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Change in hours may trim backlog in Fayette warrants

| Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A backlog of 7,000 arrest warrants issued for minor offenses such as disorderly conduct and underage drinking has prompted Fayette County's courts to devise a new way to serve the warrants after regular business hours without adding to overcrowding at the jail.

Tammy Lambie, deputy court administrator, advised the prison board on Wednesday the backlog occurred because in the past, constables served arrest warrants for summary offenses only during the day. That allowed them to take the individual before a district court judge for an immediate hearing, she said.

Individuals wanted on summary offenses were arrested only during the day, she said, because the jail would not accept them after business hours, when district courts were closed and hearings could not be held.

Now, Lambie said, constables can begin serving the warrants after hours because the warrants will contain a “collateral” amount that defendants can post at the time of arrest to avoid going to jail. Once they post the collateral, which could be as little as $50, Lambie said, they will be released.

The individual, Lambie said, would then have to appear before a district judge at a later time for a hearing.

Most people likely will post the collateral, Lambie said, but those who do not will go to jail. To ensure they receive a quick hearing, she said, plans call for having the hearings done via videoconferences twice weekly at the jail.

In other matters, the board:

• Hired three lieutenants for the prison at an hourly rate of $21.73 each. Two, Joseph Barnes of Connellsville and Joshua Smith of Uniontown, already work at the jail as corrections officers. The third, John Lenkey of Brownsville, is a retired state corrections officer.

• Heard from prison chaplain Terry Sanders, who advised them he obtained a quote of $3,000 for liability insurance. Sanders is seeking either an increase in his $350 monthly pay or for the county to pick up the insurance. The board took no action but indicated that for either request to be honored, the county likely will have to put out a request for proposals from others for the service.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.

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