COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc across America and has left no area of the country untouched. The virus has even affected policing and criminal justice. In many states and counties, the enforcement of stay-at-home orders and other virus-related restrictions are a top priority. New laws have been passed and police have been given the authority to penalize people who repeatedly or seriously violate such orders.
Enforcement is not the only thing that has changed. The virus has also had an impact on how criminal cases are processed and handled. The resurgence of the virus in late autumn forced many courts to shut down completely. Courts in some jurisdictions have decided to finish trials that have started but not to begin new trials.
In many instances, how courts decide to handle criminal cases depends on how well-resourced they are. Much has been learned about the virus since March 2020. Many courts have the money and have had the time to take their proceedings entirely online. These courts have remained largely unaffected by the latest upsurge in cases and the re-imposition of lockdown orders.
If you are in a jurisdiction that has been severely affected by COVID-19, your trial date may have been postponed. Despite the distribution of the vaccine, no one knows when the pandemic will be brought under control. However, your right to a speedy trial remains in effect. The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution gives you this right. You may need to hire a criminal defense lawyer to help you protect it.
Courts have the right to set aside a conviction or sentence if your 6th Amendment rights are violated. In many states, the legislatures have not modified the amount of time that a prosecutor has to bring a defendant to trial. If you are among the backlog of cases in a jurisdiction, you should speak to your Arizona lawyer about having the charges against you thrown out owing to the violation of your constitutional rights.
COVID-19 has also affected plea bargaining. The virus created a health crisis in America’s prison systems. The close proximity of inmates and corrections officers has led to an alarming rise in cases among both. A jail and prison system that was already suffering under the weight of overcrowding and congestion cannot afford the imprisonment of more people.
This has put prosecutors at a disadvantage in plea bargaining. They have even more of an incentive to reach a plea agreement which could keep you out of the unhealthy conditions of prison. This will also help reduce the prosecutor’s backlog of cases so that they do not risk having defendants go free owing to 6th Amendment violations.
You should speak to your criminal attorney about pushing an even harder bargaining position with the prosecutor. You may be able to get an even lighter sentence than you would have before owing to these changes. If you have been arrested and charged with a crime, your criminal defense lawyer should be looking for ways to leverage the conditions of the pandemic to get you the best deal possible.