The spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to alter virtually every aspect of society, including the criminal justice system. Throughout California, courthouses have shut their doors and officials have scrambled to adapt to social distancing guidelines. In recent weeks, those behind bars have become increasingly vulnerable to the threat of COVID-19, as many jails and prisons are often overcrowded. With the recent emergency decision to set bail at zero for certain misdemeanors and low-level felonies in jails throughout California, it’s important to take a look at how this impacts people currently awaiting trial.
Temporary Suspension of Cash Bail
In response to several requests to keep the prison population down, California’s Judicial Council approved eleven temporary emergency measures on April 6, 2020. One such measure was the adoption of a zero-bail policy, allowing those awaiting trial for misdemeanor and low-level felony offenses to be released. This action is intended to avoid overcrowding in jails throughout the state, and it only applies to certain misdemeanors and lower-level felony offenses. For instance, the emergency jail order does not apply to DUI, domestic violence, or sex crimes offenses.
Other Important Emergency Measures
The Judicial Council of California’s order went into effect on the evening of April 13, 2020, and is currently slated to last until 90 days after Governor Gavin Newsom formally lifts the state of emergency, or until the council itself repeals the ruling. In addition to the zero-bail policy, ten other measures went into effect, including the suspension of judicial foreclosures, the right for defendants to appear via remote technologies for pretrial criminal hearings, the ability to use electronic depositions in civil cases, and more.
“We are trying our best to preserve rights and ultimately preserve lives,” Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye stated at the opening of the Judicial Council’s emergency session (held via teleconference). “We are at this point truly with no guidance in either history, law or precedent.”’
To learn more about how the COVID-19 pandemic could impact your criminal case, get in touch with the Law Offices of Brian A. Newman today. For over 40 years, we’ve provided effective and aggressive legal counsel to clients throughout Torrance and Los Angeles County. Call (424) 254-5186 today to arrange your free initial consultation.