COVID-19 Impact on Los Angeles Criminal Courts

Gavel and MasksDue to the unprecedented quarantine that was imposed to stop the spread of COVID-19, Los Angles Courts are changing in ways that have never previously been seen. Longstanding timelines linked to constitutional rights for defendants in criminal cases have been extended due to national and local emergency orders. Navigating the criminal judicial system can be confusing at any time, but the current pandemic is creating even more twists and turns. You may have received a citation and your first court date falls on a date when Los Angeles courts are closed. While each courthouse within Los Angeles is doing its best to issue clear directives, every case and courtroom is unique, and individual courthouses and courtrooms vary greatly in their application of new orders. Actual courtroom practices vary weekly, and sometimes daily. Probation check-ins and bail schedules have been significantly altered.

Kraut Law Group Has Adapted to the Quarantine

The attorneys at Kraut Law Group are working constantly to understand this new legal framework, and to contribute to the safety of our clients and our community. We study each new mandate from California and Los Angeles. We use our extensive network of connections in the legal community to determine how our judges are interpreting the rules, and which courtrooms have imposed an extra layer of unique requirements. At times, despite the best efforts of legal officials, actual practice is not in accordance with published guidelines. Some unrepresented individuals have shown up to courthouses at the time and place specified by emergency orders, only to be turned away by a local clerk. The focus on safety is important, but creates pitfalls for individuals attempting to have their cases heard in a speedy manner. We are excellent at navigating the changing and unprecedented legal map created by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Callifornia Pandemic Orders Affecting Criminal Courts

On March 4, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in California due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 19, 2020 the Stay at Home order was issued, wherein Governor Newsom urged citizens to heed the directives of the Department of Public Health and remain home when not engaged in essential activities. While California Courts were deemed essential, meaning they could remain open, they were required to take many steps to meet the new stringent health directives, including keeping individuals six feet apart both in the courtrooms and in the halls and lobbies of the courthouses.

California Supreme Court Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye expressed the difficulty that courts would have in complying with these health orders. She noted that courthouses were just not built to halndle social distancing requirements. She expressed concern for all the public and employees compelled to attend court, and decided to take emergency measures. On March 23, 2020 she issued a statewide order affecting all California Courts.

The directives issued are unprecedented, yet each contains significant leeway for local interpretation.

  1. All jury trials were continued sixty days. However, courts were allowed to use remote technology, or merely to show good cause why a jury trial should be held, to allow a trial before the sixty days had run.
  2. The order clarified that Penal Code 1382 criminal deadlines were extended for sixty days. In normal times, defendants are entitled to a dismissal on a felony case if they are not brought to trial within sixty days. Misdemeanor defendants are entitled to a dismissal after forty-five days if out of custody, and thirty days if in custody. The order significantly increases the time that a prosecutor may delay before bringing a case to trial.
  3. The courts order made similar extensions to civil trials.
  4. The order explicitly authorized any California Superior Court to create its own rules to address the COVID-19 pandemic. All such rules take effect immediately, and the normal forty-five days for public comment is suspended. The order specifies that though a rule may take effect immediately, a defendant’s substantive right’s may not be prejudiced until twenty days has passed.

A defendant’s substantive rights may be affected by new rules that did not exist prior to the pandemic. However, many judges and prosecutors are concerned about a backlog of cases when Courts finally do reopen, and as a result an effective Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney may be able to have charges dismissed or significantly reduced in these unprecedented times.

There have now been three statewide orders and four California Supreme Court Orders since the pandemic began, each changing the way Los Angeles courts operate. In addition to the orders affecting the state, each county has now issued their own set of guidelines. Each Los Angeles courthouse has tailored the rules to fit their local needs. The rules have been further tailored by the clerks operating each individual courtroom, and by the judges that preside over open courtrooms. Because pandemic schedules have shuffled court calendars, judges are rotating in and out of courtrooms more frequently than in the past. This shuffling of judges creates shuffling in the applicable rules as well.

If you or a loved one have a criminal case during this pandemic, it is critical that you speak with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer as soon as possible. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut is highly capable of representing you in these volatile times. Mr. Kraut works each day to not only understand the latest orders, but to talk to policymakers about upcoming schedules and anticipated changes.

For more information about COVID-19 Criminal Procedures, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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