The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted nearly every facet of American life, including the court systems. In Colorado, courts have temporarily ceased normal operations, delaying a number of trials for at least several weeks and maybe even longer.
In a recent order, Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Coats suspended numerous court operations, resulting in the delay of many cases. According to Matthew A. Martin, P.C., a criminal defense attorney and DUI defense lawyer in Denver, the ruling was unfortunate but expected.
“A courthouse is a very public setting,” said Martin. “While suspensions and postponements are never ideal, it’s just not possible to adhere to all the directives on social distancing in that sort of setting.”
Unfortunately, it’s not clear when and how postponed and suspended cases will begin again. While Governor Jared Polis is set to ease many statewide restrictions; it’s expected that court systems will continue suspending or limiting operations for some time.
While the decision to suspend or postpone cases is probably a good idea, it’s going to have a serious effect on many people who were hoping for speedy resolutions to their cases. Still, according to Martin, there could be a silver lining for people who have secured knowledgeable, dedicated attorneys.
“A good attorney should be able to use the extra time to work hard reviewing discovery, conferring with clients, and preparing cases,” said Martin. “When necessary, they will write motions and briefs, while conferring with appropriate law enforcement prosecutors and officials to mitigate the impact of delays on their clients’ lives. This sort of activity will help ensure that their clients are ahead of the game when things return to normal and cases begin again.”
Unfortunately, if they don’t have a strong representative, people may be left to twist in the wind until their cases can be heard. This can be especially problematic for people who are fighting DUIs, felonies, or misdemeanors, which can lead to loss off employment, parental custody, and freedom.
“A court delay can have serious ramifications on people who have been accused of a criminal act,” said Martin. “Because we understand this, our firm is working double-time to ease the burden on our clients. To provide optimal representation and protect our staff, we will be remotely conducting our defense and representation of present and future clients during the existence of the coronavirus pandemic. This may include FaceTime and Skype for necessary face-to-face consultations. We are also corresponding consistently through phone calls, text messaging, emails, facsimile transmissions, and other techniques that do not involve being in the actual physical presence of each other.”
Unfortunately, it’s not clear when Colorado courthouses will return to full capacity. Even though restrictions are expected to ease by May, the situation remains fluid. Just recently, a Denver courthouse had to shut down entirely when an attorney tested positive for the novel coronavirus. This sort of instance is a reflection of how unpredictable the situation is.
“No one really knows when things will return to normal,” said Martin. “This is one reason why some courts are setting up virtual courtrooms for appearances for criminal cases. That said, others have suspended all jury trials indefinitely. Whatever the case, our team has taken steps to remain agile enough to represent our clients in shifting circumstances. Since there’s just no way to predict how things will evolve, it’s important for attorneys to prepare for every potential eventuality to give clients the representation they deserve.”
As the pandemic progresses, clients need to stay in touch with their attorneys to make sure they are aware of shifting timetables. It’s also a good idea to inquire if there are any measures that can be taken to alleviate burdens associated with court delays. Some courts have taken special steps to mitigate such burdens, however, you will have to speak to your attorney to find out if these measures apply to your particular situation.
READ THE FULL STORY HERE by Matthew A. Martin, P.C., a top criminal defense attorney and DUI defense lawyer in Denver.