How Local Courts Are Responding to COVID-19
Covid-19 is disrupting everything, and that includes both traffic and criminal court. In fact, inmates, police officers, attorneys and others have tested positive for the disease across the state and nation because courts are always so crowded.
Closures and delays have been the result. Many city offices aren’t operating at all, and those that are have been taking steps to drastically reduce the number of staff members on-site.
Right now traffic court is adjourned. You won’t earn any additional fees or penalties while you’re waiting for your new court date. The DMV is only taking customers via reservation, and is urging everyone to do their business with them online if they can.
If you aren’t already in the middle of a misdemeanor trial you can expect yours to wait until the crisis is over. Bail reform in New York has already ensured most misdemeanor charges came with an order to appear rather than an actual arrest.
Courts are still hearing essential cases.
Police are being urged to exercise their discretion before making an arrest to avoid overcrowding, and right now many judges are declining to order jail time. Instead, alternative sentencing and drug treatment programs are getting just a little more play.
If you have been charged with something your attorney can still help you negotiate a plea deal or attempt to get your charges dismissed. If you’re waiting on a traffic ticket you still shouldn’t plead guilty: call your traffic lawyer so you’ll be ready to go when court is back in session.
You can expect backlogs and delays of court cases even when the crisis passes, as everything has been put on hold and some cases will continue to accumulate throughout the crisis.
Keep in mind that there’s one new misdemeanor some individuals will need to worry about as this crisis continues to unfold. Breaking a public health order or a quarantine order is a misdemeanor. Officers and courts can compel you to comply and you can face jail time if you don’t.
This would apply to people who have received instructions to quarantine, not to people who are choosing social distancing as a strategy to protect the lives of others and “flatten the curve” during the course of the Covid-19 crisis.
Not sure whether or not you have an upcoming court date or obligation? Call your attorney, who can advise you in either case.