Horry County Courthouse to have drive-thru first appearances during COVID-19 closure

COVID-19 impacts on local court system

CONWAY, S.C. (WMBF) - The past year has seen the rise of the drive-thru. Whether it be COVID-19 testing, food distribution and even college applications.

Horry County’s judicial system will be the next to embrace a drive-thru setup.

The South Carolina Supreme Court ordered courts in the state to close again beginning last week.

Each month, Horry County does a “roll call” day, where non-serious offenders make their first appearances in court. While the next one is scheduled for Jan. 29, they can’t have them in the courtroom.

Fifteenth Circuit Court Solicitor Jimmy Richardson says a drive-thru is the most efficient way of getting these first appearances done.

He says they have nearly 1,000 warrants on the roll call day next week, which translates to somewhere between roughly 500 and 700 people that would normally show up for court.

Those that already have an attorney can handle their issues virtually, but those the court hasn’t been able to contact are expected to be at the courthouse.

Courthouse employees will provide them with documents and information to apply for a public defender because they can’t move the case forward without one.

All of that will be done through the window of their cars to keep them from having to come inside the courthouse.

Richardson is hoping drive-thru first appearances are a safe way to keep the judicial process moving.

“Every day people are getting arrested,” he said. “It doesn’t just stop with an arrest. We’ve got to follow through and figure out if there’s enough to go forward, and if there is, then we’ve got to do something with those cases.”

Richardson says they’ve been able to contact most of the people who are ordered to appear through their attorneys, mail and social media.

He is still expecting between up to 150 people to arrive next Friday for the drive-thru.

The Horry County Police Department will also assist in directing traffic in the area.

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