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Courts Reopening in Contra Costa County

As courts in Contra Costa County start to reopen in the wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic, many are wondering what comes next. See below for answers to some of the most Frequently Asked Questions:

Case in Existence Before COVID-19 Closure:

Depending on the case type and location, it will be added back to the calendar by the clerk’s office. Some cases may already be added back to the calendar.

  • Most felony cases in all of Conta Costa County have been rescheduled.
    • There are issues with getting notifications of new dates, so check your mail frequently and check in with your lawyer.
  • Many Richmond misdemeanor cases have been added back to the calendar.
    • Personally, the court reached out to me and asked about all of my misdemeanor cases in Richmond and was able to work with me to reschedule. I have already notified all of my clients who had pre-existing Richmond cases of their new dates.
  • There is no update on cases from Martinez or Pittsburg at this point.
    • Keep checking your mailbox for a potential notice from the court and keep in touch with your lawyer regarding new dates.
  • There is a set of emergency rules allowing that appearances be made by lawyers only so clients don’t need to risk COVID exposure at court or otherwise appear. There is also a set of emergency rules allowing video appearances in a number of cases.

Case in Existence Before COVID-19 Closure but Hadn’t Been Filed by the DA or Hadn’t Gone to Arraignment Yet:

Cases that had arraignment dates set during the court closure are being rescheduled by the clerk’s office.

  • Notice of these dates will be going to the address on file for you. This address should be the address provided to the police at the time of arrest.
  • Notice will not go to the attorney’s office because the attorney hasn’t made a first appearance on the case yet.

Cases that had not been filed yet:

  • The process for these cases is the same as before COVID closure.
    • The police who investigated the case will forward their reports to the DA’s office.
    • The DA will review these reports and make a filing decision.
      • I am still actively trying to speak with the DA on cases that are not yet filed to see if I can help your case turn into a case that is not filed.
    • If the DA decision is to file the case it will be filed at the courthouse.
      • At that time either an arrest warrant will be issued if a judge approves it, OR
      • The case will be set for an arraignment and notice will be sent out to the named defendant.

Arrested During COVID-19 Closure:

You may or may not have been given a future court date by the police. If you did get a court date then you should still go to court on that day. In many instances, your lawyer can go for you. There is a very real possibility that your case will take longer to file than the date you are given. It’s helpful to ask your lawyer about this in the chance they might be able to speak with the DA before a filing decision is made.

Bail Procedures:

For the time being there is an emergency bail schedule in place. This gives many people an opportunity to be released without having to post bail. There are limitations on this and people who are facing more serious cases will not be afforded the benefit of emergency bail. For example: if you get arrested for a murder charge you aren’t likely to be released without bail.

Delays Caused by COVID-19 Closure:

Delay in Filing Cases:

  • There are delays in cases making it to court for filing.
    • The court clerk’s office was closed for a time and not allowing these types of filings.
    • There is also a general delay in these procedures caused by COVID similar to delays in other aspects of society.

Delay in Scheduling Hearings:

  • The court closures mean that many hearings did not go forwards as originally planned.
  • I anticipate a backlog of cases that are trying to be heard and cases that get scheduled further and further out to accommodate calendar limitations.

Delay in Release Procedures:

  • Emergency bail and “cite & release” provisions hopefully mean that people arrested don’t sit in jail for a long period of time after arrest.
  • But for those who don’t qualify for emergency bail and can’t otherwise bail out have to sit in jail waiting to see if the DA files a case or waiting until 7 days pass. This used to be commonly referred to as a ‘72’ meaning that if you weren’t filed on within ’72 hours’ [excluding weekends/holidays] you were released. Now that has temporarily been changed to 7 days.

Delay in Preliminary Hearing:

  • If you are charged with a felony offense the ordinary first step after arraignment is to go to preliminary hearing. There are certain time restrictions which you can assert go get to preliminary hearing. Unless you waive those timelines you would normally be in a preliminary hearing within 10 court days and within 60 calendar days.
  • The 10 day deadline has been temporarily extended so it can take longer to get to preliminary hearing.

Delay in Jury Trial:

  • There are multiple authorized extensions on a right to a speedy trial.
  • Ordinarily the right to a speedy trial means that you must be in that trial within:
    • 60 days on a felony case
    • 30 days on a misdemeanor case if you are in custody
    • 45 days on a misdemeanor case if you are out of custody
  • Those timelines have been extended.
    • To figure out when the ‘last day for trial’ requires knowledge of your specific case and it’s procedural posture.

What You Should Do to Help Be Aware of Your Court Date:

  • Check your mailbox. The court may send you notice of a new date.
  • Stay in touch with your lawyer. The court may send them notice of a new date.
  • Check the court website for updates.

What You Should Be Prepared for at the Courthouse:

  • You MUST wear a mask. You won’t be allowed in without one.
    • The court has stated it will not provide masks so be equipped with one.
    • The requirement of mask is somewhat flexible and homemade masks or other face coverings are appropriate.
  • The security screening now includes a temperature check. If your temperature is 100 or higher you won’t be admitted.
  • Social distancing in the courthouse is required. There are many seating areas closed off to allow for social distancing.
  • The court is attempting to limit the number of people in the courthouse.

What Should You Do If You Are Uncertain About Whether You Have a Court Case Filed Against You or a Future Court Date?

  • Call your lawyer.
  • If you don’t have a lawyer it is advisable to get one.
    • Many local lawyers offer free consultations.

*The information above is subject to change and is merely an opinion. There is no guarantee of the info contained.