Pretrial Detention Hearings During COVID-19
If you know someone, especially a veteran, who is currently incarcerated and awaiting a pretrial detention hearing, contact the experienced lawyers at Citizen Soldier Law to help get your loved one released from jail.
Although we’ve handled pretrial detention hearings in the past, during this time of government emergency shutdown, we have been advocating for our clients through Zoom in their pretrial detention hearing. COVID-19 has forced the courts to do hearings remotely. In one case wherein we represented a Marine, had 18 charges for indictable criminal charges and disorderly persons offenses resulting from a domestic violence dispute and assault.
In the era of COVID-19, the county jails throughout the state have set up private rooms with webcams and audio for detainees to participate remotely in their pretrial detention hearings (detainees typically are brought to court for these hearings). The judge, the Assistant Prosecutor, and defense counsel also appear remotely and share a four-channel screen with the detainee so all parties can see and hear each other.
The remote hearings are conducted just as they would be in a courtroom, with the formality of the attorneys doing appearances, parties being sworn under oath, and recordings for possible transcripts.
One of our clients did recently appear and the judge released him on low level monitoring (i.e. level 1) since he had no prior record. Because his offense was considered a domestic dispute, his next court appearance, also done on Zoom, was scheduled a week after his release in the Family Law docket to resolve the restraining order that his ex-partner took out against him.
When a domestic dispute occurs, the police investigating the matter will ask the party who called law enforcement if they would like a restraining order. If the party confirms, the police present the matter to a judge, ex parte, meaning without advocacy for the accused, who may sign a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). The TRO is effective until the matter is resolved in a Final Restraining Order (FRO) hearing.
Family Law hearings are different from criminal matters as the three parties involved in Family court are the petitioner, the respondent, and the judge who acts as a factfinder and decides questions of facts and law. In criminal matters, the three parties involved are the State through the Prosecutor’s Office, the defendant, and the judge. Because the State is not a party to Family Law matters, the complainant and defendant are not entitled to state representation (i.e. the Prosecutor’s Office and Public Defender’s Office).
A FRO hearing is complex and retaining counsel for this type of hearing is highly advisable. An FRO hearing is a trial, for all intents and purposes, with relaxed rules of evidence yet involves sworn statements, subpoenas and live testimony and cross-examination of the witnesses. FRO hearings can require several appearances in Family court to resolve. Legal representation is crucial since direct and cross examination requires proficiency in the Rules of Evidence and any statement made under oath in this hearing can have legal consequences in future matters.
Because the courts are not open due to COVID-19, it is highly advisable to hire an attorney to request an adjournment of your FRO hearing for when the courts are re-opened for business. Conducting a trial through Zoom is not advisable as it violates your right to confront your accuser. Call the attorneys at Citizen Soldier Law if you have a loved one incarcerated and awaiting a pretrial detention hearing or if you were involved in a domestic dispute, were charged with a domestic violence offense, or are the subject of a TRO.