COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the world. Nowhere is that truer than in our court systems.
In Colorado, the courts have slowed down to a snail’s pace. Everything from criminal trials to getting married by the Justice of the Peace has been impacted. The problem is that most people don’t take the time to understand how Colorado courts work unless they need to, which is where a lawyer can come in handy.
Here are a few important things to know about how Colorado courts function, how that is being limited by the pandemic, and what you can do to ensure that your court case moves as fast as it can — even in the midst of a pandemic.
What Are Coloradans Rights in the Court System?
So, what are your rights in court, even during a pandemic? You are entitled by the Constitution to:
- The right to remain silent, which means you do not need to make any statements that can be utilized against you
- The right to a lawyer
- The right to request an attorney if you cannot pay for one
- The right to make a plea voluntarily, not due to coercion or undue influence
- The right to bail if the offense calls for it
- The right to understand the nature of the charges against you
- The right to a jury trial in criminal matters
- The right to request an initial hearing within a fair amount of time to establish whether there was probable cause in certain felony cases
Colorado Courts Must Find a Balance
The COVID-19 pandemic is a public health emergency. That means that the courts must find a balance between the Constitutional rights of those moving through the court system and the health of those who work in the courts and the general public who may be called to sit as jurors in criminal cases.
During this pandemic, critical cases have still continued to be reviewed in person by the courts. Examples of critical cases include:
- Bail hearings
- In-custody criminal cases, as well as juvenile cases where the defendant is being held
- Contested isolation and quarantine orders
- Emergency protective orders for cases involving child abuse or domestic violence
Most of the other cases moving through the courts, such as civil actions, are being delayed or temporarily suspended.
How Colorado Courts Are Handling Critical Cases
Even with the shuttering of some courthouses due to COVID-19, some courts are continuing to use virtual meetings to hear cases.
For the most part, almost all of those hearings are being held in person (except for sentencings in traffic and misdemeanor cases.
Types of hearing still being held by video conference/over the phone: Disposition Hearings in criminal matters, non-emergent child custody matters, and Final Orders in Divorce matters. You could probably delete the portion above for this section, and just go with what’s below.
How are they continuing to work on these critical cases? The courts are employing new tactics to ensure that business can proceed. They are using a few methods to accomplish this such as:
- Virtual meetings
- Extensions of hearing and filing deadlines
- Waiving appearance requirements
- Postponing or suspending trials that aren’t dealing with constitutional deadlines
- Virtual Court Hearings
Unfortunately, if you have a case working through the Colorado criminal justice system right now and you don’t have an attorney to represent you, the pandemic can make it take a lot longer to be resolved.
Why? Because these virtual meetings take place with the judge, prosecutor, and defense attorney in separate places — something a criminal defense attorney may be able to help arrange and push through to ensure your court case is dealt with and your rights are upheld.
Even in the best of times, the criminal justice system can be complicated to navigate. Now with the addition of a pandemic, things may be even more complicated and can take longer for your case to move through. Understand your rights and how you can ensure you get them and a resolution may be a bit speedier for you.
About the Author:
Andrew Bryant is a well-respected Colorado Springs criminal attorney who has been practicing in the area for years. A Colorado native, he returned to the home he loves after graduating from the University of Kentucky College of Law. Now, he uses the knowledge he gained as an El Paso County District Attorney to fight tirelessly for his clients’ rights. He is AV-Preeminent rated, has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, and has been named to Best of the Springs lists by The Gazette for years.