Want someone arrested?
Published 12:00 am Monday, April 21, 2003
Let’s say you’re walking down the street, minding your own business, when an acquaintance physically threatens you and then throws a punch.
You’ve seen the person before, know his or her name, but that’s it. You file a police report and then try to get a warrant for the person’s arrest.
According to Tanika Wagner, chief magistrate with the city of Selma, you’d have to supply the offender’s name, a good address, a physical description and in many cases a date of birth before Wagner’s office could sign an arrest warrant.
Laura Stowers, another magistrate with the city, agrees with Wagner. Stowers said she takes the issuing of a warrant seriously, since an arrest is on someone’s record for the rest of his or her life,
Many people come to her office, Wagner says, thinking they can sign a warrant without any trouble. Reality is different, though; magistrates need evidence before they’ll issue a warrant.
On Wagner’s computer screen appear names of those who have ever had a brush with the Selma law. Selma
residents who’ve been arrested or merely pulled over and received a ticket are in the system.
Many names have duplicates; one example showed more than 10 people with the same name. Four people had the same first, last and middle names &045;&045; all the more reason for magistrates to get as much information as they can before issuing a warrant, they say.
Some citizens seeking arrest warrants resent the inquisition as counterproductive.
Almost two months ago, for instance, Jacqueline Anderson of Selmont said she tried to sign a warrant on two individuals who were allegedly harassing her daughter at school.
Anderson said she returned the next day only to be rebuffed again.
Lucretia Smith, a Selma High School student, claims to be in a similar situation. On Tuesday, Smith tried to sign a warrant on a former classmate who had allegedly threatened her on her way to school.
Smith said that when she tried to sign a warrant the next day she was told she couldn’t because she didn’t have a witness to corroborate the story.
Wagner pointed to the date of birth as necessary information when the age of the offender is close to 18 &045;&045; which is the case for both Anderson and Smith.
When age isn’t a factor, the magistrate’s office can schedule a probable-cause hearing. At the hearing, a municipal judge &045;&045; not a magistrate &045;&045; will look at the evidence and decide whether or not a warrant should be filed.
Stowers said that’s what she did for Lucretia Smith. Either Municipal Judge Greg Tolar or Kyra Sparks will examine Smith’s complaint, then determine by May 13 whether a warrant should be issued.
Probable cause hearings occur every Tuesday in Municipal Court. Sparks said knowing someone’s birth date used to be standard practice before a warrant could be issued.
However, Sparks said in cases possibly involving a juvenile, probable cause hearings are needed before a warrant is signed.