The COVID-19, or coronavirus, global pandemic has not spared the Massachusetts court systems. Starting on March 13, 2020, the Supreme Judicial Court as well as the Massachusetts trial courts began issuing standing orders about how the court system will work for the near future.
Here are some of the highlights as of the writing of this post:
- All trial courts will be closed to the public, including defendants, from March 16, 2020 through May 4, 2020. While prior orders from the SJC included exceptions to this for emergency hearings that cannot be conducted through video or telephone, now all emergency matters will be conducted by video or telephone. This includes bail hearings.
- All trials will be cancelled from March 16, 2020 through May 4, 2020.
- All non-custody cases that were scheduled for a date between March 16, 2020 and May 1, 2020 will be continued for at least 60 days.
These rules will affect some cases differently, but for most people that have ongoing cases, it means one thing: you will not have court until at least May 4, 2020. So far each court has been choosing new dates in different ways, but it is important to reach out to your attorney to see how they will get your new date.
These rules also will affect people that get arrested. As always, if you have been arrested after court hours, a clerk will review your case and set a bail – often $40.00. You will then be told when to report to court to see a judge. Usually you would have to be in court on the next business day, however, now you can expect to get an arraignment date sometime in May or June. If this does not happen you may have a telephone arraignment while at the police station, and then if you are released on bail, you will get a court date in May or June.
Due to the lengthy period between an arrest and a court date, it may seem like its ok to hold off on calling an attorney about your case. However, now more than ever it is important to call an attorney right away. Because you won’t be in court, important evidence for your defense could be destroyed. An attorney will be able to review your case and send notices to preserve the evidence that will help your case.
These orders are, as always, subject to change. While it seems like the COVID-19 pandemic may be easing – we are still very far aware from normalcy. This includes the court system. In the next week, I anticipate new orders from the SJC addressing when the courts can re-open on a limited basis, as many in the court system do not believe that they will be able to do so on May 4, 2020 as planned. We can also expect that jury trials will continue to be postponed well after the courts re-open in an attempt to lessen the number of people forced to be together in small rooms.
If you have been charged with a crime, call (617) 941-3666 today to schedule a free consultation. He will be able to review your case and ensure that important evidence for your defense is not lost. Boston Criminal and DUI Attorney James G. DeGiacomo is also available for phone, Skype, or FaceTime meetings.