If a person is wanted on a felony arrest warrant issued in Salt Lake County, he can be taken into custody just as easily in St. George, thanks to information shared on the state Bureau of Criminal Identification.
But the same situation doesn't apply if an arrest warrant has been issued for failing to appear in court for a minor infraction, such as a traffic violation. In such cases, the information does not cross the county line.However, scofflaws may be less secure in the future, thanks to a statewide system of warrant enforcement passed 46-25 this week by the Utah House of Representatives and forwarded to the Senate.
The measure would cost about $53,000 for one full-time and one part-time employee to make computerized information available to all police jurisdictions through the Bureau of Criminal Identification.
Opponents argued the system would make it too easy for police to put people in jail. But since when has law enforcement been a game? If an arrest warrant has been issued, what's wrong with enforcing it in every county, instead of just one?
Opponents also argued that the law would fall most heavily on teens, who are more likely to ignore a summons to appear in court for a traffic ticket. Yet that hardly justifies making it easy for teens to flout the law.
In addition to such considerations, the measure also could generate considerable revenue. If the system improved warrant enforcement by only 2 percent, it would bring in an estimated $266,000, more than five times what such a program would cost. Even that is only a tiny portion of the $33 million in uncollected fines currently outstanding in Utah.
In sum, such a program would mean better enforcement, less ignoring of arrest warrants, and more revenue - all good reasons for the Senate to approve the expanded system.