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Municipal court to begin an hour earlier

To help alleviate a growing docket, the Oxford Municipal Court will start an hour earlier on Wednesdays.

During a recent budget hearing, the Oxford Board of Aldermen met with Judge Larry Little, Prosecutor Jay Chain and Court Clerk Donna Fisher to discuss ways to help the court manage the busy docket.

One idea was to add an additional day of court. Currently, court is held on Wednesdays, starting at 10 a.m.

Little said he didn’t feel that was warranted at this time; however, he feels starting court an hour earlier would help Fisher and her staff, as recent changes to DUI laws have added additional paperwork.

Staring in October, DUI first offenders can have their charge nonadjudicated and deleted from their record if they follow the new requirements.

“A DUI used to stay on your record for five years,” Little said. “Your insurance went up. Your license was automatically suspended.”

The harsh penalties made more people try to fight the charge, which resulted in many trials.

If defendants plead guilty and agrees to put an interlock device on their vehicle for 120 days, they do not lose their license; however, it’s restricted. They will still have to pay fines and go to alcohol education classes.

The ignition interlock device requires drivers to blow into a machine that will measure their blood alcohol content before the ignition turns over. If it’s too high, the car will not start. The information is downloaded into the machine that is evaluated every 30 days. Many judges are requiring the device to have a camera as well to make sure the person blowing into the machine is, in fact, the defendant.

Little suggested they start court an hour earlier for six months and see if it’s helping. One way is to start moving trials where the officer is required to attend from the afternoon docket up to the morning docket.

Fisher said her office is also researching new software that will link their system with the Oxford Police Department.

“We can get things processed quicker being able to import some of the information they have,” she said.

The aldermen approved spending money from the court’s fines to build out Fisher’s office to include space currently used as a meeting area to give the municipal court more room.