Each weekly docket for the Circuit Court includes a rather lengthy list of revocations. It lists name after name of individuals who have failed at their probation for one reason or another: another crime committed, failure to report to the probation office at the appointed time, use of alcohol or drugs or moving without permission.
Some individuals fail to remain free. Circuit court includes lining up two, five or more for an arraignment where each hears the charges against them. Charges include a litany of “you failed to report to your probation officer on …” and several dates are listed; “you have not reported since …” “You failed to pass a drug test, an alcohol test…” and a list of dates of failures follows. Delays to report will not hide compromising on the use of drugs or alcohol. Drug tests can be positive as a street drug for a legitimate prescription drugs. Only a legitimate prescription or pharmaceutical bottle will negate a positive test. Alcohol consumption can be found with a breathalyzer detects alcohol for up to 24 hours after, with urine tests for several days after even moderate consumption; and with a saliva test for up to 12 days after drinking.
The litany also may include “has not paid the probation fee, the court fees or restitution.” All the excuses in the world do not work for non-payment. The county has a list of options for participation in the work program to earn credit toward those fees: join work crew for the county or work with a volunteer group. Every hour must be documented. Lose that piece of paper and the accused may suffer violation of their probation.
The accused may get their probation revoked and find themselves starting all over again with a new five year probation. Judges may give three chances at probation by issuing a new probation, mandating up to 120 days in the county jail or a a lengthy stay at the Community Correction Center for increased opportunities to learn another way of life. All this may come before comes before the probationers choices result in sentencing to the Arkansas Department of Correction.
Plenty of opportunities exist to get through probation and have the record expunged. Still, some fail to comply and a few slip away from detection. The most recent circuit court dates included 11 pages of probation revocation with 14 to 15 names on each page of individuals with a pending revocation or a bench warrant out for their arrest for failure to appear in court. That’s about 160 names.
The names stay on the list for a very long, long time. Earlier this year, the oldest dated back to 1997. Several dated to 2002. But in time — in a very long time — those old charges will hit the statue of limitations. The court can no longer go after the person for failing to appear. Since the first of the year, several of the oldest cases have been reviewed. Whether the individual moved away, has kept a very low profile or simply stayed out of trouble, the time for a speedy trial has expired and the charges must be dismissed, dropped, nol prosse.
Attorneys attached to the cases, long ago completed their obligation. They notified their client of their failure to appear, tried and failed to make contact more than a dozen years ago. And so the deputy prosecutor needs to clear the docket and formally ask that the charges be dropped, the bench warrant withdrawn, the case nol prossed.
One individual had two pending charges for drugs. His bench warrant included a note “both cases ‘no bond even if on death bed.’” Apparently the individual could not be trusted to appear in court even if they paid a high bond. For sure he had not appeared since 2002.
And so the docket is cleared. The time to teach a lesson, to have the accused pay for their crime has passed. Perhaps they have gotten old enough to figure out how to make better choices. For a few once arrested, once on parole, without their knowledge, the charges have been dropped. They can quit looking over their shoulder and sliding quietly out of sight when a police car passes. They may never know it because once again they missed their final day in court. A day when they could have heard that its over, it is finally done and over. They truly are free to go.
Joan Hershberger is a staff writer for the El Dorado News-Times. She can be reached at email@example.com.