Many of us are wondering if life will ever be the same again after COVID-19? I know I am. Although I do not pretend to know the answer to this question, I am confident in saying, YES…but it will be different. All of us lost something we miss – job, school, sports, events, gatherings, church, spending time with loved ones, Easter ! But we must stay positive – life will resume – but it will take time and it will most certainly look and feel very different.
I can also tell you the practice of LAW has not been immune to the effects of COVID-19. Quite the opposite, actually. Some practice areas have been impacted more so than others. This article will focus on CRIMINAL LAW and is intended to be a summary only.
What is typically a very busy place in Downtown Lancaster City, bustling with zealous lawyers, anxious litigants and dutiful employees operating in the same hallways Monday-Friday, the COURTHOUSE today looks much different – and so does the practice of criminal law. We fear not – we are finding new ways to serve our CLIENTS and protect their constitutional RIGHTS!
To summarize, preliminary hearings (a citizen’s initial hearing to challenge the government’s evidence) are being scheduled out past April 30 (for now) and into May, with the exception for those in JAIL. Preliminary hearings are done via video conference using an application called “Lifesize”, wherein I can speak with my client about his/her case confidentially, while also being routed in with the judge and prosecutor. I can privately discuss the terms of a plea, treatment court or other non-trial disposition like ARD with my client. In addition, our use of Lifesize does offer a great opportunity to challenge the EVIDENCE and request a hearing. If the evidence is weak, your case can be DISMISSED. I can also present argument to seek a BAIL reduction or other modification (ie. Removing a no contact condition). Your LIBERTY is IMPORTANT to us.
Although Lifesize is not a perfect application, it is better than sitting in prison awaiting a hearing – all because you have been ACCUSED of a crime. I have represented good people who simply made a bad decision. Justice should be proportionate to the offense and record of the offender. Every case is different and should be treated as such. We are still able, through this technology, to aggressively argue in your defense.
We are also scheduling video guilty pleas for anyone incarcerated in the county prison – via the Lifesize application. Any trial or non-trial disposition for those NOT in jail have to wait – unfortunately I know. We do not yet know when the courthouse will open for non-emergencies. All criminal JURY TRIALS scheduled in April have been continued, with May soon to follow. It is likely we won’t have any jury trials until June or even July at the earliest. On the bright side, the use of this technology means we are able to make bail applications and attend bench warrant hearings via video or telephone conference. Again, our focus is on your liberty and constitutional rights.
I am still able to see clients in county jail via Lifesize as well as schedule telephone conferences with anyone in state prison. That goes for my other clients as well who are not in jail – we offer telephone conferences or even ZOOM if a face to face is preferred.
It is a trying time for sure; however, the technology we are now using effectively allows us to continue advocating for our clients while always protecting their constitutional rights.