Nearly six months have passed since the advent of COVID cases, and many of us are barely beginning to adjust to the new normal.
While some people have resumed a sense of normalcy in life, others are trapped in a state of limbo, still waiting to return to life as we know it. And for those caught within the confines of the criminal justice system, it seems as if everything has been put on hold.
Court’s Reaction to COVID
Mid-way through March, Lubbock and surrounding counties began cancelling court dates and moving trial dockets. The wheels of justice effectively stopped.
Just recently courts have resumed settings, albeit remotely. Guilty pleas, pre-trial hearings and some evidentiary hearings are now being held via zoom. While this helps move cases, the courts’ inability to hold trial is cluttering dockets and delaying cases.
The Texas Supreme Court recently announced that no trials are to be held until October 1.
However, as COVID cases continue to rise, many speculate that trials will not be held until at least sometime next year.
Why does this matter?
Trial Gone, but not Forgotten
Without an active trial docket, prosecutors are less motivated to work cases out and offer incentives for people to plea. If decent plea offers are not being made, defense attorneys have no other choice than to put a case in the hands of the jury. This means setting the case for trial.
With hundreds of cases being set on trial dockets and no foreseeable trial dates, cases could be pending for years. For many, this means devoting more time, money and effort into the legal system.
But it’s not all bad news. Time can be a prosecutor’s worst enemy. Witnesses are lost, police retire, evidence disappears. The longer a case sits, the more difficult it may be for the State to prove.
Contrastingly, some prosecutors realize this is the time to make deals. When life returns to “normal,” they may not want to be in trial every week.
With all this in mind, it is important to talk to your attorney and formulate a plan for your case during these unprecedented times.