Court Requirements During a Pandemic
Court Dates During a Pandemic â€“ Do I need to go?
Thereâ€™s a pandemicâ€”do I still have to go to court?Â (Article date:Â 3/27/20)
During this unprecedented pandemic due to the coronavirus (Covid-19), many criminal defendants in Minnesota will be wondering about their obligations with respect to upcoming court appearances. As of this writing, the situation remains fluid. The Minnesota Supreme Court issued two different orders within the course of a week, and district courts, including Hennepin County, have scrambled to comply with and interpret the orders with their own directives. Federal Courts in Minnesota have also set limitations on which criminal cases will be prioritized during this period.
A defendantâ€™s best bet, therefore, is to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney who has been advised on the most up-to-date court directives at the county, state, and federal levels. Halberg Criminal Defense offers this current summary of the court situation in Minnesota with the caveat that it could change at any time.
State District Courts
In cases where a jury had been impaneled and a trial is under way, the trial will continue unless circumstances affecting the health or safety of those involved require the proceedings to be suspended. At this point, no new trials and no grand jury proceedings will be permitted before April 22, 2020. The Minnesota Supreme Court could issue another order modifying this timeframe and the restrictions included in its previous order at any time.
Adult criminal defendants who are in custody are still entitled to constitutionally-mandated hearings, such as first appearances, bail hearings, and omnibus hearings. Such hearings will still take place in courtrooms, but attorneys and defendants will be permitted to appear remotely via telephone or the use of video conferencing. All other proceedings in adult criminal cases are essentially on hold until April 22, 2020. Juvenile proceedings are subject to similar restrictions.
State Appellate Courts
All current matters before the Minnesota Supreme Court and the Minnesota Court of Appeals will go forward as scheduled. If necessary and appropriate for the case being heard, oral argument may take place remotely. The Supreme Courtâ€™s order permits appellate courts to extend court deadlines up to thirty days if reasonably dictated by the circumstances of a given case.
Federal District Court in the District of Minnesota
By order dated March 17, 2020, all criminal matters are continued (i.e., delayed) until April 16, 2020. This includes demands under the Speedy Trial Act, pleas, sentencings, and supervised release revocation hearings. Any such hearings scheduled to occur between March 17 and April 16 will be rescheduled. All existing pretrial deadlines and motions are also continued until April 16 and will be rescheduled by the presiding judge. Finally, â€śessential criminal proceedings,â€ť such as initial appearances, arraignments, and detention hearings, will be heldâ€”to the extent practicable and with permission of the defendantâ€”via videoconferencing.
Again, all of these orders are fluid and subject to change at any moment. For the most up-to-date information on your responsibilities with respect to a scheduled court appearance, contact the appropriate court administrator. If you are interested in hiring a criminal defense attorney to help you navigate these chaotic times, call Halberg Criminal Defense. If you are interested in hiring an attorney to help through these chaotic times our lawyers are available by phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year.