Facing a backlog of court cases and derailed procedures due to the pandemic, the 18th Judicial District is holding its second Second Chances event in Douglas County on May 7.
Second Chances is a program to help people with warrants for traffic offenses, misdemeanors, small drug possession and low level felony charges resume delayed court proceedings or resolve their case without the fear of being arrested.
The next Second Chances event will be 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 7 in conference room one at the Douglas County Fairgrounds Events Center in Castle Rock.
District Attorney John Kellner said the program came about as a way to maximize resources for everyone involved. The first ever event took place on Feb. 12 in Arapahoe County.
“The success up in Arapahoe made us want to expand this out to Douglas County and make sure we’re providing the same access to resources across the entire district,” Kellner said.
February’s event was more successful than expected, Kellner said, especially considering the initial hesitancy from people who thought the event was a trap.
“We weren’t sure how it was going to go,” he said. “The public defender’s office got a lot of calls asking if it was real and it is real. For those that are willing to get themselves back on track, we want to help get that done.”
A total of 91 people were assisted in clearing 101 warrants, including an 11-year-old warrant, according to Kellner.
Resolving warrants is a benefit to both sides, Kellner said, citing the time, effort and resources saved just on behalf of police for each warrant addressed. The Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office estimated each warrant would have cost two hours to make the arrest, four hours to book the person into jail and $128 for a one-night jail stay.
“That’s anywhere from four to six hours of somebody’s time that could be devoted to handling much more serious criminal offenses,” Kellner said.
On the day of the event, court staff checked people in to ensure their eligibility, turning away those that aren’t. People with assault, domestic violence, child abuse, unlawful sexual contact charges or a Victim’s Rights Act case are not eligible to participate in the Second Chances program.
Attorneys from both the public defender’s office and the district attorney’s office made themselves available to talk through potential case outcomes with each person before going in front of a judge to move the case along or receive a sentence.
Aside from restitution or court fees associated with a case, there is no cost to participate in Second Chances.
Additionally, local nonprofit partners were on-site to provide assistance with mental health, substance use, housing and financial help.
“Now that we’ve got the template and have found it to be successful, we anticipate continuing to do it,” Kellner said.
The May 7 event will look similar to the one in Arapahoe and Kellner hopes to see even more people turn out.
For more information, call the Douglas County Public Defender’s Office at 303-688-3081.