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Court Outreach Event Aims To Help, Not Arrest Those With Outstanding Warrants

Paula Wissel
This flyer is being distributed to promote Seattle Municipal Court's first outreach event.

Not showing up for a court date can result in a warrant for your arrest. But now, anyone with an outstanding warrant from Seattle Municipal Court has a chance to get it cleared.The Warrant Outreach event takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Yesler Community Center, 917 E. Yesler Way, Seattle.  Anyone with an outstanding warrant from the municipal court is invited to show up with the promise that they won’t be arrested.

Seattle Municipal Court Presiding Judge Karen Donohue says the event is being held in a community center rather than in the court in the hopes more people will feel comfortable coming. The idea, she says, is to help people with warrants rather than lock them up.

“Having a warrant is a barrier for housing and employment and so by helping them quash these warrants we’re hoping they can get a restart and continue to resolve the matter,” Donohue said.

It doesn’t mean underlying charges people face like theft or assault will be dropped. But with the arrest warrant gone they won’t be put in jail while they await trial. After their warrant is quashed, their case will be scheduled for a hearing to resolve the underlying legal matter.

At the outreach event, they can meet with public defenders for advice and access social services and drug treatment. Donohue says there are often underlying issues, like drug abuse, when someone ends up in municipal court accused of a crime.

Seattle Municipal Court has over 9,400 outstanding warrants. This is the first warrant outreach event the Seattle court has held. If successful, the court plans to do them several times a year.

The municipal court handles misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor crimes and infractions including theft, assault, criminal trespass and violation of domestic violence orders.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.