The coronavirus epidemic has forced many businesses and institutions to find a new way of doing ordinary business in order to limit the spread of the virus. The same goes for the legal world since it is unable to conduct business as it normally would. Specifically, it has affected the New York state and federal system in a variety of different ways; the way in which court hearings are held, plea bargains, and the defendant’s right to a speedy trial have all been affected due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Despite those disruptions, lawyers are still out there working hard on behalf of their clients, so if you need an attorney, then you can visit bajajdefense.com to learn how they can help you in this, or any other, time.
How Covid-19 Affected New York State Courts
As of March 16, 2020, all nonessential court activities suspended. For essential court cases, some courthouses created special courtrooms to handle those cases. During the suspension period no new criminal trials were started and there were some cases where defendants were incarcerated during the entire suspension period.
If a defendant was not incarcerated, then the disposition of non-trial felony matters was postponed. However, if the defendant was in custody, then there were some areas where the disposition could be resolved using video conferencing but if the technology was not available, then the disposition was postponed. Likewise, arraignments took place using video conferencing, but only if it was available.
How Covid-19 Affected New York Federal Courts
Federal courts are independent of state courts and during the lockdown they suspended jury selection and jury trials, that includes criminal trials, though there were a few exceptions. Bench trials, where there is only a judge and no jury, were also suspended. Any criminal matters that had to take place before a magistrate were still continued in person with exceptions for video conferencing or telephone calls.
6th Amendment Rights
The 6th Amendment gives defendants the right to fair and speedy trial but in the age of Covid-19, the courts have had to reckon with what speedy means in these circumstances. Since the courts are closed, it has created a huge backlog of cases that will likely continue even after the courts have reopened. That means there is a good chance that many of those cases will have to be dismissed.
Under normal circumstances prosecutors tend to offer plea bargains but with the backlog of cases in the court system, prosecutors are under more pressure to offer and accept plea bargains. This can be a boon for defendants since they are more likely to get an offer to plea to a lesser offense.
An Attorney Can Help You With Your Case
No matter the circumstances, you should always get an attorney to help you with your criminal case. Cases may be suspended or backlogged because of Covd-19 for now, but eventually the courts will reopen. When that happens you should make sure that you have an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you