Are There Any Other Important COVID-19 Updates?
During COVID-19, Do You Think That Defendants Have More Leeway When It Comes To Appealing Convictions?
I think one of the big issues that arises is the idea of a speedy trial. Speedy trial is a flexible concept that means the defendant can invoke the right to tell the court that they want to get the case over with and want to limit the delay between issuance of the complaint and its ultimate adjudication. Reasons for delay include the complexity of the case, COVID-19, and prejudice to the defendant. Since these are flexible concepts, it remains to be seen how COVID-19 will factor into the speedy trial calculus. I suspect that courts will tolerate much longer delays between issuance and adjudication because of the COVID-19 emergency.
There’s been a big push for early release of non-violent criminals and increasing jail credit. There’s also been a push to give compassionate release to people particularly affected by COVID-19, although the courts have been very parsimonious in granting that kind of relief. People serving mandatory jail sentences are essentially stuck—even those who are serving time for non-violent crimes. We’re seeing a lot of appeals on these cases, but the determinations are generally left to the sound discretion of the trial judge and rarely overturned on appeal. From what I’ve seen so far, appellate courts have been deferential to a trial judge’s determination of whether to keep a person in custody or release them. In that sense, I don’t see COVID-19 having any real practical impact other than potentially giving an incarcerated defendant a chance to shorten their actual prison term. However, this is something that is determined on a case-by-case basis.
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