How COVID-19 is impacting the court system

Local News

FLORIDA, (WMBB) — As businesses are forced to close their doors and health officials are calling for everyone to practice social distancing, the Florida court system is making changes to follow guidelines.

The changes are coming from the Florida Supreme Court and local judges.

On March 13, the Florida Supreme Court started to implement some changes to their proceedings in hopes to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The court ruled they would suspend grand jury proceedings, jury selection proceedings, and criminal and civil jury trials continue to be suspended through Friday, April 17. 

Speedy trial periods in criminal and juvenile proceedings continue to be suspended through Monday, April 20.

The orders also give each circuit or county judge the discretion on whether or not to continue with essential or critical proceedings through remote or electronic mediums.

Locally, Chief Judge for the 14th Judicial Circuit Christopher Patterson also made some changes.

All in-custody criminal proceedings will be conducted electronically. The transport orders to and from the courthouse are rescinded.

In-person mass dockets such as criminal, dependency, family CMC’s, juvenile delinquency and child support are suspended until further notice.

Child support 48-hour hearings will continue to be heard telephonically or by video.

Juvenile detention hearings will continue electronically or in-person on a case by case basis.

All problem-solving courts (i.e. drug court, veterans’ treatment court, therapeutic justice court, and early Childhood court) are suspended until further notice.

Domestic violence proceedings will continue by the presiding judge as circumstances warrant.

Chief Judge Patterson will monitor the jail populations to determine eligibility for release.

On Wednesday, Patterson approved a memorandum to limit individuals from being booked into the jail.

The document states:

“In keeping with the mandates of AOSC 20-17 and previous Florida Supreme Court directives, effective this date, the following actions are taken to alleviate Circuit Jail population issues and to secure other Court events:

A moratorium on all in-person foreclosure sales,

A moratorium on service of Writs of Possession,

A moratorium on service of capiases for Failure to Pay Fines (unless person is in custody for another offense),

The Sherriff of each County is permitted discretion to deny transport for non-warrants served out-of-county,

All Judges may consider at first appearance release conditions for all Violation of Probation Warrants (notwithstanding an issuing Judge’s determination) in keeping with Florida law.

The Sherriff of each County is reminded of his ability to issue Notices to Appear from the jail, as proscribed by Florida law.

THIS DIRECTIVE SHALL REMAIN IN EFFECT UNTIL APRIL 17, 2020, unless as extended in writing.”

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