A temporary order issued by Judge Robert Rettich III also postpones or modifies many court proceedings while keeping courtrooms open and public. FILE

Court changes include releasing inmates at high risk for coronavirus

Miamisburg Municipal Court has made numerous changes as part of an emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including releasing incarcerated defendants deemed high risk for the virus.

A temporary order issued by Judge Robert Rettich III also postpones or modifies many proceedings while keeping courtrooms open and public.

The move was not prompted by any suspected or confirmed cases, according to Clerk of Courts Amanda Zennie.

The order is “in the interest of the health, welfare, and safety of the general public, and of this court employees” based the recommendation of the Ohio Department of Health, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Supreme Court, records state.

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The state on Sunday issued a stay-at-home — or shelter-in-place — order for all Ohioans that went into effect Tuesday.

Miamisburg Municipal Court covers Germantown, German Twp., Miami Twp., Miamisburg and West Carrollton.

Court officials said they did not have any specific count of the number of defendants released because “jail numbers are very fluid. Defendants are in and out every day.”

The court “has attempted to release all incarcerated defendants charged with or convicted of misdemeanor offenses if they are high-risk for contracting the COVID-19 virus and low risk for harm or danger to the public or themselves,” the order states.

Incarcerated defendants are housed at the Montgomery County Jail, Zennie said.

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Rettich said Tuesday, “We have tried to release as many defendant’s into drug and alcohol treatment, electronic home monitoring, and some with time served.”

He said, “I feel it is in the public’s best interest to release non-dangerous offenders currently under these circumstances….We have been able to maintain a functioning court while following the governor’s orders.”

The court has ordered “comprehensive sanitation and cleaning of the courtroom, clerk’s office, probation department, and civil department,” according to the order.

Hand sanitizer has been stationed by the defendant’s podium and clerk workstations, it states.

“The court has urged all litigants to practice social distancing and limited the number of persons in the courtroom at one time to protect the public health,” according to the order.

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Other changes, according to the order, include:

• Court asks that police agencies issue a summons or citation in lieu of arrest to any person that displays symptoms of the COVID-19 virus or is visibly ill.

•The court has been screening employees daily for fever, visible symptoms, and possible illness.

•When possible, the court will conduct all hearings of defendants incarcerated in the county jail by video.

•The court discourages the use of arrest warrants and will continue hearings if possible, taking into consideration the seriousness of the alleged offense and the level of compliance of the defendant.

•Most civil hearings, evictions, and small claims trials will be postponed until after April 20.

•Trials for misdemeanor offenses shall, when necessary, be rescheduled until after April 20.

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