Personal Injury Lawyer
With the spread of COVID-19, many areas of the community have been greatly affected. Many people only consider the economy or the healthcare system when thinking about the pandemic. However, the criminal justice system is being turned upside-down due to the shutdown of everyday life from COVID-19. Criminal defendants are being greatly affected every day as the virus spreads throughout the country. Every state is handling the spread differently, but in many, there have been administrative orders that do not allow for certain hearings to occur. For instance, in Texas, the courts have all determined that any hearings that are related to a defendant who is on bond is not essential, and is therefore postponed. This greatly affects the defendant’s constitutional rights to a speedy trial. In this case, the defendant cannot get before a jury of his or her peers and have them determine the guilt or innocence of the person. So, a person must wait for months to be sentenced on a crime that is a mere allegation at this point. Imagine if that person is attempting to seek some form of assistance and would be blocked from receiving that assistance due to a pending charge.
Sitting in Prison Because of COVID-19
What is worse is the situation being created from criminal defendants confined in prison. Those that are eligible for parole are not being granted release due to the spread of the virus. Those that are in jail and unable to make bond are on an odd holding pattern during the spread of COVID-19. Many states are still ensuring that these incarcerated individuals are getting hearings, but without the ability to have a jury trial, unless the individual is willing to accept whatever plea bargain is being offered, that individual will sit and wait in jail for the courts to reopen.
Texas has attempted to allow for some of these defendants to be released. Governor Abbott issued an executive order that allowed for PR bonds to be given to incarcerated individuals as long as they are not being held on a violent charge or have a violent history. This order, however, has presented a huge issue for those that may have something from their past that is several years old. The order has the effect of treating certain individuals different from others who are similarly situated, which of course is unconstitutional. In fact, many in the defense community, as well as several judges, have joined together seeking a temporary restraining order against Governor Abbott. In April, that temporary restraining order was granted, and the executive order was not allowed to be enforced. Governor Abbott then sought a stay of that restraining order from the Supreme Court, which was granted.
This is truly an unprecedented time and during this time many actions are taking place that are also unprecedented. It appears as if the spread of COVID-19 will have lasting effects that will take a long time to sort through. If you or someone you know needs help, contact a criminal defense lawyer, like an Arlington, TX criminal defense lawyer, today.
Thanks to Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC for their insight into criminal law during the coronavirus pandemic.