If you have a warrant through Hancock County Juvenile Court or Hancock County Common Pleas Court, the offer does not apply.
“Safe Surrender” is aimed at people who may have missed a court hearing, or did not complete counseling for mental health or substance abuse, or failed to perform community service, did not attend a status conference with a magistrate to review a payment plan, or did not report to serve a jail sentence.
The event is being held for the first time in Hancock County.
“This is for someone who might want to do the right thing, but doesn’t want to be arrested,” Findlay Municipal Judge Mark Miller said.
On Thursday, the municipal court plans to reschedule court dates, community service dates, dates to report to jail, dates to attend counseling, and dates to meet with a magistrate.
The day will not decrease accountability, said Dave Beach, the municipal court’s chief probation officer.
The event will allow people to have some control over when they head to court, instead of being arrested and sent to the Hancock County jail when they may be out running errands, eating with family or at work.
There are over 2,500 municipal court bench warrants, Municipal Judge Alan Hackenberg said. The goal of the day is to get rid of some of those warrants and possibly keep people out of the overcrowded county jail.
Bench warrants issued for civil cases in Findlay Municipal Court will also be addressed that day without someone being arrested, court staff said.
Sentences will not be changed on Thursday. But if someone needs more time to complete a sentence, or needs something worked out, the defendant can discuss the problem that day in court.
The municipal judges and their staff have cleared their dockets for the day so they can focus on the event.
“I think a lot of people are still skeptical of this,” Hackenberg said.
The Hancock County Public Defender’s Office will be at the municipal building that day to help if needed. Defendants can bring their own attorneys if they wish.
Century Health workers and Findlay Law Director Don Rasmussen will also be on hand.
People who have warrants but cannot attend that day will still be subject to arrest, court staff said.
Findlay Municipal Court can only help with warrants filed through that court. People who have warrants from another court should contact the court that issued the warrant or discuss the matter with their attorney.
Other Ohio courts, such as Toledo Municipal Court and Licking County Municipal Court, have tried a concept similar to “Safe Surrender” with some success, Miller said.
Miller said he has heard a few false rumors in the time the event has been advertised here. For example, he said, it is not true that a bench warrant expires after six months.
To check if you have a warrant, visit https://findlaymunicourt.com/municourt/Activewarrants.asp?pageId=108
For more information or questions about the event, call Findlay Municipal Court at 419-424-7141.
A separate event is planned Sept. 29 for those who have lost their driver’s license and want to reinstate it.