Smoky Mountain News, Administration
District Attorney Ashley Hornsby Welch said Tuesday the judicial system remains open for business with measures in place to counter the coronavirus pandemic.
“The health and well-being of employees and community members we serve is a top priority,” said Welch, who oversees the 43rdProsecutorial District, made up of the state’s seven westernmost counties.
“Our office is working with others in the court system, including judges, clerks of court, defense attorneys and local law enforcement, to strike a balance between the needs of public health and public safety, while providing constitutional due-process rights as guaranteed under the constitution.”
Law enforcement officers continue to arrest offenders, including domestic-violence suspects, people who drive while impaired and others who commit criminal misdeeds. The District Attorney’s Office continues to process these cases. Welch emphasized anyone who violates Gov. Roy Cooper’s stay-at-home order or who ignores locally enacted ordinances could face criminal charges.
“If law enforcement takes action, my office will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law,” she said. “People need to understand these regulations are in place for the good of all, to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
Earlier this month, N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley issued a set of emergency directives. Her orders to the judicial system included postponing most cases in Superior and District courts. She also instructed local officials to limit the risk of coronavirus exposure in courthouses.
Welch said members of the District Attorney’s Office are deemed essential employees. To limit the potential for coronavirus exposure, administrative staff members are working different shifts districtwide. This both provides protection and allows all seven county offices to stay open, with a staff member in each office available during business hours.
Otherwise, to the extent possible, she and her 31-member staff are working remotely from their homes.
Welch also said:
- Though still operational, the District Attorney’s Office is closed to members of the public.
- Don’t worry about speeding tickets or other citations if you have a court date. These infractions are being continued to future dates. If you have an attorney, contact them. If you want to know the continued date, then call the Clerk of Court’s office in your county.
- Victims of crimes who have questions about open cases can call the District Attorney’s office in their respective county and leave a message. These messages will be returned as promptly as possible.
- www.nccourts.gov/services is available for handling some court business, including citation services, paying your ticket, court payments, signing up for court-date notifications and reminders and eFiling court documents for certain courts and case types.