COVID 19 affects all DUI and Criminal cases in Vista Courts and all over California that are pending or that have requirements to be completed. Pending cases arraignments are being set over 120 days out when they used to be set 30- 45 days out. Additionally, appearances negotiations penalties, jury trials, programs and even custody is affected. The San Diego Courts are still figuring out how to implement appearances, sentences, and setting sentencing requirements like programs, fines and custody up with the Court Clerks. Social distancing and temperature checks will be included in entering the Courthouse.
COVID 19 affects all DUI and Criminal Cases and remains a serious health issue for all phases of Court operations. Not only are any of the Judges, prosecutors, Defense Attorneys, Clerks, Bailiffs and other Courthouse staff older and among the most “vulnerable” to the virus, everyone can be a threat to their families and others. In the next couple of weeks, the guidelines for administration and operation will be determined. Appearances by attorneys may be by Microsoft Zoom in some cases. Plexiglass has to be put up, sanitizer available, exploring on line programs to allow people to set up Court requirements like fines, programs etc without physically seeing a Clerk.. DUI sentencing usually involves a DUI program, MADD Class, AA – all of which have been unable to accommodate groups of people because of the virus, causing deadlines to be missed for enrollment and completion. If you had an appearance or something due during the shutdown, warrants are not going out. New appearance dates will be sent out and extensions will be granted. It is a slow process, even though the Court opened May 26, it is open for very limited purposes and for Clerks to process all the cases that required action or appearances during the shutdown. Jury trials are not expected to be available for months until the distancing and health precautions can be figured out. These constitutional issues, like right to speedy trial by a jury, need to be resolved.
In cases where custody is required, there will be more use of the CPAC electronic surveillance program allowing defendants to serve their time at home and be able to go to work, school and perhaps programs required. It is an unusual time for everyone, including the Courts, Gradually it will all be worked out to bridge this period of time pending an effective vaccine and return to operations like they were. Many innovations that become a part of the solution now may also be a better way to run the Court and will stay in place. All of these things may make the criminal justice system more complex and time consuming for all involved. Attorneys Nicholas and William Christoph have practiced exclusively DUI and Criminal defense for over 30 years across from Vista Courts, offer a free consultation call 760-941-5720.