NEW PHILADELPHIA — Illegal drug use continues to fuel the bulk of criminal cases in Tuscarawas County Common Pleas Court, according to court officials.
The annual report from the court’s general division shows 396 felony filings in 2021.
“Many cases are either directly drug-related or what I would call drug-driven cases,” Judge Michael Ernest said. “They are crimes that are committed because someone was either under the influence of a controlled substance, was trying to acquire a controlled substance, didn’t have the means to buy other things because they used controlled substances.”
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The largest single category of cases is drug offenses, followed by theft, fraud, robbery and burglary, according to the report prepared by Court Administrator Elizabeth Stephenson. Domestic violence, assaults and protection order violations could also be driven by abuse of alcohol and other drugs, she said.
Overall criminal filings were lower in 2021 than in 2020, when the court logged 477 criminal cases. The year 2019 saw a historic high of 544 criminal filings. In 2018, there were 493 criminal filings, a dramatic increase from the 332 seen in 2017.
“These were in the low 300s for decades, and then suddenly in ’18, went crazy,” Stephenson said. She found it reassuring that they dropped in 2021.
Criminal cases made up roughly a third of all cases in the general division of common pleas court. The shares have equalized because the number of civil cases went down and criminal cases went up, Stephenson said. The number of civil filings dropped from elevated levels seen from 2007 though 2010, when foreclosures and collections cases rose during the Great Recession. Domestic relations accounted for 34% of filings in 2021.
Other highlights of the court report include:
• Mediation resulted in settlement of 82 percent of cases. The services is offered free of hourly charges, although there is a filing fee. Keeping those cases out of the courtroom allows criminal trials to go forward on time, Stephenson said.
• While the Ohio Supreme Court anticipates that up to 10% of a court’s cases at any time will be over time guidelines, 5.1% of the cases in the court’s general division were still active beyond time guidelines, which vary by case type.
• The average cost per case is $613.
• The average cost for an offender to spend six months in county jail is $14,684, but the average cost for offender to be monitored on probation by the Community Corrections Program is $1,171 for a year.
• More than 300 offenders were under Community Corrections supervision at the end of the year in 2021, 2020 and 2019. Community organizations offer treatment, counseling, and support groups for substance abuse and mental health needs. Job training and other forms of employment assistance are also available.
• Due to the state’s recent designation of substance abuse disorder as a disability, recovering addicts became eligible in 2021 for the same vocational training and job procurement assistance offered to other persons by Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, Stephenson said.
• Most court expenses, 83 percent, go toward personnel. Expenses are anticipated at approximately $1.6 million.
• Community Corrections received a total of $516,243 from grants and fees paid by probationers in 2021. A $486,535 appropriation is requested this year from county commissioners.
• The court collected $1,056,774 in restitution, $776,128 in court costs and $654,622 in child support. Community service hours totaled 97,577.