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No-shows for Hancock County court dates may face added charges

GREENFIELD, Ind. (WISH) — The Hancock County prosecutor says he’s going to start cracking down on people who fail to show up to court.

Prosecutor Brent Eaton announced Monday that no-shows will be criminally charged.

He says more people are failing to show up now than before the COVID-19 pandemic, and that it’s delaying cases. So now, when a person doesn’t appear in court, an arrest warrant will be issued.

A person who intentionally fails to appear in court could face an additional misdemeanor or felony charge depending on the case before the court, Eaton says.

News release

Hancock County, Indiana (March 13, 2023) – The Covid-19 pandemic changed the way the court system operated in Indiana. In-person Court appearances frequently changed to Zoom sessions or participation by telephone. Hancock County Prosecutor Brent Eaton said, ‘We were among the very few jurisdictions in the country that never closed operations during that time. We always kept things moving. Thanks to technology and dedication of our Courts and Deputy Prosecutors, we were able to keep the justice system operating every single day.’

“During that time Defendants who had been in the habit of appearing in Court for hearings became accustomed to being able to do so remotely, or not at all. It has also been common for defendants to cite health conditions as a reason for missing court without providing documentation. As a result, more defendants are missing Court than had been the case prior to the pandemic. ‘This is an area that hasn’t returned to a pre-pandemic normal,’ said Prosecutor Eaton. ‘“’When people don’t show up for their court appearance, it delays case resolution and accountability.’”’ He added, ‘“’Unfortunately justice delayed is frequently justice denied’.

“Typically, when a defendant is ordered to appear in Court and fails to do so a warrant is issued for their arrest. The warrant gives law enforcement the power to arrest that person, but it does not carry with it any additional criminal penalty. ‘When someone fails to appear and is subsequently picked up on a warrant the criminal case usually starts back up again more or less where it had been before. Usually there is no additional penalty for the defendant for having failed to appear after they get arrested again.’” ‘ Eaton said. ‘This is going to change in Hancock County.’

“Pursuant to IC 35-44.1-2-9 A person who, having been released from lawful detention on condition that the person appear at a specified time and place in connection with a charge of a crime, intentionally fails to appear at that time and place can be charged with a crime. If the pending case is a misdemeanor the person can be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor and if the pending case is a felony they can be charged with a Level 6 Felony. IC 35-44.1-2-10 provides the authority to charge defendants with a Class C Misdemeanor for failing to appear after being issued a summons. ‘We intend to begin using these statutes to charge defendants criminally, in addition to asking for an arrest warrant for having failed to appear on their pending case.’ Eaton said.

“Eaton said, ‘“’It is important for defendants to appear in Court when ordered to do so. We will be pursuing charges more aggressively for people who fail to appear in Hancock County. I am hopeful that this message gets across to people who may have cases pending now or in the future and that they will consistently appear in Court as ordered’. He added, ‘“’I am hopeful that a greater awareness of the potential consequences for failing to appear will prevent people from doing so in the future. It would be great if attention to this would result in everyone being at Court as ordered and we never had to file a case of this type moving forward. I really hope that can be the outcome, but we are ready to proceed if necessary.’”

Provided by Parker Armstrong, Parker Public Affairs LLC