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, we are experienced in Zoom pretrial detention hearings (as COVID-19 has forced the courts to do hearings remotely) and recently represented a Marine who had a dozen criminal charges and disorderly persons offenses resulting from a domestic dispute.
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 transcripts being recorded for the record. Needless to say, the only difference with these remote hearings is the missing factor of the intimidation inherent with physical appearances in a courtroom as the judge and attorneys are usually broadcasting from their home offices or dining rooms.
Our former marine was successfully released 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, upon a showing of probable cause, will get a judge to sign off on a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). The TRO is effective until the matter is resolved in a Final Restraining Order (FRO) hearing. Please note the distinction between our Marine’s pretrial detention hearing, which is resolved in the Criminal docket, versus the FRO hearing, which is resolved in the Family Law docket.
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 law. In criminal matters, the three parties involved are the State (acting on the victim’s behalf) 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).
An 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, which requires sworn statements, subpoenas and sworn statements from witnesses, and direct and cross examination of both parties. 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.