Departments | Sheriff | In the News | Arrest warrants go offline
According to state code, information in warrants is confidential until an arrest is made
Article written by Bob Link and used with permission from the Globe Gazette, published on Wednesday, May 2, 2007.
MASON CITY - As one Iowa sheriff is making his department's arrest warrants more public, Cerro Gordo County Sheriff Kevin Pals is removing a list of warrants in his county from the department Web site.
"Legal opinions have differed on it," said Pals about the warrants. "We will be taking our warrants off the Web site in the very near future."
Earlier this week, Linn County Sheriff Don Zeller announced that he is releasing information on nearly 2,000 arrest warrants.
Zeller is releasing the information in the hope it will generate tips.
"There are so many outstanding warrants, if we try to hold these people accountable and bring them to justice, we need the public's help," Zeller said.
Pals said the theory works.
"We've put them on our Web site for about a year now," Pals said. "We've had numerous arrests and tips off the Web site."
The Cerro Gordo Sheriff's Web site includes 40 pages of names. Some of the people have multiple warrants for their arrest.
Pals said questions about the warrants led him to get a county attorney's opinion.
Cerro Gordo County Attorney Paul Martin said according to state code, information from arrest warrants is considered confidential until an arrest is made.
It can be released if authorities are seeking an especially dangerous suspect.
"The theory is that keeping warrents confidential helps prevent suspects from being tipped off," Martin said. "If the information is available, the person can use that to avoid arrest.
"Whether it's a good law, or a bad law, I'm not certain," said Martin.
Both Pals and Zeller think warrant information should be released.
"I don't think it is in the best interest of the public to hide that information," said Pals.
"It's kind of silly not to make them public," he said. "If I had a warrant against me, I'd want to know."