Chaves County Magistrate Court has started a program that allows the police to e-file search warrants. It learned of the system from smaller courts with only one magistrate court judge who must sign all paperwork.
“As a former police officer, I’m very concerned about efficiency. Anything we can do to save an officer’s time and taxpayers’ money,” said Judge K.C. Rogers.
He explained that the previous process required officers to stay at the scene to guard it while one returned to the department, typed up the warrant, delivered it to one of two magistrate court judges who in turn read it, signed it and returned it. The officers would then serve it at the scene.
“It could take between two and three hours to complete,” Rogers said. “Meanwhile, the other officers are just standing around waiting. This can be done within 30 minutes.
“You kind of lose the swing of investigation when there’s nothing to be done until you get the warrant,”
The program also utilizes video services that allows the officer to swear and affirm their testimony so it is witnessed by the judge.
Judge John Halvorson relayed a story of an old homicide that required a full 30 warrants, 15 that had to be served that night.
“It took all night and a further 15 warrants had to signed the following day.”
The e-file program allows the officer at the scene to type up a complaint on their computers, send it to the judge on a cell phone, allowing an electronic signature and any comments to be added by the judge. The documents are returned to the patrol unit and printed out.
“This means the officers are not waiting for 3 hours for the documentation, but 30 minutes. That saves the officers’ time. Imagine the cost savings. We’re not paying officers to stand around,” said Rogers.
“That’s 30 minutes for writing and submission of the warrant, signature and execution. It’s not new (to the state); others have done it before us and it’s perfectly legal, but we picked up the program and ran with it,” Halvorson said.
The program started in October, but Rogers admitted it took some time until all the kinks could be worked out. It has been perfected enough that staff from the Magistrate Records office have taken it on the road. They traveled up to Albuquerque to teach the system to the metro courts, and both Halvorson and Rogers believe it will eventually be used statewide.
According to Halvorson, more than 300 warrants have been served in this manner during the last three months, requiring only 150 staff hours compared to the 900 hours of the old method.
Rogers said the system is being expanded to include criminal complaints.
“People are saying that the courts are letting them down, but we’re always working to make the system here more efficient.”
“We work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is our job to sign every warrant, but anything that makes the process easier is better for everyone,” said Halvorson.
This is not the only innovative system developed by Chaves County Magistrate Court said Rogers.
“Judge (Robert B.) Corn implemented our system of video arraignments, where we have a court room set up at the detention center. … The prisoners don’t have to be transported to the courthouse.”
The video arraignment program began in Roswell. CCMC pioneered the system which is now used all over the state of New Mexico.
Magistrate Court is also using the anklet monitor more often than in the past.
“What would you prefer, paying $65 to $75 per day to house a prisoner, that the taxpayers pay for, when we can place the offender on a monitor, which costs $12 a day, and this expense is paid by the defendant not the citizen,” Rogers said.
Rogers noted that the monitor restricts the offender to house arrest, but allows them to keep working.