State House panel seeks delay in release of arrest warrants
A state House of Representatives committee recently passed a resolution urging the Supreme Court to alter rules that would allow prosecutors to delay the release of information on arrest warrants to the public.
The resolution, which got the unanimous endorsement of the judiciary committee, would allow prosecutors to delay the public release of a warrant for 10 days or until it has been executed, whichever comes first. Prosecutors could also seek a further delay if good cause is shown.
State Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-Luzerne County, has expressed concern about the current rules, which allow the public and members of the news media to immediately obtain a copy of the warrant from a district judge.
The media often prints information on the case before the person is arrested, potentially putting law enforcement at risk and compromising the criminal case, she said.
“It's important for officers' safety,” Toohil said. “If arrest warrant information is put out, the way technology is, it goes out on the Internet. Often people who are going to be arrested find out before the officer gets to the door.”
Melissa Melewsky, an attorney with the The Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, said the association opposes the rule change, believing it goes too far and would needlessly delay the dissemination of public information.
“It allows for arrest warrants to be sealed indefinitely. That clearly raises a constitutional issue,” Melewsky said. “We don't want law enforcement to be at risk, but we believe the proposal goes too far.”
Melewsky noted there are safeguards in place now that allow police to file a petition with county court to seal a warrant if good cause is shown. The proposed rule change would make that process easier for police by extending that right to district judges.
The House resolution will go to the floor for a vote. If passed, it would serve as an endorsed recommendation of the House, but would have no legal bearing on the court rule, which can only be changed by the Supreme Court.
Jim Koval, a spokesman for the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, said the Supreme Court is considering the matter. It's not known when it will issue a ruling.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Millions needed to replace at-risk natural gas pipes in Pennsylvania
- Video of fatal Hummelstown police shooting not released
- Goodyear deal with PennDOT blurs lines of business, government
- Wolf criticizes UPMC wages; health giant suggests union motivations
- Greene County Veterans Affairs office plans meetings to offer info, assistance with benefits
- Another PennDOT contractor charged with corruption
- Allentown Mayor Pawlowski to run for U.S. Senate
- Pennsylvania police officer charged with criminal homicide in killing similar to South Carolina one