Department of Public Safety Commissioner James Deleon Guerrero announced yesterday the creation of a task force to address the backlog of outstanding bench warrants and also to assist the Judiciary in serving summonses.
Aside from DPS, Deleon Guerrero said the other members of the task force are the Marshal Service Division, Office of Adult Probation, and the Office of the Attorney General.
In a news briefing in his office, Deleon Guerrero said the task force is giving notice to those with pending bench warrants to voluntarily come to the Marshal Service Division in the courthouse in Susupe and comply with their obligations.
He encouraged people to contact the Marshal Office or the Clerk of Court to verify if they have any outstanding bench warrants.
After 60 days, the task force will publicly issue the names of those with outstanding bench warrants and will begin executing the warrants.
Chief probation officer Ursula Lifoifoi-Aldan said that as of yesterday, there are at least 190 outstanding bench warrants—145 for traffic cases, 31 for criminal cases, four for small claims, nine for civil cases, and one for a juvenile case.
Lifoifoi-Aldan said there are actually more than 190 as they are still in the process of checking all their records. According to the Marshal Service Division, an average of 25 bench warrants are issued each day.
Court sources disclosed that outstanding bench warrants actually number more than 2,000, mostly traffic cases.
Deleon Guerrero said the task force is designed to enforce any and all bench warrants that have been in court dockets for quite sometime as well as to assist the Judiciary in serving pending summonses.
The commissioner said they are in the early stages of organizing this task force so they urge the community to voluntarily contact the courts to clear their obligations with respect to bench warrants.
“We want to give the community the opportunity or chance to come in to quash their pending bench warrants,” he said.
Under the task force, two police officers and two marshals will be assigned to execute the bench warrants.
Deleon Guerrero said he is planning to reactivate the DPS Summons Unit that was dissolved either in 2008 or 2009 because the department at that time believed that serving bench warrants was the duty of marshals.
Lifoifoi-Aldan noted that Public Law 17-41 mandates the Marshal Service Division and DPS to jointly enforce “all process in any criminal proceeding, contempt proceeding, or in a juvenile delinquency proceeding, issued in accordance with law and the rules of procedure prescribed in accordance with law.”
These process services may be in the form of any warrants or outstanding bench warrants, jury summons, jurors summoned from bystanders, and outstanding bench warrants in civil, small claims, family, or criminal courts.
Ed Cabrera of the Office of the Attorney General’s Investigation Division said there could be instances where bench warrants are issued as a result of criminal acts and the defendants may not appear in court at their hearing date.
“The reason why we want to get involved in this is simply the fact that we want to make sure that these cases will go forward and the only way to go forward is to actually arrest the folks who don’t attend the hearing so that we can bring them back in the system and get them through the judicial system,” Cabrera said.