The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically modified many aspects of daily living, including how courts handle the process of handling criminal hearings and trials. Criminal defendants have many rights under the state and federal constitutions, but some of them have been altered or impinged by COVID-19 orders, and it is critical for people charged with criminal offenses to understand how their cases will proceed during the pandemic. If you are accused of a crime, you should meet with a skillful Sarasota criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options.
Florida Court Process During COVID-19
Throughout the pandemic, many Florida courts have been operating under modifications based on local public health information in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus. For example, some courts have temporarily halted non-jury and in-person jury trials, while others have limited the number of trials they are allowing to proceed.
Criminal defendants have numerous rights, though, including the right to a speedy trial. Specifically, under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.191, a criminal trial must begin within ninety days of a person’s arrest if the crime charged is a misdemeanor. If the underlying offense is a felony, the trial must commence within one hundred and seventy-five days of the defendant’s arrest. In some cases, a defendant may be able to file a demand for a speedy trial, in which case the trial must commence within fifty days.
Typically, the right to a speedy trial is staunchly protected. Rule 3.191 does allow for the extension of the trial timelines when necessary due to exceptional circumstances, which includes the unavoidable or unforeseeable absence, illness, or incapacity of a person needed for the trial, such as a witness. It is pursuant to this exception that the Florida Supreme Court issued an order suspending trials at the beginning of the pandemic. The court recently issued another order, allowing for remote criminal trials in certain circumstances.
Specifically, they are permissible in cases in which the defendant orally consents on the record to a remote trial. The defendant must consent in writing as well, and the consent must be intelligent, voluntary, and knowing. If the defendant is represented by an attorney, the attorney must state on the record that he or she has discussed the possible advantages and detriments of a remote trial with the defendant and determined that the defendant’s consent is informed, voluntary, and knowing. The court may consider the prosecution and victim’s input as well before deciding whether to proceed remotely.
Meet with a Trusted Criminal Defense Attorney in Florida
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted most parts of people’s lives, including how criminal trials are handled. If you are charged with a crime, it is prudent to speak to a lawyer to understand your rights and what you can expect with regard to the court process during the pandemic. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a trusted Sarasota criminal defense attorney who is skilled at helping people charged with crimes fight to protect their interests, and if you hire him, he will zealously pursue the best outcome available in your case. You can contact Mr. Hanlon through the form online or at 941-462-1789 to schedule a meeting.