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Spin Control

Check your ticket, check the date

Folks at the recently established Spokane Municipal Court report a slight problem with defendants not showing up for their preliminary hearing, and then saying they didn't know when it was scheduled.

The thing is, the date is scheduled when the police officer writes out the citation and hands it to someone for an alleged misdemeanor infraction. It's even labelled pretty plainly as APPEARANCE DATE. Not much chance for having this one overturned by the Appeals Court for lack of clarity.

This is a switch from the old way of doing things with County District Court, in which the officer would hand the citation without a date, leaving the pre-printed message of "Within 15 days" in the appearance date slot and an admonition to call the court to set up a date. The number was on the back.

City cops, who now fill in a court date in an effort to speed up the process, have been instructed to change the routine and tell the citation recipient that the date is right there on the ticket. They have to fill in the box right below it, so chances are, they're being pretty good about it.

Still, people miss their scheduled court dates, which can result in a bench warrant being issued, or show up later and say they didn't know they had a date.

Court Administrator Cindy Marshall said they aren't sure how many of the defendants are offering the Muni Court version of "the dog ate my homework" excuse. It's not a large number saying they didn't know, but since the court is just starting up with new procedures, they thought mentioning it would be a good idea.

So here's a Spin Control word to the wise: If you get a citation in the city, read it. Read the whole thing. Then put your appearance date on your wall calendar, Day Planner, PDA and a Post-it Note on your computer monitor.

And go.

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The Spokesman-Review's political team keeps a critical eye on local, state and national politics.