Criminal Defense

How will COVID-19 impact my criminal case in West Palm Beach?

In this blog post, we will discuss what COVID-19 means for criminal cases in West Palm Beach and what you can expect in the coming months.

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown thousands of West Palm Beach criminal cases into question as clients and their criminal defense attorneys navigate court closures, delays, and other unexpected twists in their cases.

In this blog post, we will discuss what COVID-19 means for criminal cases in West Palm Beach and what you can expect in the coming months.

West Palm Beach Courts Are Still Open for Business

Courts are considered essential places of business and as such, they are still open. Fifteenth Circuit judges are available in all divisions to hear non essential matters remotely Monday through Friday. “Essential” hearings will be held in person and courts are ordered to take all steps necessary to curb the spread of the virus.

What constitutes an “essential” hearing is spelled out in a recently-entered administrative order. Examples of essential matters include the following:

  • First appearance hearings
  • Criminal arraignment hearings
  • Hearings on motions to set or modify bail 
  • Pre-negotiated pleas in circuit and county criminal divisions (where the settlement paperwork has been provided to the presiding judge in advance)
  • Juvenile detention hearings
  • Juvenile dependency shelter and arraignment hearings
  • Hearings to determine termination of parental rights
  • Petitions for Judicial Waiver of Notice 
  • Hearings on petitions for the appointment of an emergency temporary guardian
  • Ex parte injunctions for dating violence, domestic violence, repeat violence, sexual violence, stalking, or prevention of child abuse
  • Hearings on petitions for Risk Protection Orders
  • Issuance of warrants or authorizations for wiretaps
  • Baker Act and Marchman Act proceedings
  • Extraordinary writs
  • Proceedings related to the state of emergency or public health emergency (for instance, violation of quarantine orders)

All grand jury proceedings, jury selection proceedings, and criminal and civil jury trials are suspended until May 29, 2020 or as further ordered by the State’s Supreme Court. 

Additionally, all misdemeanor and traffic court cases filed on or after March 23 will be set at least 60 days out. In certain cases, your attorney can contact the court to attempt to expedite your matter.

What to Expect When Going to Court in West Palm Beach During COVID-19

Florida courthouses are taking all precautions necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Upon entering the courthouse, the following measures will be taken:

  • Everyone entering will have a temperature taken.
  • You and your attorney will be asked to wait outside the courtroom until your case is called.
  • Once inside the courtroom, everyone will be asked to maintain a six-foot distance from other parties.
  • The courts are encouraging everyone to wear face masks. 
  • Hearing times are staggered to prevent crowds.

The judicial branch has set forth four phases in which it will transition back to normal operations, which are outlined below:

  • Phase 1: in-person contact is inadvisable, court facilities are effectively closed to the public, and in-person proceedings are rare;
  • Phase 2: limited in-person contact is authorized for certain purposes and/or requires use of protective measures;
  • Phase 3: in-person contact is more broadly authorized and protective measures are relaxed; and
  • Phase 4: COVID-19 no longer presents a significant risk to public health and safety.

What Should I Do If I’m Scheduled to Appear in Court but Feel Sick?

If any of the following are true, then you will be asked to avoid entering the courthouse:

  • You are experiencing fever, cough, or shortness of breath.
  • You have been diagnosed with or had contact with anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • You have been asked to self-quarantine by a doctor, hospital, or other healthcare professional.
  • You have recently traveled to an area that has been widely infected with COVID-19, or have had contact with someone who has.

The most important thing to do in any situation is to prioritize your health and the safety of those around you. If you are feeling ill, please let your attorney know. Do not show up to court or your attorney’s office. Stay home, stay healthy, and do your part to prevent the spread of this virus. 

Contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorneys Salnick & Fuchs, P.A. for further questions about how COVID-19 will affect your case.

Gregory Salnick

Mr. Salnick is a Florida Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Law. He began his legal career at the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office where he prosecuted over 90 jury trials, ranging from DUI to murder, armed robbery and drug trafficking. Mr. Salnick quickly gained a reputation as a tenacious and ethical attorney at law. Mr. Salnick now serves as state and federal criminal defense attorney at Salnick & Fuchs, P. A.

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