Why is it that people fail to appear for court dates? I just don’t get it.
Every day online we publish mug shots of those arrested (but not found guilty) of a variety of crimes, misdeeds or foulups in the community. Every day a substantial number are those arrested for being cited for “failure to appear.” I mean, it seems simple enough really. The date to be in court is issued and then it’s followed. I know people forget or perhaps think it’ll go away. Some may have been misinformed by an attorney or there is some confusion from botched communication. But quite a few probably just decide not to go.
It always reminds me of a young reporter who worked for me in Jacksonville. He was a nice kid (now an adult) but responsbility wasn’t a passion. One day he didn’t show up for work. In our business it happens from time to time. Usually someone had a little too much fun the night before and overslept. A call will often fix it. This time, it didn’t.
I got his spouse on the phone and she was frantic. She said her husband had simply disappeared. She was in the bathroom that morning and when she came out, he was no longer at home — but his car was in the parking lot. She thought he might have been abuducted by politicians he had angered or perhaps space aliens. Sometimes I realize the difference between the two is difficult to determine.
Anyway, she was mulling a call to law enforcement.
An hour or so later he bounced into the office. As it turns out, he had simply forgotten about a court date on a traffic matter and in essence blew off his court appearance. Bad move. The cops knocked on his door that morning and took him away. The reporter, though, neglected to tell his wife what had happened. He just left with the officers without a word.
“You better call home right now,” I told him when he finally got to the office.
I bring all this up because we got a couple of tips over the weekend and into this week that someone in the community had been taken into custody by police. Michael Graves, who heads an organization called Concerned Citizens of Alamance County was apparently taken from his home on Friday. Graves makes waves in the political arena every so often and has run for city office — but never held one. So we checked it out to see what was what.
It turned out to be a failure to appear in court on a charge we had already written about– I think one of four failures to appear that day if the online mugshots can be believed.
Graves has his critics — doesn’t pretty much everyone who offers an opinion publicly in the newspaper or in public settings — and they were quick to let us know about his latest legal entanglements. But a failure to appear doesn’t rise to the level of something we publish in the print Times-News on a regular basis– unless it comes with a more substantial charge or the person involved is a pretty major public presence. Would have to be someone actually elected to a big office in the community or a figure high up in the public sector like a city or county manager or court official. And even then we would have a pretty long discussion about it before making a decision.
By coincidence, Graves contacted me on Saturday to let me know he sees no reason for the Times-News to publish stories when our reporters, writers, etc. are charged with minor crimes in the community. We had an incident like that last week. I told him it’s because we cover people who make similar mistakes and we would be hyporcrites not to hold ourselves to the same standard. We do try to be consistent.
So for the record, we probably wouldn’t print a failure to appear even if it were someone who works for the Times-News unless it came with another charge. As for that reporter long ago in Jacksonville? Well, his failure to appear didn’t make the newspaper.
But he had explaining to do when he got home.