As the nation works toward reopening the economy over the coming months, the Florida court system is also trying to determine how to move forward while simultaneously protecting the individuals who work in the justice system and those who are entering the system.
For now, the criminal process remains different than before the pandemic hit our shores, and what it may look like in the coming months remains uncertain.
At the same time, it is important that those who are charged with a crime are granted swift justice. In fact, it’s enshrined in the constitution. The Florida court system is aware of this and has enacted policies to help ensure that the court can remain in session while still keeping everyone safe.
However, it is not the court that many people recognize.
Court is Still in Session
If you have an upcoming court date, you may be wondering whether it’s safe for you to go or whether you even need to.
While some cases have been postponed, many cases are moving forward thanks to technology. If you have a pending case, be sure to contact your lawyer to learn about your current status.
There are currently cases that are being presented virtually, while other less pressing matters are being handled over the phone. Depending on where in the process your case is and the severity of the charges against you, you may be expected to present yourself “virtually” before a judge, or you may find that your case has been delayed while more serious matters are handled first.
Florida Court System Workgroup
On 4/21/2020, Chief Justice Canady issued AOSC20-28, effectively creating a workgroup to determine how courts will operate during the current pandemic and after the threat of the coronavirus begins diminishing.
The goal of the workgroup is to implement procedures that will help protect the health of all participants in Florida’s court system during the various stages of the pandemic. They will work to determine how court proceedings will continue and to what capacity during stay-at-home orders and once orders and regulations are gradually lifted. They will also set in place a plan for how to return back to normal operating procedures and when.
Additionally, the workgroup is tasked with taking a look at those proceedings that have been postponed to see which can be handled remotely and which may require in-person proceedings. They’ll also consider what order proceedings will occur in.
There is no timeline on this workgroup, and we can only hope that they get these matters sorted quickly while taking into account all scientific and medical information to keep everyone safe. At the same time, it’s imperative that the group act quickly to ensure justice is not delayed for those trapped in the system.
Florida Supreme Court Has Gone Virtual
This past April, the halls of Florida’s Supreme Court were a lot quieter than they had ever been before. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, all April court sessions were canceled. This means the court is now a bit behind and needs to play catchup.
To ensure the court doesn’t fall further behind, cases going before the Florida Supreme Court this May will be held virtually for the first time ever. Judges and other court actors have done a test-run in preparation for this historical event, which may become more commonplace in the future, especially with predictions of a second wave hitting in the fall or winter months.
Will Court Proceedings Continue Once Stay-at-Home Orders Expire?
As previously mentioned, the working group ordered by Chief Justice Canady is creating a plan for a phased progression for returning to normal. That means that even when stay-at-home and social distancing orders are relaxed over the next few weeks, the court system will not immediately return to normal. In addition to directives from the working group, other chief judges may create their own directives. There is a distinct possibility that some counties will see a “return to normal” sooner than others, so be sure to find out what’s happening in your court district.
If you have questions about your specific case, you should contact your legal representative. If they are keeping up with everything going on, they will be able to give you the best possible information regarding your case and the current status of the judicial system.
Can I Get a Fair Trial Online?
One question that is sure to come up because of virtual and telephone proceedings is whether these methods truly create a space for justice to occur. Are defendants’ rights being violated by holding a video trial? Can a telephone proceeding truly capture the essence of a court proceeding?
In some rural areas, these types of proceedings are already par for the course. However, the Florida judicial system will need to determine if they are truly serving the rights of individuals charged with a crime by switching over to these methods. We’ve all had an experience over the phone or in a video call where the meaning didn’t come through just right or we weren’t able to properly convey an idea because of the technological limitations. When it comes to criminal justice, this can be a huge concern. It’s imperative that defendants have a fair trial—again, it’s a cornerstone of our constitution.
Until that’s decided, know that a skilled Tampa defense lawyer will work hard to fight for your rights and ensure that you’re protected as you navigate the justice system under this new normal.
Stuck in Limbo? Call Mike G Law
If you or a loved one have been charged with a crime and feel that your case is in limbo because of the current restrictions, make sure that you have a skilled defense attorney on your side to help safeguard your rights.
Right now, there’s a lot of uncertainty, and unless our legal system moves forward expeditiously, many individuals’ rights will be unfairly trampled. Don’t let that happen to you. Make sure you have a strong advocate and a fighter in your corner—contact Mike G Law today to learn more about how we can help represent you during your case, whether it be remotely or in-person.