Benton County hopes to cut down on missing defendants with new notification system
Criminal defendants in Benton County are now getting a reminder phone call or text about their upcoming court dates.
The new system works the same way a doctor’s office might remind patients about an upcoming visit. In this case, the first notice goes out two days before a court date. A second notice is sent on the day of the hearing itself.
Sergeant Keith Hunnemuller works in pretrial services for the Benton County Sheriff’s Office. He said not showing up can quickly complicate things for a defendant.
“A lot of times they just have really minor charges and if they’d just go to court and get it taken care of, it wouldn’t take that long," he said. "And when they start not showing up, it just drags out and they can actually get a failure to appear charge. And then it just kind of snowballs.”
The Benton County Sheriff’s Department says nearly one-third of the criminal charges its office issues each year are for failing to appear. Hunnemuller said he hopes the new system will reduce that amount