When COVID-19 hit, the courts shut down to minimize the spread of the virus. As the risk began to fade, the courts resumed a scaled-down operation, adjudicating those proceedings that could be handled via video conferencing.
Post-COVID, metro area courts are fully functioning again. However, a significant amount of cases await a system of already jammed dockets. Today, every effort is being made to expedite legal proceedings and shrink the pending caseload.
This lofty end goal is in jeopardy, however, as unprecedented Failure to Appear (FTA) rates plague every jurisdiction in the metro area. FTA is always a concern when there is a lag time between when defendants are charged and when they go to court but the longer the process takes, the higher the FTA risk.
However, the two-year lag many defendants experienced during COVID was unprecedented just as the FTA rate is now. While the courts were shut down, many defendants lost their jobs and relocated to find work. Others moved out of state when they could not pay for housing and almost no one, it seemed, thought to share their new addresses with the bail bond companies responsible for the freedom. Now, bench warrants are being issued to bring in the defendants who missed their court dates.
A 2nd Chance has worked to keep its defendant FTA rate low through a series of proactive systems and processes. For example, A 2nd Chance uses a comprehensive defendant tracking and communications system developed in-house to manage defendants’ personal information and legal calendars. In addition, A 2nd Chance maintains a dedicated defendant-following staff, who diligently make hundreds of calls and sends hundreds of texts each week to remind defendants of their pending court dates.
FTA rates can be a daunting management challenge. However, taking a proactive approach and helping defendants stay abreast of court dates helps the courts by minimizing the need to reschedule proceedings and issue bench warrants for those who are in absentia on the appointed day. Most of all, being ahead of the game allows defendants to conclude their legal business in a timely way and return to living their lives.