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Use of bench warrants still not certain

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Attorneys have settled a federal case that led to the Marion Superior Court scrapping its practice of issuing bench warrants for the arrest of people who'd failed to appear in civil cases, but a statewide investigation of whether state law allows judges to issue these warrants remains ongoing.

A settlement came March 30 in the case of Patrick Thompson v. Marion County Sheriff's Office, et al, 1:08-CV-00481, which arose from the man's August 2007 arrest. Thompson was detained for five days in the Marion County Jail after being arrested on a bench warrant for not appearing at a child support hearing about three years earlier. He told police he'd thought the child support case involving his then-17-year-old child was finished and closed.

The case tied in to a similar one that Indianapolis firm Waples & Hanger had filed in the Southern District of Indiana, and both prompted U.S. Magistrate Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson to review the practice concerning bench warrants.

The Marion Superior Court's four-judge executive committee investigated the process and in January recalled about 4,100 bench warrants in civil cases, turning to a new policy that urges the use of body attachments requiring multiple notification steps. A body attachment requires that when people fail to show up for a hearing or ignore a court order, they must be given a second chance to attend and explain themselves. It also allows them to pay the amount due and be released immediately.

The second part of the settlement involves Indianapolis paying Thompson $67,5000, according to a news release from Waples & Hanger.

In February, Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi asked Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller to weigh in on the issue with an advisory opinion. No opinion has been issued, and a spokesman for the state office couldn't be reached to comment on the status of that.

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  1. I can understand a 10 yr suspension for drinking and driving and not following the rules,but don't you think the people who compleate their sentences and are trying to be good people of their community,and are on the right path should be able to obtain a drivers license to do as they please.We as a state should encourage good behavior instead of saying well you did all your time but we can't give you a license come on.When is a persons time served than cause from where I'm standing,its still a punishment,when u can't have the freedom to go where ever you want to in car,truck ,motorcycle,maybe their should be better programs for people instead of just throwing them away like daily trash,then expecting them to change because they we in jail or prison for x amount of yrs.Everyone should look around because we all pay each others bills,and keep each other in business..better knowledge equals better community equals better people...just my 2 cents

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