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Ann Arbor police hold 'mobile arraignments' to help those without computers, smart phones avoid jail

Posted at 9:53 PM, Nov 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-10 21:53:03-05

ANN ARBOR (WXYZ) — Connecting with others for school or work using Zoom and other internet-based platforms has almost become the norm for a lot of people during the pandemic.

But there are people, including those who live on the street or in shelters, who don't have easy access to computers or smart phones and that can complicate the need to do a number of things, including appearing in court for a simple ticket.

That's when Ann Arbor police officers Jim Anuszkiewicz and Kory Petterle came up with the idea of "mobile arraignments" to bring court to people so they don't become overwhelmed with fines and fear of a bench warrant.

Along with the help of Magistrate Tamara Garwood of the 15th District court, and the support of police administration, the officers have been able to connect people from picnic tables around downtown Ann Arbor to the court with the use of iPads.

"I think the first arraignment that the officers did was via their own cell phones," said Lt. Mike Scherba, adding that the officers now have printers on location so once the arraignment is complete, they can print documents out with details on the next court date.

"It's the population that's living on the streets. The population that doesn't have access to technology or limited access to technology in this pandemic. Right now, it's difficult for them to take care of these open cases," Lt. Scherba said.

The mobile arraignments are only designed to handle simple, non-violent offenses, such as trespassing and open intoxicants, but they can help people clear up warrants that would otherwise have them spending a night or weekend in jail.

The creative way of helping citizens even caught the attention of Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack who tweeted: The disruption we needed. Thank you @A2Police for increasing access to justice. We are going to come out of this with a more transparent, efficient and accessible justice system.