Judge explains diversion program

By Melanie Speicher - mspeicher@aimmediamidwest.com

SIDNEY — A teen is cited for a minor traffic violation by a law enforcement official: What are the options the teen faces when appearing in juvenile court?

For Shelby County teens, they have an option of entering the Traffic Diversion Program, which is for first-time traffic offenders.

Shelby County Juvenile Court Judge Jeffrey Beigel started the program after he took office in 2017. He presented an outline of the program Tuesday morning during the quarterly meeting of the Governor’s Community Traffic Safety Network of Shelby County meeting.

“Every written ticket (to a Shelby County juvenile) ends up in the clerk’s office,” said Beigel. “Wherever the ticket is written, that’s where the trial is. Then the case gets transferred to Shelby County where the teen resides.”

When the local court receives the ticket, a letter is sent to the teen’s parent with a court date. The parent must attend the court date with the teen, he said. The court determines whether the teen is eligible for the diversion program.

“The diversion program is for cases that are minor offenses and the teen has no prior incidents,” said Beigel, who added 70 percent of all juvenile traffic cases are first-time offenders with minor violations who do not reoffend.

Notices are sent to the parents stating their child is eligible for the diversion program. The parents and teen attend a group meeting where they learn about the teen’s rights and the diversion program. The judge then talks to each teen separately and the teen is given the option of entering the diversion program or going back to trial for the violation.

Teens entering the diversion program are required to pay the court cost of the program — $100 — plus $35 for the CARTEENSprogram. If the teen completes the diversion program, there will be no conviction or points on the teen’s driver’s license, said Beigel.

The CARTEENS program is a Ohio 4-H/Shelby County Extension program. The program is run through the Shelby County Extension Office, which funds it, hosts it, staffs it and coordinates the program from registration to teaching the lesson and sending the kids out the door with their certificates.

The court, he said, maintains its own records of traffic diversion cases.

For more serious offenses or repeat offenders, the juvenile is subject to a possible 2-year license suspension, probation, community service, fines and costs, said Beigel.

Beigel said he holds traffic court every Tuesday. He hears between 5 to 10 cases each week.

Sidney Mayor Mike Barhorst, traffic safety network chairman, told members the Shelby County Mock Crash will be held April 18 at the Shelby County Fairgrounds. Raindate is April 19. Further information will be available closer to the event.

Ohio Highway Patrol Piqua Post commander Lt. Joe Gebhart gave his traffic statistic report for 2017. There were 11 fatal crashes in Shelby County in 2017. This is up from the eight fatal crashes in 2016 and the five fatal crashes in 2015.

The fatal crashes occurred all over the county, said Gebhart. Ten of the crashes were in rural area and one in urban area. Four were OVI-related; one was commercial related; and one was a motorcycle crash.

Gebhart said he is concerned about distracted drivers on the county’s roads. This includes people talking or texting on their phones, playing on social media and eating.

The OHP investigated 78 property damages crashes in 2017. There were 196 citations issued for reckless operation and 1,215 traffic stops.

Gebhart said the post will be working with the Sidney Police Department with OVI checkpoints in 2018.

“ODOT did an outstanding job over the weekend,” said Gebhart of the work done clearing the roads during the snowstorms.

Sidney Fire Chief Brad Jones discussed the year-to-date activities for his department through November. There were 921 total city fire calls the department responded to. There were 2,399 EMS calls and 39 motor vehicle crashes with injuries.

The department’s employees, said Jones, had 530.40 training hours in November. The year-to-date training hours through November was 5,930.81.

There were 10 city fire investigations and four county fire investigations through November.

Sidney Police Chief Will Balling said he is compiling a map showing where the top 10 locations were for crashes in 2017. Once the list is compiled, officers will be using extra patrols of the areas to try to reduce the number of crashes. He said a press release will be given to the media telling the residents were the extra patrols will be held.

“Distracted driving is causing some of the accidents,” said Balling. “We’re not trying to get our numbers up or increase citations. We want to prevent crashes.”

Balling said a traffic safety committee was held after the investigation of a fatal crash by Wilson Health was completed. They looked at the design of the intersection to see if the crash could have been prevented.

“Alcohol was the main reason for the crash,” said Balling. “We did move he location of the stop sign and a fence was taken down for more visibility at the intersection. This was the first time I was involved with a review of a fatality like that.”

Both Balling and Jones said the opioid issue has changed over the course of the year in 2017.

“The first four or five months of 2017, the number of overdoses went through the roof,” said Balling. “The last seven months there have been less overdoses.”

He said he doesn’t know how many private citizens might have used Narcan on someone who was overdosing.

Jones said in 2017, 306 doses of Narcan was administered by medics. There were 144 incidents with 147 patients. In December 2017, there were six incidents, six patients and 11 doses administered.

In 2017, there were a total of 147 patients with 123 being unique or new patients, said Jones. Twenty-four of those treated more than once during the year.

Balling said the Good Samaritan Law has changed how law enforcement can charge people who overdose. The first and second time they are allowed to get treatment with no charges. The third time, charges are filed. However, said Jones, there’s no way of know if a person overdoses outside of Shelby County in addition to the times they are treated in the county.

The committee learned the traffic lights on state Route 29 at the entrance and exit ramps have been installed and have been flashing yellow/red lights for a week. Lights should be activated Tuesday or Wednesday.

The committee’s next meeting will be Tuesday, April 17, at 8:30 a.m. at the Sidney Fire Department.

By Melanie Speicher


Reach the writer at 937-538-4822.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4822.