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Coronavirus in our Courts

Today we received another disturbing email, advising someone who works in the Wake County courthouse in Raleigh is positive for the Coronavirus.

Last week, criminal defense lawyers in Durham madly texted and emailed one another, sharing similar news.

The Clerk of Court in Mecklenburg County recently advised a group of family law attorneys in Charlotte that three clerks are positive and “ten times that amount” have been sent home because of possible exposure.

The week before that the York County Courthouse in South Carolina shut down for a time.

A week or two before that the Rowan County courthouse closed civil court due to “positive” court personnel, apparently involving both a Clerk of Court and a Magistrate in Salisbury.

In each instance lawyers are seemingly shocked, asking one another, “Can you believe it?  COVID is in our courthouse.”

There are 41 district court judicial districts in North Carolina.  We are only as strong as our weakest link.  District Court is a problem – Bill Powers, Charlotte Criminal Defense Lawyer 

Judges possess a tremendous amount of discretion

Discretion is power.

Judges have a LOT of discretion on how their courts are operated, especially in District Court.

Unlike going to the store, eating out at a restaurant, attending church, or visiting with friends and family, generally speaking, attending court and court appearances are not generally thought of as voluntary and/or optional.

You appear and answer the charges against you unless otherwise authorized by the Court, or local practice approved by the Court, not to attend.

Indeed, failing to show up for DWI charges in Charlotte, a felony drug charge, or domestic violence case can result in the issuance of an OFA – Order for Arrest.

Failing to properly respond to a traffic ticket or other traffic citation can result in the entry of an FTA – Failure to Appear and eventual suspension of your NC DMV issued driver’s license.

Appearing in court often is not a choice or personal decision.  You can go to jail.  One would be remiss in failing to acknowledge that fact regarding criminal charges – Bill Powers, Criminal Attorney 

As such, Iredell County may be holding trials in District Court.  Mecklenburg County may not.

And for the record, that all is subject to change on a day-to-day basis due to the Coronavirus.

Given the emergency nature of court closings, exposure to COVID-19, and emergent protocols, it helps to have legal counsel involved and whom may have access to both official and unofficial practical operations of the courts.

Some level of discretion, particularly pertaining to district court proceedings, bond hearings, probable cause hearings, and misdemeanor cases, has been given to the 41 District Court districts in North Carolina in determining whether courts are open, whether you are required to appear in court, and whether your matter might be called for trial.

There are instances when not everyone in the courtroom is wearing a face mask.  It can depend on where you’ve been directed to attend court.

Defense lawyers in North Carolina now exist in system fairly defined as a patchwork quilt of local procedures, at least as it pertains to District Court and the safety precautions employed or not employed, as the case may be – Bill Powers, NC Lawyer 

Superior Court jury trials are still shut down, statewide, as of the date of this blog post; but, that does not mean there aren’t mandatory Superior Court appearances, calendar calls, guilty pleas, arraignments, and other “administrative” issues being resolved.

Certain misdemeanor matters in District Court, including traffic court, misdemeanor appearances, probable cause hearings, bond hearings, and DV – Domestic Violence court still take\ place in certain jurisdictions.

Whether you have to appear in court or sit directly next to your attorney or worry about contracting the Coronavirus can be dependent on the jurisdiction.

 Under normal circumstances it is a difficult thing indeed to navigate local rules, protocols, and personalities.  These are not normal times and not everyone agrees on what is safe or appropriate – Bill Powers, NC DWI Defense Attorney 

Do I need a lawyer?

To be clear, if you’re facing felony or misdemeanor charges in Charlotte, or anywhere else in North Carolina for that matter,  we think you should seek legal counsel.

In ordinary circumstances navigating the legal system relative to criminal charges can be a confusing, complicated exercise.

Do not rely on what a friend or family member says.

Gathering information about the court system can be difficult, relative to the Coronavirus.

How things presently operate during the Coronavirus can depend on the judicial district.  Lawyers ordinarily stand with you in court.  Today, we may need to stand in for you in court – Bill Powers, Charlotte Attorney 

Lawyers help explain the legal processes to clients.

In some matters and now, in some jurisdictions, we can appear on behalf of clients, thus avoiding your appearance in court.

As such, it can help to retain a criminal lawyer.

That’s especially true too for traffic matters and administrative hearings.

In the past, many people with traffic tickets in Mecklenburg County have stood in line, waiting to enter Courtroom 1130 or “traffic court.”

Courtroom 1130 is now closed and not accessible to the public for the disposition of matters.

Defense lawyers in Charlotte are handling some pleas and other “waivable offenses” by way of Webex and out-of-court negotiations with prosecutors.

Charlotte Criminal Defense Attorneys

We’re here to help and answer questions about your legal rights and options.

We are courtroom lawyers, dedicated to providing compassionate legal advice on a wide range of different legal issues including criminal charges.

All is not dire within the court system.

The Coronavirus has also presented some unique opportunities.  The DA’s Offices, and Judges, are working hard to resolve matters in an expeditious fashion.  

Our law firm helps people throughout North Carolina with serious DWI charges, including “drunk driving” related felonies such as felony death by vehicle charges and manslaughter cases.

We also regularly appear in Mecklenburg County, Union County, Iredell, Rowan, and Gaston County for a wide range of legal issues.

We DO NOT charge for legal consultations on criminal charges.

That is also true for personal injury cases, including car wrecks, motorcycle accidents, trucking accidents, etc.

Family law matters are different.  For those, we do charge hourly rates, often requiring consultation fees, and a true retainer.

 

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