The Legal Implications of Coronavirus
One important and potentially overlooked consequence of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is the impact of the virus on the criminal justice system and the right of criminal defendants to have their day in court. As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, many state and federal courts in the United States have suspended or postponed criminal jury trials and these continued delays threaten to overwhelm dockets that already have a backlog of cases. “California’s judicial branch is facing an unprecedented challenge with the COVID-19 virus,” says Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Chief Justice of California. Many states have ordered courts to finish pending criminal trials and suspend or delay new trials until further notice, which will inevitably delay justice for defendants facing DUI charges in San Diego and potentially rob them of their right to a speedy trial. Delayed trials in California could also result in overcrowding in jails and facilitate the rapid spread of the virus.
Pretrial Detainees Awaiting their Day in Court
Many inmates in the criminal justice system are pretrial detainees who have been arrested for a crime like DUI, but have not been convicted and cannot afford bail. In fact, the United States has the highest prisoner population in the world. And the Prison Policy Initiative reports that there are more than 555,000 people in pretrial detention in U.S. jails. That means they have not been convicted of a crime or sentenced but remain detained, usually because they can’t afford to pay the bail amount to secure their release. Unfortunately, incarcerated individuals are one of the greatest at-risk populations for being infected with coronavirus and existing problems with overcrowding in California jails will only be compounded as people continue to be arrested, charged with crimes and held in jail as they await trial. “If you’re waiting for a trial that’s held out another 50 days, then we make our overcrowded jails […] more overcrowded […],” says ABA Criminal Justice Section Chair Kim Parker. “It’s not as if anything’s going away. It just keeps backing up, backing up, backing up, and the days aren’t long enough.”
Criminal Defendants Pressured into Taking Plea Deals
One possible way for prosecutors to lighten their caseloads in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic is to offer more plea deals to criminal defendants. “If a prosecutor has 25 cases set for trial, and they’re all continued or backed up and then the next week, he’s going to have yet another 25 trials,” says former assistant U.S. attorney Neal Sonnett, a current ABA delegate and member of the Criminal Justice Section. “And it’s going to get to a point where there are major backlogs. And one way to deal with the backlogs is to work out plea agreements.” Unfortunately, this means that the COVID-19 crisis could result in increased pressure on those facing San Diego DUI charges to take a plea deal rather than going to court to establish their innocence and end up having their trial delayed.
Contact Sevens Legal, APC – SD DUI Lawyers for Legal Help
If you are facing DUI charges in California during the COVID-19 pandemic, you need a reputable DUI attorney on your side who will aggressively fight for you and ensure that your legal rights are protected throughout this public health crisis. Individuals facing San Diego DUI charges have important rights afforded to them under the U.S. Constitution, including the right to a speedy trial and the right to seek legal counsel, and these rights must be honored throughout the criminal process. As the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to push criminal defendants into unfair plea deals, subject them to prolonged detainment and rob them of their right to a speedy trial, it is more important now than ever before to enlist the help of a knowledgeable DUI defense attorney to represent your case. To speak to a DUI attorney about your rights or to schedule a free initial DUI consultation, visit the Sevens Legal, APC – SD DUI Lawyers website.