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Will A Delay Help – Or Hurt – My Criminal Case?

By Daniel T. Geherin

As Michigan courts remain closed during the Emergency Order, clients with open criminal cases are caught in limbo:  No court appearances scheduled; trials/motions postponed indefinitely, extended bond/probation conditions. In times like these, you want a criminal defense attorney in Washtenaw County you can trust!

COVID-19 is causing many delays in the legal system.

Nearly every Defendant who has a pending criminal case is left wondering whether the significant delay is good or bad for their case, and many of the same questions come to mind:

“What if my loved one is in jail; will his case still be handled?”

“Is a delay helpful to the outcome of my criminal case?”

“Will I be given “credit” for the time I’ve spend on bond/probation during the crisis?”

“Don’t I have a right to a Speedy Trial that is being compromised by this pandemic?”,

Dan Geherin, principal attorney with the Geherin Law Group PLLC (GLG Michigan), is an ex-prosecutor and board-certified criminal defense attorney in Washtenaw County with over 25+ years’ criminal law experience.  Dan thought he had seen it all in the justice system---until this pandemic hit.  Prior, courts rarely closed down for any purpose (including blizzards), so having a 6-week closure of courts is certainly a shocking and new experience.

Despite being closed to the general public, most courts throughout Michigan have remained open to handle “essential” criminal court functions, generally defined as those hearings involving defendants who are in jail/prison custody; and emergency Personal Protection Order (PPO) applications/violations.  Many other courts are still conducting hearings via Zoom or Skype technology, even allowing defendants to request resolution of their cases via online forms, plea-by-mail applications, and the like. 

Most courts have announced that the public necessity of the closures trump a defendant’s Constitutional/Statutory right to a speedy trial/disposition.  However, these speedy trial rights are reserved for those defendants who are in custody during the pendency of their case. Since courts are continuing to hold hearings for these essential cases, most speedy trial arguments are rendered moot.  Where it becomes very interesting is with JURY trials.  Right now, virtually no courts are conducting trials by jury, simply because it’s impossible to keep social distancing in the confines of a jury setting.  For those defendants who are in custody and having their jury trials postponed, they might have a speedy trial argument, at least one that might result in a lessened bail/bond or even a release from custody. 

Because this is all so new, it will be interesting to see if judges are willing to give “credit” to defendants who have served extended bond/probation conditions while the courts are closed.  Certainly, judges should be open to modifying these conditions or shortening typical probation terms for those who have fully complied during the pandemic.  You can bet that as your criminal defense attorney in Washtenaw County, GLG Michigan will be fighting aggressively for our clients who have fully complied on bond/probation during this extended freeze in the justice system. 

Delay can cut both ways in criminal defense.  Delay can be helpful in the sense that investigations can be conducted more thoroughly; emotions cool down; and defendants can prove their commitment to following a judge’s orders while on bond (especially for an extended period of time).  Delay can be harmful in the sense that defendants might exhaust their resources on bond (including for things like alcohol monitoring/testing); helpful witnesses may no longer be available; memories fade; and people may need to achieve a dismissal/acquittal before getting back their job, their driver’s license, their reputation, their freedom. 

If a loved one or you are charged with a criminal case and have questions about how the court closure might affect your case/rights, please contact our principal criminal defense attorney in Washtenaw County, Dan and his team at GLG Michigan.  Schedule online at GLGMichigan, or call (734) 263-2780, 24/7.   We remain open throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, and we continue to devote unparalleled personal attention to all of our clients as they fight through this horrific and scary time. 

GLG Michigan:  Handling criminal cases with caring and expertise—from investigation through trial---in Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County and throughout Southeastern Michigan.