What is happening to my Case during the Pandemic? Like virtually every other aspect of society, the Minnesota court system is greatly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the emergency peacetime “Stay at Home” orders put into place by Minnesota Governor Tim Walz during March through the middle of May, 2020. During this public health crisis, we continue to work to protect the rights of persons accused of crimes, and to keep you informed of your rights and some adjustments the courts are currently making. Here is a brief guide for some of your immediate questions.
Do I still have a court hearing?
- Maybe yes, more likely no. Many court hearings scheduled from mid-March to May 4 have been cancelled. But some criminal and emergency hearings are still going on. IF YOU HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT YOUR COURT HEARING HAS BEEN POSTPONED, CONTACT YOUR ATTORNEY AND/OR THE COURT. Most in-custody matters shall continue to hold hearings in the courtroom (if live testimony is not required). The defendant and attorneys may, however, appear remotely, generally through the use of some sort of video or phone technology. Other emergency hearings shall continue in the courtroom including change-of-custody requests, guardianship, housing/eviction when public health or safety is at risk or when unlawful activities are alleged. Other hearings shall continue which involve an immediate liberty concern and when public or personal safety concerns are paramount, such as Orders for Protection. But even for people in custody, no new jury trials will begin prior to May 4, 2020. If your hearing was cancelled, there may not be a new date scheduled yet. You should receive notice of the new date when it is scheduled.
Will I get a warrant if I don’t go to court?
- If your criminal court hearing is still on the schedule and you do not appear in court, the judge may issue a warrant for your arrest. If you are a Petitioner in an Order for Protection and you do not appear at a scheduled hearing in court, your petition may be dismissed. If you are a Respondent in an Order for Protection and you do not appear at a scheduled hearing in court, an Order may be issued against you. If you cannot attend court due to a health or safety concern, CONTACT YOUR ATTORNEY AND/OR THE COURT.
Can I still be arrested?
- You can still be arrested for engaging in unlawful activities. That said, some law enforcement agencies have indicated that they would prefer to issue citations rather than arrest people. However, if your behavior can be viewed as a danger to public safety, you could still be arrested.
Can I still be sent to jail?
- If you are arrested, you could still be sent to jail. However, some courts and law enforcement agencies have indicated that they will release people with low to no bail amount paid, and/or with a future court date in hand, in order to limit the number of people in custody.
Can I get out of jail?
- In limited circumstances, officials are considering early release of inmates in county jails, and/or transferring them to electronic home monitoring. In even more limited circumstances, state prison officials will consider early release of inmates. If your incarcerated loved one has an underlying medical condition that makes him or her particularly susceptible to Covid-19 and is nearing his/her release date, talk to an attorney about the possibility of requesting early release.
I just want to finish my case – is there a way to do this?
- Depending on the nature of your criminal case, there may be a way to finish your case without having to wait for your next hearing to be rescheduled. If you are prepared to plead guilty, your attorney may be able to work out a deal with the prosecutor so that you can enter your plea “by mail,” or by electronic submissions. Ask your attorney if this is a possibility in your case.
Will I be charged with a crime if I go outside?
- Pursuant to the governor’s Stay at Home order, you can be charged with a crime punishable by up to 90 days in jail or a fine of $1000 if you violate the order. However, officials have said that their intent is to educate the public about the reasons for staying home rather than charging people with a crime. Nonetheless, statewide, citations have been issued to owners of businesses that have not closed after warnings (for example, a tobacco shop in Maplewood and a restaurant in Faribault County). In some instances, individuals are being cited with “Violation of Emergency Executive Order” in addition to other charges, such as fleeing police, driving while intoxicated, or trespassing. Call Wilson Law Group for a free consultation if you have been cited for violating the order.
Can I still talk to my lawyer?
- At Wilson Law Group, we are following the order and largely working remotely, with access to email, phone, and skype. Our attorneys also have access to your files and continue to work for you. Please contact us with questions about your case and about any pending criminal matters.