Adopting an idea developed in San Diego, Pinellas County, Fla., has unveiled its version of homeless court to deal with a growing number of petty charges faced by indigent defendants, reports the National Association of Counties. Pinellas is offering homeless defendants a monthly opportunity to resolve standing misdemeanor and public nuisance crimes. Defendants can resolve their petty crimes quickly, with the aid of pro bono attorneys, and may often substitute community service or participation in job training programs in lieu of payment.
The courts are held on Saturdays in non-traditional locations, including the St. Petersburg Coliseum and the Salvation Army Red Shield Lodge. The informal settings are chosen to be convenient to the homeless population and to partially suspend the formality of the court environment, Pinellas County Judge James Pierce said. Although these misdemeanors and ordinance violations did not merit jail time, the defendants' failure to show up for court to pay fines resulted in warrants.