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The coronavirus pandemic has affected nearly all aspects of life, including how we access public services like those provided by San Diego’s courts. Hearings in criminal cases were stalled for weeks when California shut down to reduce the spread of COVID-19. As of May 2020, hearings have restarted in San Diego Superior Courts, but the public may not enter the courtroom.
If you’re facing criminal charges during these uncertain times, speak with a seasoned criminal defense lawyer to understand what your next steps should be. Attorney Dod of Dod Law can help you navigate the criminal justice system during coronavirus.
How are Courts Operating During Coronavirus in San Diego?
Courtrooms have not given up on keeping public hearings “public.” Instead, local courts have found a creative solution for court hearings to comply with social distancing regulations. They are now live streaming the audio from hearings on Youtube, which anyone with an internet connection can get for free.
Four courtrooms in downtown’s Central Courthouse were live streaming hearings regularly before the practice spread to nearby areas. Courts expected to be able to livestream arraignments from branches in Vista, Chula Vista, and El Cajon soon after Youtube hearings took off in San Diego.
Steps for Accessing Public Criminal Hearings in San Diego
San Diegans can access these live streams by going to www.sdcourt.ca.gov. Once on the site, you can click on the bright yellow box at the top of the page that says, “COVID-19 & Court Information.” Next, scroll to and click on where it says “Criminal Court Livestreaming.” You may then choose the department that pertains to the hearing you’d like to attend.
The court aims to keep public access open despite suspending other services. Court spokeswoman Emily Cox stated, “These hearings are traditionally open to the public, but since we are not allowing the public into our court facilities for non-emergency needs at this time, we wanted to provide a way to maintain public access.”
Judges are now conducting hearings via video-conferencing on platforms like Zoom. Attorneys can join virtual hearings from their offices, while defendants join from a room in jail with internet access and a link to the courtroom. The judge is present in the courtroom.
What Cases are Criminal Courts in San Diego Handling?
Local criminal courts continue to schedule hearings for defendants who are already in custody. According to Presiding Judge Lorna Alksne, the courts should have reopened for most services on May 26. Whenever possible, the courts will continue providing services remotely for public health reasons. Officials are also limiting the number of people allowed in courthouses.
Due to court closures, more than 87,000 hearings need to be rescheduled. Criminal matters involving defendants who are not in jail will be paused indefinitely, while those involving defendants in custody will get priority.
What to Do If You’ve Been Arrested in San Diego
If you have recently been arrested in or near San Diego, you need aggressive criminal representation, fast. Attorney Dod of Dod Law has more than 17 years of experience providing effective defense for people facing criminal charges in San Diego. With more than 6,500 criminal cases in and out of the courtroom, including more than 75 jury trials and 400 preliminary hearings, you can trust Dod to provide your case with the attention it deserves.
Call (619) 814-5110 or complete our contact form for a free consultation. Attorney Dod will discuss your case at any time of day.