How Will COVID-19 Impact My Court Date in Georgia?
Georgia Supreme Court Justice Harold Melton recently extended the statewide judicial emergency through June 12, 2020. Despite many businesses in Georgia reopening after the shelter-in-place restrictions were widely lifted, Georgia courts will remain closed to non-essential services until next month when the shelter-in-place recommendation for the high-risk community also expires. As a result, criminal and civil trials remain on hold.
Wondering what the court closure means for your case? If you have pending DUI charges, COVID-19 may impact your case by postponing court dates, extending deadlines, and even affecting the outcome of your case.
Here are a few things you should know.
What can I expect?
You should expect lengthy delays in your case due to the judicial emergency declaration. However, know that while your court appearances may be rescheduled for a later date, there will also be more time for filing with extended deadlines. This means you may have up to sixty days to send in your 30-Day Letter. Contact your attorney to learn more and check out the COVID-19 resources through the Georgia Department of Driver Services.
Is my case considered “essential?”
Only “essential functions” of the court are permitted during the shelter-in-place restrictions. All non-essential hearings, filing deadlines, and trials will be postponed. Essential functions include:
- Addressing an immediate liberty or safety concern
- Issuing arrest and criminal search warrants
- Initial appearances and bond reviews for criminal matters
- Temporary protective orders and restraining orders for domestic abuse matters
- Delinquency detention hearings and emergency removals for juvenile matters
- Mental health commitment hearings
Accordingly, unless there is a first appearance or bond review scheduled in your case during the court’s closure, your case will likely be delayed because it is not considered essential.
However, because each jurisdiction has discretion as to which cases are considered essential, it is important to remain in contact with your attorney and/or the court where your case is pending for status updates.
Will my court date be rescheduled because of COVID-19?
Because it is likely that your hearing dates will be rescheduled, you must remain in contact with your attorney for updates. Trials, hearings with the Department of Driver Services, and other related steps in your DUI case will likely be postponed.
What types of hearings are being held virtually in Georgia during COVID-19?
Only essential hearings including jail calendars, probation revocation hearings of accused persons in custody, and bond reviews are widely being conducted through teleconferencing. However, each court can determine which cases can continue with virtual hearings. As such, it is important to remain in contact with your attorney and/or the court for calendar updates.
How might the court handle mitigating factors like classes and volunteer work during COVID-19?
If you are unable to attend classes or volunteer opportunities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, look for virtual opportunities to meet your obligations. There are many remote volunteer opportunities and classes available.
Due to pandemic-related closures, the deadlines for any court-mandated service or class obligations will likely be extended. If you have questions about your case, I encourage you to contact our office for a free consultation.