Cost to county taxpayers when court defendents fail to appear: some $1 million

It costs Linn County taxpayers about $1,000 every time someone charged with a crime fails to appear in court, according to District Attorney Doug Marteeny.
And last year, that happened 949 times. It is the No. 1 issue on the Top 10 list of misdemeanors handled by the Linn County District Attorney’s Office.
“The number of people who fail to appear for court has risen drastically,” Marteeny said. “It is the highest I have ever seen. Once we get defendants to jail, they appear in court at a much higher rate.  Jail space and court docket speed are important factors that prevent a defendant from failing to appear multiple times.”
Marteeny added, “Although both of those factors were affected by COVID this past year, it appears that defendants themselves are taking advantage of existent limitations.”
Marteeny said that when a person fails to appear, court officials draft and issue a warrant, which is executed by law enforcement partners.
“Those partners have to contact, arrest, transport and re-book the defendants,” Marteeny said. “And then, judges have to set bail amounts.”
All of that takes time and valuable resources, Marteeny said.

Doug Marteeny

Marteeny said that in addition to failure to appear cases, the Top 10 misdemeanors were: DUII, 360; possession of methamphetamine, 337; reckless driving, 285; second-degree criminal trespass, 138; fourth-degree assault; reckless endangering, 132; possession of heroin, 121; harassment, 107; and second-degree criminal mischief, 102.
Possession of methamphetamines again leads the list of Top 10 felonies with 301 cases. Although that is far less than the 652 cases in 2015, Marteeny said that possession of methamphetamines was reduced to a misdemeanor in many cases in late 2017.
There were 162 first-degree theft cases, 109 cases of identity theft, 101 cases of possession of heroin and 94 cases of felony failure to appear.
Other key felony numbers include 94 cases of unauthorized use of a vehicle, 77 cases of first-degree sexual abuse, 67 cases of felon in possession of a firearm, 64 cases of delivery of methamphetamine and 60 cases of strangulation.
“We served 1,822 unduplicated victims last year,” Marteeny said. “That’s up from 1,567 in 2019 and 1,573 in 2015.”
“In terms of assault-type crimes, it was the lowest level I have seen since becoming District Attorney in 2013.”
There were 99 burglary cases, up from 70 in 2019, but well below the 157 in 2014 and 144 in 2015.
Marteeny said more homeowners are installing home video systems.
Although the total number is low, Marteeny said public and private indecency crimes tripled last year — from 5 in 2019 to 15 in 2020 — and assaults against law enforcement officers increased significantly.
– Alex Paul, Linn County Communications Officer