BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - More than 1,200 people with outstanding traffic warrants lined up Saturday in Baton Rouge for Amnesty Day, which allowed them to take care of those warrants without facing jail time.
Local judges and prosecutors met with 250 individuals. The other 900 were given rain checks.
"These people are noncriminal offenses, most of them are just traffic. We don't really want to start locking up people for traffic tickets," said East Baton Rouge Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle, who helped organize the event at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center on Gus Young Ave.
Leaders said the event is in part aimed at cutting back on the backlog of outstanding warrants in the parish. Current estimate have the number at more than 160,000. Most of those are misdemeanors – especially traffic-related.
Back in October, the EBR Metro Council voted against a 24-hour misdemeanor jail aimed at reducing the number of warrants.
Once inside the community center, individuals could pay off their warrants, create payment plans, or meet with judges to discuss other options, such as community service. In some cases, the warrants were waived altogether.
Many of those helped were repeat offenders with several warrants. One man had 25 warrants.
"You've got to get to work, so you're going to continue to drive," said Marcelle. "So when the next officer pulls them over, they're going to have another warrant. Many of these warrants are the same tickets over and over."
While there is still a long way to go, leader agreed this was a good step forward in fighting the backlog.
"It makes me really feel good - these people want to take care of their business," said Hillar Moore, district attorney for East Baton Rouge.
Those with rain checks have the opportunity to go to court this week. Those going to City Court have all week. Those going to District Court must go on Monday. If they do, they will receive the same amnesty as those helped on Saturday.