Right now is a time of great fear and uncertainty throughout our country and our world. Here in Atlantic County, New Jersey, we have already seen a large spike in local cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus as the pandemic takes hold in our region. With all the things we have to be concerned about at this unprecedented moment in our nation’s history, the last thing you want to have to worry about is getting into trouble with the law. In New Jersey, the closure of much of the court system may leave people believing that they are permitted to commit crimes with impunity. Below, our experienced Atlantic County criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych explain why that is not the case, and what to do if you are arrested during the pandemic.
Are Courts Closed in Atlantic County During Coronavirus?
In mid-March, the N.J. Supreme Court directed that all courts in the state close except for a few exceptions, mostly related to imminent public safety threats. This applies to both the superior court system and local municipal courts in Atlantic County. Virtually no proceeding is being held in person at the courthouses at the moment due to the pandemic.
If you have a municipal court hearing or trial scheduled during this time, you should receive some sort of notice that your matter has been rescheduled. The same goes for a matter due to come before the superior court, although some hearings on pre-trial motions and pre-trial conferences may still be happening remotely over videoconferencing. If you are currently dealing with a criminal matter without the assistance of an attorney, it is more vital than ever that you contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer like those at our firm right away. We can contact the local court and prosecutor’s office to check on the status of your case, find out if upcoming court dates are postponed, and figure out if there is anything you need to do in the meantime.
In some cases, a lawyer can also try to work out a plea deal with the prosecutor remotely. Such a deal could include you pleading to a less charge or pleading guilty to your charge in exchange for a more lenient sentence. Depending on the judge and court, you may be able to resolve the matter over videoconference. All jury trials have been suspended and so any cases due to go before a jury will not be resolved in the near future.
New Arrests in Atlantic County During Covid-19
Although the court system is largely closed, this does not mean that police are not arresting those who commit crimes during the pandemic. In fact, in many places police are patrolling more than ever and enforcing laws stricter than ever to ensure that public safety is maintained during this trying time. If you were under investigation, the police are still going to conduct that investigation and obtain arrest warrants. If you commit a new crime, the police are still going to arrest you.
In addition to arresting people for standard crimes like theft or assault, the police now also have the authority to charge you with a disorderly persons offense for violating the governor’s executive order mandating that you stay at home except for essential purposes. Many people have already been arrested and charged under the executive order, usually those holding large gatherings in violation of the mandate to socially distance or continuing to operate non-essential businesses. If children are present at these illegal gatherings, police are also charging any adults present with child endangerment. If you are facing a charge under the executive order, you should contact one of our skilled Cape May criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych right away.
Bail Hearings in Atlantic County During Coronavirus
Once you are arrested for a crime, the police will take you to the local station for the booking process. It is vital that you or a loved one contact a lawyer as soon as an arrest occurs. We may be able to work out a deal with the police, especially for less serious charges, where you will be released on your own recognizance after booking without spending any time in jail. Jails are not known to be particularly clean, and practicing social distancing in a cramped detention center is very difficult. As such, they are virtual breeding grounds for Covid-19 cases and you most certainly do not want to spend time behind bars at the moment.
If the police will not release you after booking, we can work to convince them to keep you in the holding cell at the station rather than send you to a crowded detention facility while you await a bail hearing. Such hearings are being greatly delayed due to the strain on police resources and the fact that many jails and police stations are not properly set up to hold hearings via videoconference. It may take days or weeks to get before a judge. Our bail hearing attorneys can work our contacts at the police stations, courts, and prosecutor’s offices in Atlantic County to try to speed up this process and get a judge to release you as quickly as possible.
If You Have Been Arrested in Atlantic County, Call Our Skilled Criminal Defense Attorneys Right Away
The last thing you want during a time when we are supposed to be social distancing to protect ourselves is to end up in a jail where social distancing is difficult to impossible. The longer you stay behind bars awaiting a detention hearing, the more likely you are to bring the virus home with you. At the Law Offices of John J. Zarych, our South Jersey criminal defense attorneys will work to get you released as quickly as possible. If a detention hearing is held, we can represent you remotely and fight to convince the judge not to keep you detained indefinitely until such time as your charge can be resolved. For a free consultation, call our office today at (609) 616-4956.