County warrants office extends hours
by Rachael Brown
rbrown@annistonstar.com
Jul 25, 2013 | 2815 views |  0 comments | 31 31 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Deputy Clerk Kim McCarson, Diane Duncan and Calhoun County Circuit Clerk Eli Henderson look over a warrant that Duncan is working on in the Warrant office in the Calhoun County Courthouse. Photo by Stephen Gross.
Deputy Clerk Kim McCarson, Diane Duncan and Calhoun County Circuit Clerk Eli Henderson look over a warrant that Duncan is working on in the Warrant office in the Calhoun County Courthouse. Photo by Stephen Gross.
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The Calhoun County warrants office extended its hours last week and plans to introduce electronic filing software to lower wait times for law enforcement officers obtaining warrants for misdemeanor arrests.

Circuit Clerk Eli Henderson said having the office open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. is better for law enforcement and the public.

“We all agreed in order to serve the public and help our police officers serve more time on the street catching bad guys that we could do this five days a week,” Henderson said.

Henderson said the office is also open from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Saturday. Extending the hours of operation was something Henderson said he’s wanted to do since he became circuit clerk. Henderson said he’d heard too many stories of police officers working night shifts and staying awake to file a warrant, only to be turned away because of the time of day.

“Our time frame didn’t fit,” he said.

The office was previously open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., closed for lunch, and then reopened from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Henderson said that work schedule began in October 2011.

Calhoun County Sheriff Larry Amerson estimated his deputies spent between 10 and 20 hours each week waiting in the warrants office to fill out paperwork. Crime victims were also at a disadvantage, Amerson said.

“The average citizen couldn’t get his business done because he couldn’t get to a magistrate. They didn’t have reasonable access to the court. Thanks to this, they’re going to have reasonable access,” the sheriff said.

Amerson said time is especially pertinent for victims of violent crimes. For instance, a domestic violence victim fearing for their safety would want to sign a warrant as soon as possible, he said.

Diane Duncan, a clerk who can issue felony and misdemeanor warrants, said she’s seen how the former schedule affected victims. Duncan agreed with Amerson that warrants weren’t being issued in a timely fashion.

“Their problems are serious and they’re upset. They’d come in on Monday and would be told they have to come back on Wednesday,” Duncan said.

That’s why the sheriff is hoping electronic filing will expedite the process for clerks and deputies.

Amerson said that for eight years, deputies have obtained electronic signatures, using a computer tablet and stylus, while taking a report from a victims. Allowing deputies to enter report information into a computer at a crime scene has left less room for error, according to the sheriff.

Henderson and Amerson want to use that technology to allow deputies to email misdemeanor reports to the clerks, where they will review it and a signed affidavit could be emailed back. This would eliminate deputies sitting in the courthouse for hours to obtain a warrant.

“We email the whole case file to them and thanks to the circuit clerk and his staff we’re going to save taxpayers’ dollars by not sending our deputies up here to wait on misdemeanor cases,” Amerson said.

Amerson said using video chat software called Facetime in both offices is also a possibility. That way a clerk and deputy can talk about the report face-to-face without a deputy physically going to the office.

Henderson said the technology integration is still a new idea, and he doesn’t have a proposed start date yet, but he’s excited at the prospect.

Staff Writer Rachael Brown: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @RBrown_Star.

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