The coronavirus pandemic has thrust the world into a period of unprecedented uncertainty. If you’re awaiting a trial or a court hearing, you probably feel especially anxious about what will happen if you or a family member become sick with the virus, and you can’t attend your court date because you’re too ill or under quarantine. Here’s what you should know.
- The court may have already postponed the trial. As the risk of spreading the coronavirus is too high for normal court operations, federal and state courts across the country are modifying their standard practice. As of this writing, jury trials throughout Indiana are postponed to May 1, 2020, while the Southern Indiana District Court has postponed jury trials until May 29, 2020. Check with your criminal defense lawyer to determine whether your trial is temporarily on hold.
- Your lawyer can ask for a continuance. If you’re sick with COVID-19, your lawyer can request the court to postpone the trial until you are healthy. This request is called a “motion for continuance.” In this motion, your lawyer will explain to the court in writing the reason for the continuance and will likely ask you to provide a written note from your doctor diagnosing you with COVID or COVID-like symptoms. The court does not have to grant a motion for continuance, but under these particular circumstances, it may be more inclined to do so.
- You might have a hearing or trial via teleconference. If you are quarantined, but healthy enough to participate in your court hearing by teleconference, the court might find a videoconference to be a suitable alternative to a postponement. The Judicial Conference of the United States is provisionally allowing federal courts to use video and teleconferencing for certain criminal proceedings during the COVID-19 emergency. Talk to your criminal defense lawyer to find out whether this is a possibility for you.