General Sessions Court judges said they are cracking down on defendants who fail to appear in court on assigned court dates.
A statistical study conducted by Judge Bob Moon found that there have been 7,367 new arrests, 8,736 misdemeanor citations (booked at the jail), and 1,491 traffic citations issued from January 1 through May 4 of this year. The study also indicated that there have been 2,062 people who have failed to show in court during the same period, and that 240 of the “no shows” have been re-arrested.
Judge Moon said, “There are over 10,000 outstanding arrest warrants currently unserved with many dating back for decades. A large number of those outstanding warrants were issued against people who failed to appear in court. They have never been brought to trial.
"The recent and ongoing crime sweeps conducted by Sheriff Billy Long and Chief Freeman Cooper are productive measures resulting in the finding and incarceration of several of these defendants.“
Judge David Bales stated, “Any person who fails to appear in court without a justifiable reason is subject to 11 months and 29 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. Failure to appear in court is a Class A misdemeanor. Too many times the reason given by defendants for their failure to appear is simply, 'I forgot.' Judges routinely triple a defendant’s bond or issue a capias for their arrests when they fail to show. Since the bonds are then very high, most defendants cannot make the bond and they remain in jail sometimes for weeks contributing to the jail overcrowding problem.”
Judge Clarence Shattuck said he often takes into account the time that a defendant spends in jail, unable to make the new bond, in sentencing. He also suggested that the state witness warrants for witnesses who fail to show might also be resurrected.
Judge Moon said, “Too many people who have been arrested, cited or are under subpoena are simply failing to appear in court. When defendants fail to appear, it is problematical for witnesses and victims who have taken off from work, paid to park and who have had to make arrangements for their children. It is also extra work for court staff, clerks, attorneys and jail personnel. In the final analysis, it is the taxpayers who pay for the irresponsibility of every person who fails to appear in court.”
Judge Bales said, “When Judge Moon presented the numbers of new arrests and 'no shows' to us, it compelled us to review our policies and procedures on the matter. Most defendants in the past are given a free misdemeanor offense without consequences insofar as any new arrest warrants being issued for their failure to appear in court. However, new warrants of arrest potentially resulting in additional jail time in conjunction with increasing bonds on the original charges are a few of the options that we are considering. In any event, we intend to do all that we can do to reduce the problematical and costly effects of people who fail to appear in court.”