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On Your Side: Some defendants blame COVID-19 on why they can’t show up in court

Published: Sep. 24, 2020 at 5:28 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 24, 2020 at 6:41 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) -It’s a tough problem for judges. They must figure out how to tell when a person is lying. Some people have ‘a new one’ during this pandemic.

Ashley Reynolds follows several court cases and noticed this on a docket. It reads: Defendant called and stated he is sick and headed to the doctor for a corona test. Clerk told him to fax a confirmation from doctor office.

Is this happening a lot? We asked a few judges.

Judge Robert George in Lawrence County says he does his best to evaluate the defendant’s history.

“We look at how many times a person has been in court before. I look back and see if there’s been a request for continuance and nature of the request,” he said.

Judges in four counties tell On Your Side, they require proof of a COVID-19 test or a doctor’s note. Clerks say they don’t need test results, just proof it happened.

“If they don’t come the next time, they’re likely to get to a mandated invitation,” said Judge Laura Johnson in Christian County.

Judge Johnson says a mandated invitation works well.

“I have actually found that the arrest warrant is really almost a 100 percent cure for COVID symptoms. When someone is threatened with an arrest warrant it’s miraculous how quickly those COVID-like symptoms can clear up,” said Judge Johnson.

Another thing judges are doing when a defendant says they’re sick, they ask them to stay in their car in the courthouse parking lot. Most can conduct the hearing over a cell phone.

If you have an upcoming court date and believe you’re getting sick, call the day before and see if a virtual hearing is an option.

Judges appreciate the notice especially if they have a heavy docket and will try to accommodate.

Copyright 2020 KY3. All rights reserved.

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