Irma Victims Could Be Arrested At Shelters If They Have Outstanding Warrants

Floridians who are in Hurricane Irma’s path could face a double disaster if they have outstanding warrants. Evacuations are being ordered in many places across the state as residents brace for what could be one of history’s strongest hurricanes. Part of the evacuation plan is setting up shelters, which are monitored by local law enforcement agencies. One sheriff used Twitter to warn residents that they would be arrested if they showed up at a shelter with an outstanding warrant.

Why Arrests Will Take Place

According to a recent story from the ABA Journal about the topic, a sheriff defended the controversial tweets by saying that law enforcement officials have a duty to act on warrants. When people enter shelters, they are asked to present photo identification. A driver’s license or a state identification card will be required. Law enforcement officials can search the identification card’s number and instantly see if there are outstanding warrants.

What Will Happen To People Who Need Shelter

Law enforcement officials assured residents that they would still be sheltered if they were in harm’s way. However, they will be transported to a local jail for shelter until they can see a judge. Since failure to appear for tickets or other minor infractions can lead to a warrant, law enforcement officials encouraged Floridians to be sure that they do not have any outstanding infractions that have not been addressed. People who are avoiding criminal charges will likely face longer jail stays.

When the department that issued the controversial warning tweets was contacted, one sheriff said that their main concern was with violent or sexual offenders. He elaborated with an example saying that allowing a child predator who has a warrant for an offense to stay at a shelter where small children are also housed would be irresponsible and would put other law-abiding residents at risk. Officers who check identification cards will only see if a person has a warrant. They will not know the nature of the warrant or if it is for a felony or a misdemeanor. Legal experts in Florida said that people facing misdemeanor charges should turn themselves in before going to a shelter to be released on bond or on their own recognizance. Obeying evacuation orders is a must for everyone. Failing to obey them because of a warrant or for any reason can result in jail time.

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