OLR Report 2012-R-0480 explains (1) why Connecticut law enforcement officials do not have the authority to arrest and bring to court delinquent child support obligors, (2) for policy options to address this issue, and (3) if surrounding states give law enforcement officials such authority.
When a person
fails to appear in court for a child support matter, the court often issues a
capias warrant to compel the person to appear in court. The law does not
explicitly prohibit law enforcement officers from serving a capias but it
appears that a capias is considered civil process and law enforcement officers
are only authorized to serve criminal process, such as criminal arrest warrants.
Child support enforcement officials believe that it is the law enforcement
community's interpretation of the law that they cannot serve capias warrants and
in practice they do not do so.
legislature could consider a number of options to address this situation. It
could explicitly authorize law enforcement officers to serve a capias or allow
them to detain someone until another authorized official arrives. To do so,
officers would need capias information in their criminal database. It could also
hire and authorize more officials to serve capias warrants. Each of these
options has limitations, including budget constraints.
officials in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode
Island, and Vermont. Rhode Island appears to be the only state of those we
contacted that gives law enforcement officials the authority to arrest and bring
to court child support obligors who have failed to appear in court in response
to a witness subpoena. In that state, the court issues a “writ of body
attachment,” which immediately gets transmitted into the Rhode Island warrant
system. Law enforcement has access to this information when responding to
potential criminal offenses and officers will arrest these individuals on the
basis of the writs.
officials from Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York, law
enforcement officers do not currently have the power to arrest someone on the
basis of a capias arrest warrant. However, the Massachusetts Department of
Revenue Services Child Support Enforcement Division has proposed legislation to
authorize the child support agency and family courts to identify appropriate
capias warrants for entry into the criminal database. Law enforcement officers
would then know that the family court has ordered apprehension of the delinquent
parent. It is unclear if officers would have the authority to arrest delinquent
For more information, read the full report.