Dog the Bounty Hunter is missing out on a perpetual revenue stream — right here in River City.

The cash cow I refer to is the preposterously high number of “Failure To Appear” names from Ashtabula Municipal Court, reported each Sunday in the Star Beacon. A recent Sunday’s tally was 14 adjudicated cases vs. 12 FTAs — for whom 17 arrest warrants were issued.  Checking past Sundays, this is no surprise. Sometimes the FTAs “win.

To clarify, these are not John Dillinger-caliber miscreants on the loose. Criminal cases heard in AMC are misdemeanor charges with a maximum jail time of one year, and/or $1,000 fine. Felony cases are filed there for probable cause hearings only. Since the DMV is notified when one fails to show for a scheduled court date, most procrastinators are eventually apprehended at a traffic stop, or later turn themselves in.

However, there’s still a big problem. There are a whole lot of locals thumbing noses at our legal system. In doing so they harm themselves financially by facing more fines and fees; their actions create more unnecessary work for an already overburdened court. The social cost is a footnote to our already suspect demographics that says, “Prospective Employers, not only are we not big on education, we don’t like to follow rules.”

Anyone examining AMC’s website, or its case database, can see that the judge and court officials are not to blame. They go out of their way to ensure defendants are treated fairly and given every possible advantage: public defender if indigent, alternative docket leading to rehab programs, easy pay plans.

What causes such large numbers of folks to ignore court dates? Do we have that many forgetful people in the Ashtabula area? Maybe the problem is not a wanton disregard of the law, but a strong fear and/or misunderstanding of the Ohio legal process.  If that’s the cause, then why not require those seeking new or renewed drivers licenses to attend a course explaining basic court processes, and the foolishness of Failure to Appear?

You may groan and say, “only for first-timers.” The average age, though, of the 12 FTAs from a recent Sunday paper was 35. These are not newcomers.

Jack Calaway

Geneva-on-the-Lake

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