So you made a complaint with the police to have someone arrested.
Maybe it’s your daughter for stealing your checks, an ex-boyfriend for stalking you, a nephew who took your car without permission, a friend who got your pin number and withdrew money from your account.
You don’t know what’s happening, and you are worried and afraid.
Has the person been arrested yet? What are the charges? Did the judge set bail? Was it posted, or is the defendant in jail?
What if the case is older and the person already was sentenced to county jail or state prison? How can you find out if she has been released?
PEACE OF MIND
Having someone locked up can provide safety and peace of mind.
This is certainly so when the defendant presents a danger to the victim. There are other cases when the decision to arrest is necessary to not only stop the crime but also to protect the perpetrator.
Your loved one may be stealing from you to support his drug habit or assaulting you because she won’t take her prescribed medication.
They need help that they are unwilling to get voluntarily.
That sense of security, when the perpetrator is jailed, can be shattered by unexpected release.
Here, the emphasis is on “unexpected.” There will come a time for release, and it is best if that can be planned for, especially if your safety is in question.
Not knowing where the defendant is can cause anxiety and fear that they will show up on your doorstep.
The police or DA may be able to keep you informed, but they do not always know immediately.
During my time in private practice and as district attorney, it was often time-consuming and frustrating calling courts and the jail trying to learn the status of a particular defendant.
It was even more difficult for a victim to track down.
Now, the criminal justice system is using the tools of the digital age to directly put information in the hands of those who need it most — the victims.
VINElink is a nationwide system where you can register to be alerted of any change in the custody status of a particular person.
This includes when they are moved to another jail or prison, as well as released. They have a website, www.vinelink.com, and a free mobile app.
The newest development is a free app called MobilePatrol, used by many sheriff’s departments, that gives anyone immediate access to information on inmates at the jail.
Clinton County’s looks very detailed; Essex and Franklin counties are also on MobilePatrol.
In most cases, there is a photograph, as well as identifying data, intake date and crimes charged.
There is also a direct link on the app to the VINElink Victim Notification system.
Inmates in New York state prisons can be found by using Inmate Lookup at the State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision website: www.doccs.ny.gov.
Some arrests in the City of Plattsburgh can be seen on the blotter that is part of the Police Department’s website: www.plattsburghpd.net.
If it is a City Police case, and you’re wondering whether a person was actually arrested, that is a good place to check.
People who are charged but post bail at the City Police station or are given an appearance ticket are not sent to jail, and do not appear on the sheriff’s site.
The Clinton County Sheriff’s Department has a website that has much useful information, including links to VINE, MobilePatrol and sex-offender watch. Find that site at: http://www.clintoncountygov.com/Departments/Sheriff/SheriffHome.html.
Another useful website is www.nyalert.gov, where a victim or designee can register to be notified when a family court order of protection has been served.
It does not cover criminal court orders, though.
WAIT AND WONDER
The legal protection provided by an order does not begin until the respondent is actually served with it. It depends upon how quickly the law enforcement agency can find the person, so there could be days, weeks or more time of uncertainty.
Once the respondent has been served, then a violation of the order is the new crime of criminal contempt, in addition to any other crimes committed.
The MobilePatrol app and these websites are very useful developments that everyone can use directly, and no longer have to wait and wonder.
Penny Clute has been an attorney since 1973. She was Clinton County district attorney from 1989 through 2001, then Plattsburgh City Court judge until her retirement in January 2012.