Municipal court mistakenly sends out arrest warrant notices

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Imagine getting a letter saying there’s a warrant out for your arrest for a traffic ticket that you paid. That’s what one Topeka couple says happened to them.

“I thought, ‘oh my god’,” Jessica Muller said.

When Jessica and her husband Chris opened up a letter from the municipal court last Friday, their jaws dropped…

“It says in plain black and white, bold lettering, a warrant has been issued for your arrest,” Chris read.

The notice was about a seat belt ticket Chris received five months ago.

Jessica said, “I thought, ‘I know that I paid that ticket.’”

In fact, Jessica found the receipt via e-mail from the court confirming she paid the $10 ticket through City-Pay. But Chris – a semi driver – was still worried he might get arrested, so he called out of work Saturday.

“My dad owns the company,” Chris explained, “And I wasn’t going to risk driving the truck and getting pulled over and then going to jail and the truck being stuck somewhere and him having to call a tow truck.”

He went to the court first thing Monday morning to address it.

 “They said it was a software issue, a software glitch,” Chris said. “Well, I mean, that’s not the type of glitch that’s really, I’d say is acceptable.”

Suzie Gilbert with the City of Topeka says the letter was sent out with a group of others through the court’s case management system. Once a clerk realized that 10 of those tickets had actually been paid, the letters were already sent in the mail. Gilbert adds for those 10 people who did pay, no warrants were issued and no licenses were suspended.

“If something comes from the courthouse, I’m going to take it for what it actually says, because I think that okay, the courthouse knows what they’re doing,” Jessica told Kansas First News.

The couple wishes they had received follow up notification.

“And let us know, know: ‘Sorry, this was issued by mistake, there’s not really a warrant issued for your arrest, you don’t need to be in fear of going to jail’,” Jessica said.

It was a missed day of work and quite a scare – all over a mistake they feel could have been corrected

Gilbert tells Kansas First News the court does have new case management software, but it also has processes in place to ensure that warrants and suspensions are not issued in error. In this case Gilbert says the process was simply not properly followed. We asked if there was an attempt to contact those people who received incorrect letters but did not receive a reply.

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