The Deadline For Louisville Bench Warrant Amnesty Program Is May 31

People with active Jefferson County bench warrants for their arrest for low-level, non-violent offenses have until Tuesday, May 31 to request that their cases be redocketed as part of an amnesty program that is being offered by the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office.

The amnesty offer excludes any cases involving a firearm, all domestic violence offenses, Class A, B and C felonies, violent misdemeanor offenses and violent Class D felonies. 

The amnesty program was drawn up by the County Attorney’s Office in coordination with groups like the ACLU of Kentucky, the Bail Project and the Urban League. ACLU of Kentucky policy strategist Kungu Njuguna said the program was a demand of his organization and others that have been lobbying the city to reduce the number of people incarcerated at Louisville’s jail after a rush of deaths there since late November.

People with qualifying bench warrants can request that their cases be redocketed by going to Cases in the amnesty program are being redocketed for June 7, 8 and 9. For those that need it, Njuguna said, transportation was being provided by the non-governmental groups that have been working to reduce incarceration at Louisville’s jail.

For those that take part in the amnesty program, “if you show up in court, you won’t be arrested on the warrant,” said Njuguna. “And hopefully, you don’t just get another date — the thought is you can potentially resolve your case that day.”

Njuguna said that up to 50 people are being scheduled on each of those days and that the first day has already been filled.

Shameka Parrish-Wright, partnerships and advocacy manager at the Bail Project, told LEO she hopes to see more amnesty periods in the future and that such programs have a huge impact. 

“Most people want to resolve their cases,” she said. “They just want to know that they’re not going to be arrested.”

The amnesty, she added, “helps Louisvillians and prevents people from being locked up unnecessarily.”

Bench warrants for things like missing court dates can see minor offenses that do not typically result in arrests — like traffic violations — suddenly land people in jail. 

The redocketing of tens of thousands of Jefferson County court cases during the pandemic — combined with clerical errors and late-arriving court date notices — caused confusion and honest mistakes for many missing court, Parrish-Wright added.

Njuguna said there are currently 345 bench warrants out for people who only owe restitution money — and that the ACLU of Kentucky is working to raise money to try to cover those cases.

He pointed LEO to court records that showed an active bench warrant out for a man who allegedly stole a 12-pack of Bud Light Lime, value $12.99, from a Kroger more than eight years ago. With an active bench warrant out, any contact with law enforcement could result in the man being taken to Louisville’s troubled jail.

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