The court system is still operating throughout Washington state, but operations have been severely curtailed, and in many cases no criminal trials are being heard. This means that many of our client's cases are essentially on-hold, as they cannot be resolved without a trial, and prosecutors are often working from home, which has limited their willingness to resolve cases as quickly as they had previously been doing. Due to the current pandemic, speedy trial rights have been waived by government and the courts, so there is much less reason for prosecutors to resolve cases that are not set for trial, and will not be dismissed for speedy trial violations.
We also are seeing very few new filings by the prosecuting attorneys, as they seem hesitant to further clog up the system that already has a backlog of cases. We are still seeing filings in more serious cases, especially ones with immediate danger, such as domestic violence cases. It remains to be seen if there will be a surge in filings post pandemic.
The other big change, is that most of our court hearings can be accomplished remotely now, via teleconference or with software like Zoom that allows for video conferencing. This has rarely been allowed in the criminal courts, who normally have required all defendants to appear in-person, for each and every hearing, or bench warrants were issued upon a failure to appear. We are hoping that after the pandemic, this continues, as it is much more convenient for the attorneys and defendants to appear in this manner. It cuts travel time as well as further disruption to our client's lives through missed work, child care, school, and other opportunities.
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