There's a lot of questions that I'm getting right now and as I write this March content, the Los Angeles criminal courts have just closed down for three days. I think they're going to take more measures, but right now I think the judges are figuring out exactly what they're going to do. The criminal judges are the ones that typically control the courthouse, also backed up by the Governor of California.
I think they're going to put a bunch of restrictions on the courts right now. Before they did this closure which starts March 17, 2020, basically they had closed the court for jury trials in civil cases. They closed the court for all bankruptcy cases.
Criminal Cases Are a Priority Due to Custody Issues
Criminal cases takes precedence over all other cases. They're going to do those cases last because people who are in custody for example on a criminal cases in Los Angeles, they have certain rights. You can't just leave people in custody. they have certain rights to have their trial or preliminary hearing within a certain period of time. So, that's really throwing a wrench in deciding what to do with the criminal cases.
A lot of the judges right now, if they're able to, are just continuing the cases. I just had a client who didn't show up to the probation department and they put a report into the judge. Normally the judge would just issue a warrant for her arrest, but instead, the judge issued a warrant and held it and put if off until mid-April.
Everybody is trying to move their cases about a month or two months away while they try to figure out what's going to happen with this Corona Virus and what exactly can be done to be able to control it.
Because when you have a situation where you're going into a courthouse — especially these courthouses in Los Angeles — and there's about 38 of them which are very close-quartered, very dirty before even the Corona Virus came along.
So it's going to be very difficult for them to be able to protect the public, especially when you have to go through a metal detector in every single criminal court in LA County, so now you're taking all of your stuff off, you're putting them in trays that are being used by other people.
It's going through a machine which is inside which is probably very unsanitary and now your stuff is coming back out and if someone who has the Corona Virus puts their stuff inside that metal detector and now you put your phone in there and put it up to your face, I'm sure the criminal courts are realizing this is a big problem.
Los Angeles Criminal Courts are Temporarily Closed
Right now, as I'm writing this post, the courts are closed. If you're either out of state, out of the country, having problems getting back in — maybe you have a warrant out for your arrest right now.
Maybe you have a court appearance pending — you were arrested, posted a bail and maybe you were given a citation and now you're worried about going into the criminal court — the key thing you need to do is get a hold of your attorney, because your attorney will be able to figure out whether you have to go to court.
A lot of times your attorney can go for you so you don't have to go in. They want as few people in the courthouse right now as possible and your attorney a lot of times can continue your case so that the courts can get their act together and decide exactly how they're going to handle some of these criminal cases.
Because it's very difficult to just close the courthouse down because they've got cases set every single day. Not only that, new arrests are being made every single day. That creates a big backlog if they just shut the court down for any length of time.
They really don't have the video things set up in criminal court at this point. They do have it in the jail so the public defenders can talk to their clients via video conference and they have a lot of video conferences set up in some of the county courthouses where they do arraignments. But it's not feasible at this point.
They'd have to put a lot of work into that system to be able to go video, especially when there'd be video from multiple locations. An attorney would be coming from a location. You've got the prosecutor; you've got the judge.
You may have an in-custody defendant that you've got to deal with. So, there's a lot to consider when you're trying to figure out whether you're going to not hold court in a criminal case.
Misdemeanor vs. Felony Case
In misdemeanor cases it's a bit easier because the attorney can appear for their client in almost all misdemeanor situations especially when you have a scenario where you've got a virus like this and there's concerns about public safety.
When it comes to a felony though that's more difficult. Usually the defendant has to be there to waive time and make decisions. You can't just make moves in a felony case without the defendant's knowledge and without the defendant consenting it and typically without the defendant being present.
So, right now I think what they're going to do — they've closed the court for a few days. I think they're going to figure out what they're going to do. If they're going to start just continuing cases a month or two or three months out while they see what's going to happen in the country.
To see how things are going to play themselves out and then they'll have to make some hard and fast decisions down the road to be able to catch up, otherwise the courts will soon quickly be overwhelmed and won't be able to handle any business.
Contact the Hedding Law Firm for Help
So, if you've got a criminal case right now in Los Angeles county, I've been doing this for 26 years. I stand at the ready to help you. We can figure out if you can't make the court appearance — how to get in there, make it for you, continue the case to get you some time so you're able to make the court appearance in the future.
Hedding Law Firm is a criminal defense law firm located in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles County at 16000 Ventura Blvd #1208 Encino, CA 91436. We are also located at 633 West Fifth Street Los Angeles, CA 90071. Contact us for a free case evaluation at (213) 542-0979.