By Michael Davis
The procedures put in place to slow down the spread of Covid-19 have upended the way many companies and institutions conduct their business and the law is no exception. That means the courts, judges, lawyers, and everyone associated with the legal profession have had to figure out new ways of conducting their procedures. Many have attempted to retain a semblance of the status quo but inevitably they have had to make concessions to deal with the reality of the coronavirus.
That means Covid-19 also has an effect on the prison population as well since they have to be looked out for because they are a highly vulnerable group. No matter how the coronavirus has affected the courts, one thing has not changed and it is that a lawyer will be needed in all legal cases. Attorneys might have had to adjust the way they conduct their practice, but they are still an invaluable part of the legal process. That is why you should not hesitate to contact an attorney if you need help with a criminal case. If you live in California, then criminal defense lawyer Bajaj can help you even during this unprecedented and unpredictable time.
Postponements and Delays
It is unsurprising that investigations and trials are affected by the coronavirus as social distancing guidelines prevent too many people from convening in the same place. Investigations rely on subpoenas to produce relevant information but the lockdowns and other guidelines prevent anyone from accessing records that are vital to an investigation. That could end up causing a delay in criminal investigations and procedures. Since the endpoint of the pandemic is still unknown, the time period for criminal procedures has been indefinitely extended. In fact, the Department of Justice has requested that Congress pause the statute of limitations for criminal and civil procedures during national emergencies and for one year after the end of national emergencies.
Naturally, the Covid-19 procedures have affected the courts’ ability to convene grand juries to hear testimonies and observe the presentation of evidence pertaining to ongoing criminal investigations. Some jurisdictions have tried to overcome this disadvantage via the use of videoconferencing technology that allows grand jurors to access cases remotely. There are some drawbacks to using this technology as the grand jury process is supposed to be private and secret, but outside observation by hackers is a concern. Also, there are doubts that grand jurors can competently assess the case through a video screen since they cannot talk to the prosecutor in the room.
The Sixth Amendment
The sixth amendment guarantees a defendant’s right to a speedy trial but, needless to say, that right is affected by all the delays caused by the coronavirus. The Federal Speedy Trial Act was put in place to establish time limits for various stages of federal criminal procedures, but several federal courts have issued standing orders suspending the Act because of the Covid-19 guidelines. This has created an increase in the backlog of cases that will have to be addressed once restrictions are lifted. Additionally, the right to legal counsel of incarcerated people has also been affected, as have witness interviews in investigatory matters.
Contact an Attorney If You Need Legal Help
You can see that Covid-19 affects everyone on all sides of the law, but that does not mean that you should avoid contacting a criminal defense attorney if you need one. Even if cases are backed up, they can still provide you with the legal help you need. Covid-19 may have affected several aspects of the law, but an attorney will always be there to help you when you need it.