The COVID-19 pandemic took the United States by storm. In just a little over three months, the virus has brought most of the country’s normal life and economy to a grinding halt. Businesses of all shapes and sizes were shut down or operated at reduced capacity; schools, public libraries, theaters and other places where people gather were shut down; flights and cruises were cancelled or rescheduled; sports events were called off; even some government services had to be called off or moved to home work, with only essential medical personnel kept on the frontlines.
With all the government work either being closed down for the duration of the pandemic, allowed to operate at home, or kept at the forefront for medical needs, it can be worrying for those undergoing a criminal defense case, mostly because they may think that their situation is included in non-essential government jobs. They may fear that their hearings may be delayed, a serious cause for worry that can add up to the virus problems. Now would be a good time to see how criminal courts operated during the pandemic in Las Vegas.
From the Federal Courts
The first metric regarding court operations during the pandemic are the federal courts. As the highest courts apart from the Supreme Court itself, their methods of operation eventually become the benchmark for state courts in the lower levels.
Not surprisingly, the federal courts have opted to scale back most of their routine work, but not entirely shutting down the system. Instead, courts have opted to go digital, with videoconferencing of court cases becoming a routine for many judges and other court staff. The federal courts sought a sustainable balance between keeping their personnel safe from the virus and maintaining a continuous flow of day-to-day court operations. They understand that there are far too many cases to contend with that an abrupt stop to court work would be a major setback to the entire system, so going digital is the next best step to take.
A Slight Scaling Back
The state courts of Nevada also understand that keeping the legal system operational throughout the coronavirus crisis is equally important to keeping employees and senior personnel safe. This goes double for important urban centers like Las Vegas, where the large population means there are more criminal defense cases to hear.
For a time after the initial quarantine procedures were initiated, however, Nevada scaled back some legal proceedings to reduce the chances that the virus could spread among employees. The majority of legal proceedings that could still be covered will be handled by digital conferencing, but the rest of the cases will have to either be decided out-of-court or postponed to a date after the quarantine period. For most of the quarantine period, Las Vegas courts prioritized ‘essential cases’ including in-custody criminal cases, severe domestic violence hearings and bail hearings, among other things. A DUI case or a misdemeanor hearing will be of lower priority.
Meanwhile on the Bail List
Speaking of bail hearings, in a recent hearing the Nevada Supreme Court issued an order regarding the dropping of the cost of bail for a teen-aged murder suspect to a fraction of its original cost, citing concerns regarding contacting the COVID-19 virus in prison. The decision was laid down in the face of concerns regarding the continuous spread of the virus in the state, and the possibility of rapid infection among inmates.
As a result, multiple criminal defense attorneys have ushered in their own bail hearing motions for their own clients. Many are looking to trim down the bail costs for their own clients, citing how the quarantine shutdown will further delay the final verdicts for their clients, and how a more attainable bail will help them get home from prison faster and avoid being infected. Only time will tell if the court order will stay for longer.
It is good to know that, despite the major national crisis, the courts are still working hard to ensure that justice is served by any means necessary. It is hoped that things will normalize soon, so that the defendants still awaiting their verdicts will finally get their cases heard after the extended delays.
Goodman Criminal Defense Attorney
520 S 4th St. STE #200,
Las Vegas, NV 89101, United States
(702) 383 – 5088