By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – In June, Tupelo Police Chief Tony Carleton and Tupelo Municipal Court Administrator L.P. Montgomery warned residents with outstanding fines to pay them or face jail time.
As it turns out, June, July and August have more cleared warrants than any other three months this year.
A warrant is cleared if it is served and the suspect is taken to jail or if the fine is paid off by the suspect.
Montgomery said the increase in cleared warrants was due to more people being out and active in the summer and because more officers have been on the streets cracking down on warrant violations.
“Every day, between two and 15 people are arrested for warrants,” said Tupelo Police Master Sgt. Tim Bell. “When we make a traffic stop or are called to a scene to assist the public, the first thing we do is find out their name. As we’re conducting the investigation or waiting on information, we run their names to make sure they don’t have warrants. If they have any active, we verify it and take them into custody.”
Since June, 915 warrants have cleared through the municipal court. In the previous five months, 1,012 warrants were served.
Bell said pay-or-stay warrants are the most common he encounters.
“Say you were arrested for public drunk and you went to court and were found guilty,” he explained. “Your fine is $450 and you pay $100 that day and agree to pay the rest over three months but you don’t. At the end of the allotted time, if you haven’t paid it, they (sign) a warrant for you for $350 and you pay it or (stay) in jail.”
Bell said many people also forget to go before a judge for a traffic offense or a minor drug possession charge and now have a must-see-judge warrant.
“If we pick you up on a Friday afternoon on a must-see-judge and Monday is a holiday, you’ll sit in jail until Tuesday to see a judge,” Bell said. “Just go before the judge and find out if you’re guilty or not and take care of it on your own time.”
Law enforcement officials are continuing to serve warrants daily and residents who have outstanding fines are encouraged to go before a judge or check with the municipal court before they end up being arrested during a roadblock or traffic stop.
“Our judges are real good, they work out pay agreements, they usually want a little up front and then you work out a pay plan,” Bell said.