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Hawaii's backlog allows many to escape charges

Ken Kobayashi and Jim Dooley of The Honolulu Advertiser used traffic records to show that O'ahu, Hawaii, has an estimated backlog of 61,500 bench warrants, costing the state a potential $20 million in unpaid fines and fees and allowing defendants to avoid charges as routine as running a red light and serious as negligent homicide. The three-part series found that poor coordination among law enforcement agencies and the courts results in long delays in processing warrants, missed opportunities to serve the orders and, in some cases, failure to capture fugitives. "The state sheriff's department — the agency tasked with serving more than 80 percent of O'ahu's 61,500 unserved warrants — has only 12 full-time officers dedicated to serving warrants." A practice not widely known even in the legal community allows law enforcement officials to turn down extradition of felony defendants who have left the state, largely because it is costly to return them. About 250 charged with felonies dating to the 1980s have escaped prosecution by leaving the Islands, the newspaper found.

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