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Failure to Show Up for Court Not Uncommon

By Joe Burns
Published On: May 22 2012 06:26:08 AM CDT
Updated On: May 22 2012 10:40:22 AM CDT
BEND, Ore. -

It was another setback for the case against embattled real estate broker Tami Sawyer on Monday, when her defense attorney filed a motion saying he'd forgotten to keep track of the court date for a plea hearing that day..

But failing to appear in court is not too uncommon for the court system.

Failure to appear for court happens more than it should, court officials told NewsChannel 21 on Tuesday.

There are two categories: those who intentionally miss their court date (people who don't desire to show up in court) and those who mistakenly do so (people don't have notice of the date, medical emergency, car broke down), like Sawyer's lawyer claims.

"Defense attorneys and prosecutors make mistakes occasionally," Crook County District Attorney Daina Vitolins said.

When Tami Sawyer failed to appear in court Monday, it was unintentional, according to her defense attorney, Marc Blackman.

In a motion seeking a new hearing, now set for Thursday morning, Blackman said he and Sawyer did not know about the plea hearing until the prosecutor called him to say they missed it.

Vitolins says attorneys mistaking the date does happen, but it's a very rare occasion.

"They forget to notify a victim about a court date, or the defense attorney forgets to notify their client," Vitolins said.

Sawyer isn't the only one to miss a court date though: Deschutes County Circuit Judge Alta Brady says it happens daily.

"Part of that is just the sheer volume of criminal cases we handle," Brady said.

While it doesn't happen nearly as often in Crook County, they still have their fair share. Vitolins says she estimates about two people a week.

"It is a problem, because we use resources that we could otherwise use for other cases," Vitolins said.

The situation involves more than just the person involved in the case. It also affects the court staff, the judge and the defense attorney.

"Each time we put a file on the docket, it takes staff time, it takes court time to add that to the docket and have another hearing on the matter," Brady said.

And it also affects you, the taxpayer.

"If someone is actually is in remand and unable to post bail, of course, there is some cost to the taxpayer, because that person is remaining in jail, and the taxpayers pay for that," Brady said.

Another problem for people in Crook County: They don't have enough jail space in order to hold the defendants.

"(Because of) our limited jail beds, we can't hold them, and they tend to fail to appear again," Vitolins said. "So it's an ongoing problem."

The issue is one Vitolins says just doesn't make sense.

"I really don't understand, if an individual is in court and they hear that they need to come to the next court date, (and they don't come), it just adds trouble to them and their case," Vitolins said.

Brady said the solution is simple: People should just keep track of the date. The judge said doing so is certainly a lot better for everyone involved.

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