File photo

File photo

Renton, King County municipal courts to quash bench warrants in wake of pandemic backlog

Renton judge says limited time program will reduce barriers to court access.

As outstanding warrants pile up amid the pandemic court backlog, a handful of King County municipal courts will implement a program allowing individuals to quash certain bench warrants for a limited time.

The “Back on Track” program will allow the majority of individuals with outstanding warrants to use a procedure in which they can quash their warrant and avoid being handcuffed.

Each municipality will maintain their own specific rules as to which warrants will be easily quashed, but Renton Municipal Judge Kara Murphy Richards said she would quash most warrants under $5,000 in value and as long as they do not involve domestic violence or driving under the influence charges.

With over 2,200 active warrants in Renton, Murphy Richards said the goal is to get rid of as many warrants as possible during the three-month duration of the program.

She said the pandemic has allowed people with warrants to hide out somewhat, and the closure of in-person courts and some municipal jails has not helped the problem.

Murphy Richards said warrants can impose barriers and prevent people from being employed, so they need to be dealt with in one way or another. She said most warrants are issued because people cannot access court in the first place because of barriers like transportation.

Murphy Richards said the “Back on Track” program is intended to increase accessibility and to accommodate those who may not be able to physically come into court.

“If you do not give people access to the system, then they cannot be held responsible,” she said.

Murphy Richards also said this program, in which individuals can phone the courts and deal with their warrants remotely, encourages court participation because individuals are not as fearful that a remote court appearance will lead to their arrest. She said the turnout for scheduled court appearances has increased “by far” since the Renton Municipal Court has allowed remote hearings.

Murphy Richards said the increase to court access and participation is a good thing for the justice system — for both the court and its subjects.

The “Back on Track” program will allow people to tie up their legal loose ends beginning in April through the end of June, but Murphy Richards said the program should be accessible when complete and considered as a possible permanent policy.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@rentonreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.rentonreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

file photo
Wet road conditions cause fatal head-on collison on I-90

The Sept. 18 accident left three dead including a 64-year-old Renton Man.

Map of proposed landfill expansion sites (screenshot from King County website)
Waste management expert knocks county’s plan to expand landfill

The waste management advocate said the decision to expand seems pre-determined despite assessment.

This image was shared by the King County Sheriff’s Office in announcing they had identified the driver in the fatal hit-and-run of a Maple Valley man. COURTESY PHOTO, King County Sheriff’s Office
King County Sheriff’s Office released this photo of the Toyota Camry that reportedly hit and killed a Maple Valley man in July. COURTESY PHOTO, King County Sheriff’s Office
SeaTac girl, 15, charged with second-degree murder in jogger’s death

Reportedly used her vehicle to ‘scare him’ while driving in Maple Valley

Pixabay photo
Union carpenters to go on strike, expected to impact Eastside Microsoft projects

Members authorized strike after rejecting AGC offer for the fourth time.

file photo
The state’s hospitals face “unprecedented collapse” amid COVID uptick warn healthcare unions

Union spokeperson says understaffing was a problem even before the pandemic.

File photo
Washington Association of Sheriffs & Police Chiefs condemns recent police ambushes

Two officer targeted shooting were reported last week in South King County.

The Landing in Renton/File photo
City of Renton accepting applications for 2022 tourism promotion grants

Deadline for applications is 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 22, 2021

Gov. Jay Inslee talks about schools reopening during a past news conference. (Screenshot courtesy of TVW)
Masks required at big outdoor events; vaccine mandates expanded

Governor’s mask order takes effect Sept. 13.

Most Read