Eileen Egeland, system analyst with the Spokane County Information Systems Department, and Stephanie Olsen, Eastern Washington Target Zero prosecutor with the Spokane County Prosecutor's Office, received an award for Outstanding Innovations in Traffic Safety in Washington state at the 2014 Washington State Impaired Driving Training Symposium.
The award was for their work in creating and implementing the Spokane County Electronic Search Warrant Application.
The Spokane County Electronic Search Warrant process is a method used by Spokane County Superior Court and District Court Judges and area law enforcement for electronically submitting and signing search warrants. Spokane County is currently the only county in the state with this kind of process.
For numerous reasons, Spokane County judges were being asked to sign more and more search warrants during off hours. The manual process they were using was very time consuming. When law-enforcement officers were required to get a search warrant for blood draws, time became an issue. If the on-call judge lived in north Spokane and the officer made an arrest in south Spokane, it was difficult for an officer to write a warrant, take it to the judge for signing and get the blood draw done before all evidence was out of the blood.
The judges contacted the Spokane County Information Systems Department (ISD) and requested that they create a method that would enable judges to sign search warrant documents electronically from home or anyplace that had cell phone coverage. Numerous meetings were held with Superior Court judges, District Court judges and representatives from the prosecutor's office, law-enforcement and information systems. The legality of electronic signatures and the process we were going to use was thoroughly discussed and researched.
ISD then created a process for judges to electronically sign documents and return them to officers as a PDF. In addition, a website was created for the officers that provided a process for officers to quickly create the search warrant, sign it electronically and submit it electronically. Olsen coordinated with area law-enforcement agencies to get them to use one system. Because of her efforts over 375 officers are using the system. Officers estimate that the new process saves them up to one and one-half hours per DUI stop.
Not only do judges no longer have law enforcement officers coming to their home in the middle of the night, but some judges report that it can take as little as five minutes from the time they wake up until the time they send the warrant back. Giving the officers the ability to use uniform templates has made the officers more comfortable creating warrants and provided the judges with warrants that are standardized and better written, so are more quickly signed and returned.
The system has been very successful because judges and law enforcement have embraced it. All Spokane County Superior Court and District Court judges use the system when they are on-call. Over 350 area law enforcement officers have registered to use the system. The following law enforcement agencies use the system:
· Spokane County Sheriff officers
· Spokane Valley Police officers
· City of Spokane Police officers
· Washington State Patrol troopers working in the Spokane area
· City of Cheney officers
· Airway Heights officers
· Liberty Lake officers
· Eastern Washington University officers
· Washington State Fish and Game officers working in the Spokane area
· Washington State Gaming Commission officers working in the Spokane area.