In 2007 Carico Hayward of Middletown was arrested and convicted on a robbery charge. He was sentenced to more than seven years in prison and was out on probation in 2009 when the courts issued a warrant for his re-arrest for violating probation.
But Hayward remains at large. His warrant for violation of probation is among thousands issued by the courts in Connecticut every month and which can remain unserved for weeks, months and even years.
All of the court-issued arrest warrants are available for public viewing on the Connecticut Judicial Branch's website under a state law passed several years ago, and expanded in the last year, that seeks to increase public access to court records.
The warrants database can be searched by town, allowing residents of a community to see, at any given time, who is wanted in their towns. The database can also be searched by court and by a defendant’s name.
The warrants listed on the site are those issued only from the judicial bench, largely for violation of probation, failure to appear in court and to a lesser degree, orders to incarcerate those who were previously convicted but not jailed.
They do not include warrants sought by local police departments, which are typically for more serious charges.
At any given time in any community in the state there could be dozens, even hundreds, of residents with bench warrants pending against them.
In Middletown, there are currently 495 warrants currently pending, some of them dating back to 2003.
While state and local police departments say they take the serving of such warrants seriously and seek to make those arrests where possible, lack of manpower and the more pressing concern of dealing with serious local crimes makes the issue of tracking down the suspects of bench warrants less of a priority.
“We do take them seriously and if we can go out and get them we do. They’re subject to arrest when and where we can find them,” said state police Lt. Paul Vance. “There are also times when we’ll put a task force together and we’ll go out and serve these warrants and pick these people up.”
In smaller communities where the state police have resident troopers, those troopers typically know the community well enough that when a bench warrant is issued they know whether the suspect is still in the community.
Some of the unserved bench warrants listed on the judicial department’s website date back years. In those instances, Vance said, the suspects have either left the area or state, or they didn’t live in the state to begin with at the time of their original arrest.
Christopher Duryea, a research attorney with the judicial department who oversees the warrant database, said the department makes the warrants information available as part of an overall effort to increase public access to court documents online. The information, he said, is also important to certain agencies and people, such as landlords checking on prospective tenants and employers doing background checks on prospective employees.
The website, however, warns others not to try to take action if they recognize someone who has a pending bench warrant.
“It is recommended that you do not attempt to take action against anyone based on information contained in this website,” it states. “If you think there is a threat right now to a person or property, you can call 911 or your local police department. If you think that help is needed right away, please contact your local police department.”
Duryea said there have been instances where members of the public have alerted police to a wanted person’s location based on information on the site. Others, he said, have tried to take the law into their own hands after looking at the site.
“We’ve had a couple of scenarios where some state marshals or bail officers have tried to use the information to apprehend a suspect,” he said.