If you have been summoned to appear in court during the coronavirus pandemic and are unsure of what you should do, talk to your lawyer.
Non-essential court work has been shut down in Florida for almost four months now. The first remote oral arguments for the Florida Supreme Court have started to be scheduled remotely. Jury trials in the state have been suspended for one more month. All these actions have been taken in an abundance of caution to keep everyone safe during these months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rules Vary by Case Type
In state courts, the rules vary depending on the case. In first-degree murder cases, for example, the new state order suspends some requirements for in-person preliminary hearings. A requirement has also been issued stating that all defendants should automatically be released from custody if prosecutors don’t file charges within 40 days.
Additionally, chief judges have been instructed to take any step that will facilitate conducting proceedings. The use of technology has been encouraged, although some attorneys have not been too welcoming towards this idea.
Florida Has Set Up a Task Force
With the purpose of returning to a “new normal” in Florida courts, the state’s chief justice has created a task force that will establish rules as to the reopening of the legal system as the social situation because of the pandemic moves through different stages of reopening.
Although courts have been operating under emergency rules since March 13, all non-essential court operations have been suspended through the end of June and were to be reconsidered after the weekend of the Fourth of July. The main objective of the task force is to lay out guidelines that will result in a safe environment for judges, attorneys, counsel, jurors, all personnel, and any party that sets foot in the court.
How have South Florida courts been operating?
So far, South Florida courts have been functioning at a small portion of their normal daily operations capacity. Only mandatory criminal and emergency hearings have continued taking place, and even in those cases, many have been done remotely. Judges and attorneys have sporadically used the Zoom video platform as well as the Court Call telephone system to conduct remote hearings.
Can your case move forward even in this situation?
Although the courts are mostly closed (unless your case is an emergency) hearings are still being conducted, judges are still issuing rulings, and entering orders. This means that your case should be able to move forward. With the implementation of virtual hearings, you may actually discover that this is now a much more convenient and easier process than a face-to-face hearing. If both parties agree to move forward with a remote hearing, a date and time can be set by the judge in order to have the hearing done remotely.
Conference room with video conferencing set up; image by Arlington Research, via Unsplash.com.
Should you have trouble accessing the needed technology to participate in a Zoom meeting, your attorney should know your situation and communicate it to the judge so that the hearing can be scheduled accordingly.
Talk to Your Lawyer
If you have been summoned to appear in court during the coronavirus pandemic and are unsure of what you should do, talk to your lawyer. They will be able to guide you as to how to proceed and what conditions apply specifically to your case or how it can be accommodated remotely. Click here for more information and to get answers to your questions now.