Whatcom County law enforcement agencies stopped booking people into the Whatcom County Jail for certain crimes on Thursday, March 19, due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Apparently, people arrested will be booked and released for everything except certain offenses that represent a serious threat to public safety. Those crimes include domestic violence, violations of a no-contact order, felony DUI, sex offenses, burglary and other violent crimes. Those booked for misdemeanor DUI will be held until sober.
The memo suggests officers arrest, book and release people when they can, giving them notice of when to appear in court. And those who are booked on charges that pose a threat to public safety will be held until they see a judge.
At this point, seven Whatcom County residents have been diagnosed with the respiratory illness, one of whom died, according to the Whatcom County Health Department.
Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo said the measures are looking out for the health of the people who work in the jail, as well as those incarcerated there.
“They’re in place because of some compelling public safety and public health issues. We want to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but do it in a way that doesn’t minimize public safety. We’re still booking and holding violent people. These are temporary measures . . . We’re trying to take the jail population as low as we can safely and reasonably do under the circumstances.” ~Sheriff Bill Elfo
Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member face criminal charges and are jailed indefinitely in the midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Obviously, getting released as soon as possible is a major priority. And hiring an experienced attorney is the first and best step toward justice.