Gwinnett amnesty program nets more than $8,500

A program to provide temporary amnesty for people with outstanding bench warrants in Gwinnett County State Court has cleared 26 cases from the court docket and brought in $8,563 in outstanding fines and restitution.

Court Administrator Phil Boudewyns said he believed it was Gwinnett's first attempt at offering an amnesty program in State Court.

Through the program, people with misdemeanor probation violations who had bench warrants for failing to pay fees or court costs, or failing to comply with other probation conditions, were able to pay the fines and fees in full without risk of being jailed.

The amnesty program ran from May 1 to June 30.

Of the 26 cases resolved, 16 people had their probation reinstated and were allowed to complete it without being arrested. Ten people had their cases terminated for having completed all conditions of their probation.

"We are pleased that 26 persons that would not have otherwise been cleared or reinstated took advantage of the opportunity," said John Prescott, the vice president of operations for Southeast Corrections, who managed the amnesty program for the county. "We are especially pleased that individual victims of crime in the local community that were owed restitution were reimbursed as a part of our effort."

About two dozen more probationers attempted to participate but were deemed ineligible for the amnesty program. It was not open to people who had new criminal charges filed against them after a probation warrant was filed. Probationers also were disqualified if they fled prior to being apprehended on a warrant or were not sentenced through State Court.

Some of the warrants that were cleared dated to 1994, Prescott said.

Amnesty programs have been implemented in various courts in metro Atlanta with varying degrees of success. Usually, the program is offered for a limited time to get people to pay outstanding traffic tickets in Recorder's Court. For example, a Gwinnett County Recorder's Court amnesty program offered during the month of March brought in $734,521 and prompted a recall of 605 outstanding bench warrants. DeKalb County Recorder's Court offered a program in April 2010 that brought in $1.6 million and resolved between 8,000 and 10,000 cases.