It’s an interesting question. Based on the Governor’s order, you would figure that all of the courthouses in Los Angeles would just close down. Unfortunately, because they are viewed as critical need when it comes to criminal defense, the San Fernando Valley courts are open.
In fact, all 38 courts in Los Angeles county are open. They’re opened for limited business. For example, in Van Nuys for felony cases, if your case is set for preliminary hearing you have to show up for court with your attorney.
Preliminary Hearings and Arraignments
The way that Van Nuys are handling them, most of the cases are in one of the courtrooms — one of the judges is picking up the duty and the preliminary hearings are all just being continued.
In fact, the same thing in San Fernando, which is one of the San Fernando Valley courts, all of the cases there are being continued except for preliminary hearings and new arraignments. You still have to appear on those but those end up getting continued.
In other words, these Valley courts are not going to allow any type of real courtroom action in criminal cases because that’s obviously going to expose the judges, the prosecutors, the court staff, the deputies, the clients and the lawyers to spreading the virus around if anybody has it.
So obviously, I’ve been going in and out of court since this virus struck. The courts are pretty baron. The San Fernando Valley courts are not letting any of the family members of the defendants, so nobody is really allowed in there and most of the more serious cases are people who are in custody. There’s not much milling around inside Van Nuys or San Fernando or any of the courts in Los Angeles county for that matter.
The way that they’re handling these cases right now is everything is getting pushed off into June or July. If it’s kind of an important matter, the end of April, end of May. They’re just moving the cases in hopes that things will go back to normal in a couple of months.
Retain a Local Criminal Lawyer
So, if you have a criminal case in one of the San Fernando Valley courthouses, you’re going to want to hire an attorney and make sure that your case is handled the right way. Don’t just bury your head in the sand and do nothing because of the Coronavirus.
That would be a foolish move that would put you in a bad position. Let your attorney be the one that deals with the San Fernando courts.
I’m calling the clerks all the time, and sometimes if we can’t get a hold of them because they’re inundated with calls and issues, what we end up doing is just have to go to court and you can get in there and talk to the clerk and figure out what needs to be done.
So, if you’ve got a criminal case pending and you need help and you’re concerned because of the virus — you don’t want to go to court — there’s way to avoid that. There’s a California Penal Code 977b waiver that can be filled out — even in felony cases.
This is where your attorney can appear for you and the court will continue the case and let things get back to normal and then you can show up and deal with your criminal case.
Avoiding a Warrant For Failing to Appear
Most of the judges in the Valley courthouses are being very reasonable — not issuing bench warrants when people don’t show up — but if you get a new case and you’re supposed to appear for an arraignment and you don’t show up, they really don’t have any choice — they lose jurisdiction if they don’t issue a warrant.
If they do nothing then your case just goes away and they’re not going to let that happen. You need to make sure that either you or your attorney shows up to your criminal case. In all misdemeanor cases attorneys can appear for their clients and then just continue the case for two or three months while everything hopefully subsides, gets back to normal and then we’ll go back into court.
These San Fernando Valley courts are going to have some real issues once everything subsides because all of these cases are stacking up right now but there’s not very much they can do about it. All they can do is try to do what’s right for the public’s health and safety and then deal with the workload after everything calms down.
Categorised in: Criminal Defense