While it is true that there are many changes to how courts are running during the COVID-19 pandemic, most aspects of our practice are moving along in a normal fashion. It took a few weeks to get all the “players” in place and learning to practice law from home but, for the most part, we have all settled into our new normal. For this reason, the short answer to this questions is—don’t count on that kind of miracle.
Criminal Cases Continue To Be Charged
In fact, most prosecutors we have spoken with have indicated that, during their time away from the courtroom, they are spending more time charging cases. This means they are reviewing police reports that may have been filed with their office in the past year and deciding whether to charge a person with a crime. If they charge you, the case is sent over to the District Court Clerk’s office and they will send a Summons to your last known address with Department of Licensing. This is a good reason to make sure your mailing address is up to date! So, be prepared that charging is increasing and Summons are already being received in the mail. To us, that means prosecutors are moving full steam ahead during the pandemic.
Is There A Silver Lining?
One potential positive outcome due to the COVID-19 court changes might be the willingness of the prosecutor’s office to extend better offers to defendants. This could be happening to avoid the upcoming backlog of cases that we know will soon be clogging the court calendars. The “better offers” might look like a pretrial diversion agreement with less restrictive conditions than in a normal circumstance. However, we do not expect to see any straight dismissal of charges unless there was already a legitimate legal challenge to the charge. The best way to know if you are a candidate for a “pandemic deal” is to keep in touch with your lawyer and let them know if you have taken any proactive steps during the court date rescheduling period. The more seriously you take your criminal charge and the more proactive steps you have taken during the break, the greater likelihood of negotiating a good deal should you choose not to go to trial.
Witt Law Group is a criminal defense law firm based in Bremerton, Kitsap County, State of Washington.