Court statistics for 2020 confirm a lot of what we suspected about that Covid-ravaged year.
We were out and about less and we worked harder to keep our families going.
The number of motor vehicle complaints handled in Hampshire County’s magistrate court plummeted 41% in 2020 from the year earlier. The complaints include everything from speeding to driving uninsured or on a revoked license to DUI.
Hampshire’s 2 magistrates heard 863 such cases in 2019, but only 509 last year.
“It has everything to do with covid,” Magistrate John Rohrbaugh said.
He pointed out that as the pandemic set in, “law enforcement backed way off making any traffic stops unless it was a serious offense.”
Part of the backing off was because the Department of Motor Vehicles extended deadlines for vehicle registrations and inspections as well as renewing driver’s licenses.
“People were having a tough time getting their registration,” Rohrbaugh noted.
Other signs that we were staying home and minding our own business:
• Worthless check cases fell more than motor vehicle cases did in magistrate court, by 45% from 48 to 26.
• Small claims cases fell 28%, from 490 to 353.
“Some of that was attributed to the CDC put that restriction on landlords being able to evict,” Rohrbaugh said, “so there were landlords that did not pursue eviction.”
That restriction expires on June 30.
On the domestic front, though, numbers tell a similar story about existing so closely amid the pandemic.
Divorce cases dropped by 31%, from 122 to 93. Domestic violence cases and other domestic cases in family court also declined from 2019 to 2020.
“That surprised me,” Rohrbaugh said, “with people living so close together.”
He noted that requests for protective orders in magistrate court — the 1st step before domestic abuse cases are heard in family court — declined.
The magistrate issued fewer emergency protective orders, 70 last year as compared to 87 the year before.
But abuse and neglect cases involving juveniles and handled at the circuit court level jumped from 68 in 2019 to 89 last year, a 23% increase. Juvenile delinquency cases there ticked up slightly, from 19 to 22.
Criminal cases in circuit court remained even at 119 in both years.