SIDNEY — The year 2020 was another busy year for the Sidney Municipal Court,” said Judgee Gary Carter. “The court continued work on new technology projects to improve services to the public and maintained essential functions during the pandemic by utilizing a new video system to reduce the number of people appearing in person for Court. The court processed 5,850 cases and continued referring probationers to community providers for treatment and counseling.”
His report continues:
The court implemented a new text message notification system developed by the Court’s software provider, CourtView. The system sends text reminders to individuals scheduled to appear for events in the courtroom and probation department. Courts around the state face a common issue of people failing to attend their court hearings and trials which causes delays as cases need to be rescheduled, sometimes multiple times. We hope this new feature will improve court appearance rates, give us a more reliable calendaring schedule, and decrease the collateral consequences of bench warrants for defendants.
The Ohio Department of Public Safety awarded the Court a grant to develop an eCitation feature which allows us to receive traffic tickets from the State Highway Patrol electronically rather than using paper copies that need to be dropped off to the Court in person. This system also transfers data such as name, address, license number, etc. from the traffic ticket directly into the Court’s case management system, eliminating the need for manual input.
While the pandemic caused the need for numerous changes in procedure beginning in March 2020, the court maintained essential functions and services by utilizing video connection with the Shelby County jail and using an online video conferencing system called Spontania to connect by video to attorneys and defendants. Hearings that needed to take place in person were spaced out for social distancing purposes. The court received a grant from the Office of Criminal Justice Services to help pay for COVID related expenses such as masks, the installation of barriers throughout the building, and cleaning supplies so the Court could stay open and operating during the pandemic.
The court processed 3,712 traffic cases, 846 criminal cases, and 1,292 civil cases for a total of 5,850 cases in 2020. The Probation Department performed 443 drug tests, conducted 152 pre-sentence investigations, and initiated 415 new probation cases. The Bailiffs served 671 papers, transported 88 prisoners, and the Court held video arraignment for 539 prisoners.
During 2020, 99 individuals entered the Court’s License Intervention Program. The program had a 71% successful completion rate which resulted in 70 valid and properly insured drivers on the roads.
In 2020, the court collected $1,835,628 in receipts. In addition $8,956 was provided by offenders to the City and County through the Court’s Alternative Service Program. This program allows those who qualify to account for their fines and costs even when they do not earn sufficient income to pay what they owe by performing community service to local organizations and non-profit agencies.
The court distributed $24,880 in restitution to victims of crime and distributed garnishment monies in the amount of $826,956 to various creditors.
It has been our goal to file fewer community control violations by offering more referrals to community partners for programming and also by offering programming in-house. With our new programs we were able to decrease community control violations from nearly 250 in prior years to 135 in 2020. In place of a community control violation, 255 people were placed in counseling and treatment programs such as alcohol and drug, mental health, anger management, and parenting classes. To assist in the community’s fight against the opioid epidemic, we referred 22 offenders to the Medically Assisted Treatment Program (MAT Program).
The court’s Pretrial Release Program continues to help identify defendants who are appropriate for pretrial release from jail on bond. In 2020, the Court’s Pretrial Services Officer conducted 332 interviews and 64 of them were given an own-recognizance bond.
I have completed my first year with the Court and I am grateful to the people of Shelby County for the opportunity to serve as Judge of the Municipal Court. We have an efficient staff that works well together and the public has been well served in spite of the many challenges we faced in 2020. We hope for a more normal year in 2021.