In an email response from Marshall County Sheriff Matt Hassel last week about the outbreak of COVID-19 in the jail, he stated, “I have also met with the Prosecutor to see if we could implement a procedure that if a person is brought to jail for a minor misdemeanor charge we could have them sign a promise to appear and release them.”
In an email response from County Prosecutor Nelson Chipman he said, “I did not speak with the Sheriff.” The Prosecutor went on to say, “We are always in contact with the Sheriff’s Department. We have communicated to the Sheriff there are certain misdemeanor offenses such as Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated, or Domestic Battery cases, that by statute require immediate incarceration because of the inherent risks of further harm if the law was not followed and the person not at least temporarily detained. The safety of the public and specific victims is of paramount concern to this office; always has been, always will. Pretrial detention is but one tool.”
Chipman continued, “Otherwise, most misdemeanors can be handled with promises to appear or simply the issuance of summons requiring court appearance. That part of the system is not new, by a long shot. We have been closely monitoring jail bookings for over a year now with the objective of maintaining a jail population that is not conducive to overcrowding. We will continue that vigilance despite all that the virus throws at us.
When asked if there was a listing of offenses that would qualify for a ‘Promise to Appear’ the Prosecutor said, “There is no list of offenses. It is common sense of what warrants jail and what does not.”