PUTNAM COUNTY — Spurred on by an increase in drug related arrests, nearly twice as many criminal cases were tried in Putnam County courts in 2018 as in 2017. The 134 criminal cases tried in 2018 — there were 69 in 2017 — also reflect a nearly 40 percent increase over an average of 85 cases per year brought before the court over the past six years.

“The biggest bulk was drug related,” Putnam County Common Pleas Court Judge Keith Schierloh said, commenting the drug related cases didn’t necessarily entail posession or distribution of illegal substances. “Obviously, there are cases that would ultimately deal with drugs as part of the offense: breaking-and-entering, thefts, things along those lines.”

While the number of cases dramatically increased, the vast majority, Schierloh said, were resolved without the need to convene a jury trial.

“A lot of these cases where (defendants) were found with either the drugs on them or using them, not a single one went to trial,” Schierloh said, adding the evidence gathered by law enforcement officers virtually dictated the outcome, an outcome recognized by defendants and their counsels resulting in guilty pleas.

From a financial perspective, as well as in terms of time and other assets spent, these pleas are a blessing. Jury trials are expensive endeavors. So, despite the number of cases brought before the court, Schierloh described any increased costs to the court as “minimal.” Which is not to say there have been no associated costs increases.

“Any type of increase (in costs) we would probably see as a county would probably be more on the jail end than any other aspect,” Schierloh said. “We’ve definitely utilized that jail a lot this year. Unfortunately, it’s there, and when we have individuals who find themselves going down that road, then they have to go there.”