Ohio Governor DeWine announces new online warrant and background check system

The following article originally appeared on News5Cleveland.com and is published in The Ohio Capital Journal under a content sharing agreement. Unlike other OCJ articles, it is not available for free republication by other news outlets because it is owned by WEWS in Cleveland.

A new state database, which was announced at a press conference Wednesday morning, is expected to simplify background checks and speed up the process of filing protective orders and warrants.

It is not the first time that the mandate policy has changed in recent years.

An investigative documentary from 5 On Your Side led to changes in Cleveland police policy. In 2019, News 5 aired the half-hour special “The System: A Call for Help”. Within days, Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams announced an internal investigation into the domestic violence case which the team followed for a year.

Investigators tracked down a serial domestic violence suspect, but when they called police, officers did not show up for three and a half hours. When they did, there was no search warrant in hand and they left.

Now, new policy changes hope to help catch violent offenders earlier and close service gaps.

In another investigation, News 5 discovered a problem with the downloading of warrants.

A man who was arrested for possession of a stolen vehicle in 2018 was released on bail when, according to police, he quickly hijacked a woman with a box cutter.

The man had numerous other warrants in other counties, but law enforcement said they didn’t know because he hadn’t entered their database.

There was no central database for warrants here in Ohio until Wednesday.

“Ohio law does not require warrants and protective orders to be entered into the state and federal background system,” DeWine said at his press conference.

DeWine and Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted said a new warrant system would prevent double carjacking from happening again.

“This is critical information that a law enforcement official might need to apprehend a criminal,” Husted added. “This is critical information that a gun shop owner might need to ensure they are not selling a gun to someone who does not have the legal capacity to possess one. “

The system is intended to protect against someone from out of state who has an outstanding warrant and a felony who then comes to Ohio to buy a gun.

“This person who is selling them a gun has absolutely no idea that they are not allowed to own a gun or are not allowed to be sold a gun to themselves,” he said. said DeWine.

This could also apply to individuals whose warrants have not yet been uploaded into the current system, such as the case of the cutter man.

The eWarrants system is free for courts and law enforcement and streamlines the process of uploading warrants and protective orders, plus it allows all other agencies to access data almost instantly from across the state. .

“The warrant was served, returned and registered within hours,” Meigs County Clerk Sammi Mugrage said. “This is something that would normally take days or even weeks.”

The program is being piloted in a county in Meigs, which previously used only paper, not an online system. The system saved time, which made the community safer, Mugrage added.

“It takes a heavy burden off our law enforcement to carry papers back and forth,” Meigs County Common Pleas Court Judge Linda R. Warner said. “Due to the nature of law enforcement, when there is a physical piece of paper, it was often misplaced.”

The warrant or protection order could be “on the back of a cruiser” or someone “gone on vacation” and the rest of the team doesn’t know where the document is.

“It takes away all those real human things that were holding us back, frankly,” Judge added.

DeWine, however, raised the only problem with the database.

“A little more action that needs to be taken by lawmakers,” he said. “That’s the part I can’t do.”

DeWine and the Department of Public Safety are considering adding a provision to a set of criminal laws that would require agencies to upload warrants.

The addition would require law enforcement to enter warrants for Level 1 offenses, which are felonies and certain misdemeanors, into both the Ohio Law Enforcement Data System and into the National Crime Information Center.

The bill it would fit into, Senate Bill 288, is currently stalled in committee.

“Since taking office in 2019, the number of Ohio warrants entered into the NCIC by Ohio law enforcement has increased more than 1,000%, from 18,117 in March 2019 to 220 206 in June 2022,” the governor’s team said.

In 2020, it was estimated that there were half a million warrants in the state of Ohio that were never entered into a state or federal database, according to Public Safety.

“We developed the new eWarrants system to help our criminal justice agencies overcome barriers to information sharing that have left dangerous holes in our background check systems,” DeWine added.

There are a few northeast Ohio counties that have already committed to doing so, such as Lorain, Medina, and Stark. Cuyahoga is in communication with the state to join.

Follow WEWS State House Reporter Morgan Trau on Twitter and Facebook.

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