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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Monett Municipal Court remains busy

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Monett Municipal Court had one of its busiest years in 2011, according to the annual report issued by Mechele Tharp, municipal court clerk. The total number of cases was nearly the same as in 2010, but Judge Michael D. Garrett resolved 7 percent more cases and included fines paid by almost 9 percent.

The city court saw 2,095 cases entered in 2011, up 13 from the previous year. The number of cases dismissed was 134, down one from 2010. Most of the cases going before the court were traffic issues, but notable increases showed up in the more severe offenses. Police requested 575 warrants, up 44 from 2010.

The most non-traffic cases fell under the category of assaults. There were 70 domestic assaults in 2011, down four from 2010. For the second year, the tally has been at least 70. Prior to Police Chief Tim Schweder reassessing how assault cases were classified, totals ran in the 40s in 2008 and 2009.

Third degree assaults totaled 34 in 2011, the same as in 2010. There were five assaults on police officers in 2011, the most since 2007.

Stealing cases rose to 112, the highest total in more than a decade. Prior to 2007, the court handled between 55 and 66 stealing cases a year. The total jumped to 82 in 2010.

Possession of drug paraphernalia, which hit a 10-year high of 42 in 2007, had 24 cases in 2011, close to an average for the last three years. Possession of marijuana is at a five-year low at 11, down one from 2010. Possession of an open container of alcohol, which hit a high of 70 in 1999, has steadily fallen for the last four years. The 12 cases in 2011 was almost half the number from 2010.

Major non-traffic related cases follow, with a comparison to 2010 in parentheses:

* Affray (fighting), 2 (same).

* Animal abuse/neglect, 9 (+7).

* Barking dogs, 4 (same).

* Dog at large, 17 (-12).

* Owner of a dangerous animal, 3 (same).

* Contributing to the delinquency of a minor, 2 (+2).

* Property damage, 24 (+9).

* Property defaced with graffiti, 6 (+6).

* Property maintenance code violation, 13 (-14).

* Furnishing alcohol to a minor, 2 (-4).

* Harassment, 1 (-1).

* Littering, 8 (+5).

* Minor in possession of alcohol, 22 (+5).

* Obstructing a police officer, 8 (+3).

* Filed a false police report, 2 (-1).

* Operating a business without a license, 12 (+7).

* Receiving stolen property, 3 (+1).

* Resisting arrest, 9 (+6).

* Disorderly conduct, 6 (-7).

* Trespassing, 15 (+3).

* Unlawful use of a weapon, 4 (+3).

Traffic cases saw some of the highest numbers in recent years. Total speeding tickets were 371, down 11 from 2010, but the second highest total since 1998.

Driving while intoxicated cases, which had dropped in half from a high of 103 in 1999 to 52 in 2010, swung up sharply to 76, the biggest increase in any category.

Failure to provide proof of insurance hit an all-time high of 427 cases, up 13 from last year. Prior to 2007, no insurance cases numbered near 100 or less most years, hitting a high of 182 in 2002.

Judge Garrett has continued his practice of placing persons without insurance on probation with a suspended imposition of sentence to push drivers to get insurance. There were 460 suspended sentences in 2011, down 12 from the previous year. Prior to 2009, less than 100 suspended sentences were granted in a year.

Preventative measures seem to be paying off elsewhere. Cases of no valid driver's license hit a five-year low at 125, down four from 2010. Cases of driving with a suspended license hit the lowest point in five years with 50 cases, down seven from 2010. The one case of excessive window tinting in 2011 was the first in two years.

Other major traffic-related cases in 2011 follow:

* Failure to register, 268 (+!$).

* Failure to stop, 105 (-12).

* Failure to yield, 13 (-7).

* Following too close, 28 (-7).

* Careless and imprudent driving 20 (+4).

* Child restraint violation, 11 (-15).

* Displaying plates belonging to another, 18 (-6).

* Leaving the scene of an accident, 11(-1).

* No license of person, 44 (-2).

* Possession of an open container of alcohol, 12 (-11).

* Seat belt violation, 27 (+14).

The court collected $143,859.49 in fines in 2011, for a five-year average of $153,000. Prior to that, the court typically collected less than $100,000 a year.

The court collected $20,078 in costs, the highest amount since 1999. Fees collected for various funds to reimburse the city for police activities, from warrant fees and recoupment of jail costs, topped $30,000.

Victims received an additional $4,433.42 in restitution, the lowest amount collected in five years. The court collected and sent almost $13,000 to the Department of Revenue's Crime Victims Compensation (CVC) fund. Victims of violent crime and property damage can file for compensation if they meet certain criteria.

Municipal Court Clerk Mechele Tharp said her work has increased with more state requirements on tracking cases. The state is collecting more statistics on cases moving through the courts, resulting in more detailed reports.

Court sessions typically start at 4 p.m. on Tuesdays. Tharp said Garrett often comes in early to move the process along. Sessions generally last from two to three hours.

"With Lieutenant Greg Brandsma serving as bailiff, Prosecutor Amy Boxx and I have worked long enough with the judge that with the four of us, court seems to be very smooth," Tharp said.

"The facility at the Justice Center affords us the opportunity to work as quickly as we possibly can," Tharp said. "In the 14 years I've worked as clerk, it's the best I've ever seen. We're extremely grateful to the community for allowing us to have a facility like this."



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