Arapahoe County Clearing Low-Level Warrants at "Second Chances" Event | Westword

Arapahoe County Clearing Arrest Warrants at Second Chances Event, Murderers Not Welcome

Eligible warrants that can be cleared at the July 15 "Second Chances" event include misdemeanors, Class 4 drug felonies, and Class 5 and 6 felonies.
Arapahoe County will clear active arrest warrants for low-level crimes this Saturday at the Second Chances event.
Arapahoe County will clear active arrest warrants for low-level crimes this Saturday at the Second Chances event. boonchai wedmakawand

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On Saturday, July 15, Arapahoe County plans to hold a Second Chances event at the Aurora CentrePoint Plaza, 14980 East Alameda Drive, where judicial officials will work with citizens who have active arrest warrants to resolve them without tossing folks behind bars.

This is not a chance for people to get away with murder, however.

"If anyone walks into a room...and says, 'I've committed murder one,' they're going to be arrested," warns Rob McCallum, spokesperson for the Colorado Judicial Branch. This is an event to help deal with warrants for low-level and nonviolent crimes, he says, not serious offenses. 

In the past, people have flown or driven in from states like Tennessee, Ohio and Nebraska for events of this kind. While it's not a Taylor Swift concert, the Second Chances program gives individuals the opportunity to clear an arrest warrant they may have missed or were too scared to resolve.

Eligible warrants will be those for misdemeanors, traffic offenses, Class 4 drug felonies and Class 5 and 6 felonies in Arapahoe County. Warrants for probation violations are also eligible.

Many of the warrants cleared at the last Second Chances event, in February 2022, were for traffic violations, first-time DUIs and petty offenses, according to the 18th Judicial District. Several people showed up and told officials that they were worried the program could be a trap to get them arrested, but they went ahead with it anyway to relieve the anxiety of expecting to be randomly jailed one day.

Like Denver's Fresh Start program, which launched earlier this month, the Arapahoe County event promises "no arrests" for any attendees. At last year's Second Chances gathering in Arapahoe County, ten people showed up who had arrest warrants that were not eligible for clearance, and they were not arrested. 

However, anyone with an active warrant for more serious crimes, such as Class 1, 2 or 3 felonies, or extreme offenses like murder or manslaughter, are still encouraged to turn themselves in.

"Anybody who walks in with a Class 1, 2, 3 felony or a Class 4 felony that's not a drug felony, I can't say what would happen to them [if they come to the event]," McCallum says. "However, it would be wise for you to turn yourself in, because at some point in time, you're likely going to have a law enforcement run-in."

People who forget to pay fines or make court appearances often have arrest warrants issued against them that they believe will go away with time because they involve lesser crimes. Instead, the warrants stay on the books and can lead to bigger issues later on, according to 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office spokesperson Eric Ross.

"When you have an active warrant, people often live their life knowing that any contact with a law enforcement official could lead to their immediate arrest," Ross elaborates. "For those accused of relatively minor crimes, this program gives them an opportunity to take care of these issues before they escalate to bigger problems down the road.

"Our office understands that everyone is human and makes mistakes," Ross adds. "Sometimes people forget about an upcoming court date or arrive late after a case has already been called."
In other instances, people will move on with their lives and relocate to other cities or states while still having an active warrant in Arapahoe County. During the last Second Chances event, some arrived with decades-old warrants that had them living in fear and wary of applying for jobs, government benefits or even driver's licenses.

Although people can resolve their warrants on Saturday, their records will still carry the original charge that led to them being issued, but they'll at least be able to avoid jail time.

"This program gives people an opportunity to pay a fine or get a new court date without fear of being arrested," Ross says. "It's important to note that the defendant's original charges do not disappear — only the active warrant is cleared."

Attorneys and legal staff will be on site in Aurora to determine whether individuals need to pay fines, provide contact information to be put on payment plans, or set a new court date to resolve their warrants. Any warrants from outside Arapahoe County will be ineligible for resolution.

Most of the warrants that Arapahoe County and the judicial district expect to deal with are the result of people failing to comply with fines or court dates ordered by judges after being charged with crimes like DUI or petty theft. 

"These are people who for one reason or another fell out of compliance and a judge issued a warrant for their arrest," reads a report from the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office. "Whether it was because of a missed court date, an unpaid fine or unmet probation obligations, these people went about life knowing that random contact with law enforcement could lead to an arrest, booking and jail."

Ineligible warrants include any for violent crimes, such as for domestic violence, assault, unlawful sexual behavior or child abuse. People will also be barred from clearing warrants for violations of Colorado's Victim Rights Act, which protects victims of violent crimes from intimidation, harassment and abuse.

The eligible Class 4 drug felonies are less severe crimes like possession of two grams or less of substances like heroin, meth or ketamine or four to twelve ounces of marijuana. Class 5 felonies include theft, trespassing and menacing, while examples of Class 6 felonies are failure to register as a sex offender, impersonating an officer and theft of $2,000 to $5,000 worth of property.

"Attorneys from the public defender’s office will be present to pre-screen attendees to ensure they are eligible before meeting with prosecutors or a judge," Ross says.

Anyone with questions about eligibility for the Second Chances program can call the Colorado State Public Defender's Office at 303-764-1400.

In addition to helping local citizens, the July 15 event also saves money for the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office — as a single night in jail can cost as much as $128 per person. Also, arrests can take as long as six hours, including two hours to take someone into custody and four hours to book them.

Second Chances will also provide an opportunity for people to find out about assistance programs for housing, health, financial and other personal needs that can help get them on their feet if they're dealing with hardship. At the last one, a total of 101 warrants were cleared — including 31 for low-level felonies like drug possession — for 91 people, some of whom had multiple warrants.

"These warrant clearance events are rare opportunities for people to come in and deal with their legal issues and move on in a positive way," McCallum concludes.
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