PRAIRIE GROVE -- Washington County District Court sessions in Prairie Grove, Farmington and Lincoln will be held in person for certain offenses, according to District Judge Graham Nations.
Nations, Division 2 district judge, sent out a three-page notice detailing temporary policies the courts will follow for the health and safety of the public amid the covid-19 pandemic.
For each case, only the defendant, parents of juvenile defendants, attorneys and court personnel will be allowed in the courtroom during the hearing. Others will wait in their vehicles.
Each defendant will be given a copy of this notice in the parking lot.
Defendants will be asked several questions related to covid-19 symptoms and concerns, and if they can answer yes to any of the questions, they'll be asked to notify the officer and have their case rescheduled.
All defendants will be required to wear a face mask when they enter the building. Masks will be available for anyone who does not have one.
In some cases, defendants don't have to see the judge. Defendants who are pleading not guilty can go to the court clerk's office.
Defendants are required to see a judge if they plan to plead guilty to domestic battery, driving while intoxicated or possession of a controlled substance.
Otherwise, if they plan to plead guilty to other offenses, they don't have to see the judge. They can plead guilty at the clerk's office, be sentenced to a set bond amount and set up a payment plan.
Defendants also can appear before the judge if they plan to plead guilty to other offenses and wish to address the court before sentencing.
Graham said any defendant can address the court if they are pleading guilty and want to discuss extenuating circumstances.
Rachel Guenther, chief court clerk for Prairie Grove District Court, said court will start at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday and begin with defendants with last names beginning with A-H. Sessions will be in 15-minute increments.
"This is our first time to do it this way so we're going to do our best to get everyone through," Guenther said.
Police will take the temperature of everyone entering the courtroom, Guenther said.
She said the court clerk's office has been open for defendants to come in to plead to a charge or make payments.
Nations holds court in Prairie Grove on Tuesdays. District Court in Lincoln is held the second and fourth Tuesdays. Farmington has court on Wednesdays.
Graham had his last court session in person March 3. Since then, he's had first appearances for defendants at the jail using the Zoom app. In other cases, the court has continued the dates for appearances.
NW News on 05/23/2020
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