People who failed to appear in court and want to avoid spending the holidays in jail can get a second chance.
Starting Monday, Dec. 1, the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office kicked off "Operation Second Chance," a annual program that allows people with non-violent, misdemeanor warrants to turn themselves in and get a new court date rather than being arrested and booked into county jail. The program runs through Dec. 31, and includes warrants for both criminal and traffic as well as infractions.
The most common warrants in the county are called "bench warrants," when people fail to appear in court on the date they were given, according to Sgt. Kurtis Stenderup of the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office. Of the 200 to 250 people who turn themselves in each year through the program, most of them have warrants for failing to show up in court.
"It allows people during the holiday time of year to take care of these warrants and not go to jail so they can spend time with their loved ones and family members," Stenderup said.
Operation Second Chance will grant a new court date regardless of the bail, even if the warrant specifies "no bail" or "no cite and release." Felony warrants, however, do not qualify for the program, as well as any misdemeanor warrant that includes violence, firearms, resisting arrest or giving false information to an officer.
Anyone with an outstanding warrant can call the Mountain View Police Department at 650-903-9344 to see if they are eligible for the program. Any law enforcement agency within the county should be able to look through its records and tell people whether they are eligible, according to Dee Ahl, warrant officer for the Mountain View Police Department.
Mountain View police have also posted an informational YouTube video about the program.
The Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office headquarters in San Jose is accepting self-surrenders through the program, as well as 10 police departments across the county, including Mountain View, Palo Alto and the Sunnyvale.
The program has been around for 10 years, and more than 2,800 people have used it to turn themselves in. The most common charges for people who use the program is for driving under the influence, according to Stenderup.
Still, 2,800 is a small fraction of the 34,837 outstanding warrants throughout the county. Stenderup said he would love to have as many people as possible take advantage of the program this holiday season.
"It saves money and jail space," Stenderup said. "Instead of dealing with booking, feeding and housing, we are now allowing them to take care of this warrant."