A cell phone ringing in county court Thursday merited a contempt of court charge, the loss of the phone and a fine.Arthur Towne, 56, of North Platte, faced justice for driving under suspension and failure to appear. While waiting his turn in front of the judge, his cell phone issued a loud ringtone.
Even though phones are prohibited in court rooms. Lincoln County Judge Kent Turnbull stopped the proceeding and ordered him to go out in the hallway to shut off his phone.
Towne came back in a few minutes.
He took his turn in front of Turnbull. In the middle of the hearing, his phone rang again. That time Turnbull was less patient. He ordered Towne to turn his phone over to a Lincoln County Sheriff’s Deputy and charged Towne with contempt of court. He told Towne he could get his phone back after he paid a $50 fine.
Towne's charges were continued so attorneys could have more time to prepare, but he stuck around until the end of the afternoon. After the other cases had been heard, he asked Turnbull about getting his phone back.
Towne said it was a new phone and he didn’t know how to shut it off properly. He said he really needed it for work and it would be difficult to get along without it.
He said he did not have the $50 but could have it the next day.
Turnbull relented, under the promise that the fine would be paid in the morning.
The incident served as a reminder that cell phones are technically not allowed in the court rooms, even if they are turned off in a pocket, along with most other items.
Cell phones were banned from courtrooms years ago, along with weapons of any type including pocket knives, tools, cameras, recording equipment, personal electronic devices, beverages, beverage containers and any food items.
On April 1, purses, child carriers and baby bottles were officially added to the list, along with infants' sippy cups, back-packs, briefcases and any type of luggage.
Also, as of April 1, personal IDs with photographs were technically required to enter courtrooms.
At the time, Chief Deputy Roland Kramer said the requirements were proactive and “not because something has happened already."
Notification signs were going to be posted outside the courthouse doors, officially listing the items, but have not appeared yet.