The seriousness of a DUI case can cause a lot of stress for people going through them. Unfortunately, the outbreak of COVID-19 has made the situation even more stressful. The stay-at-home orders from a little while back and the continuing Judicial Emergency Orders from the Georgia Supreme Court have led to holds and delays in many trials. If you have a DUI case, then you might be wondering how COVID-19 will affect your legal process.
In recent months, Georgia, like many states, has loosened some of the COVID restrictions. However, there are still some ways that the ongoing pandemic can affect your case — both now and in the future. In this article we’ll be going over what to expect.
Let’s get started!
What Is the Statewide Judicial Emergency in Georgia?
On March 14, 2020 the Supreme Court of Georgia filed a Statewide Judicial Emergency order. So what does this mean? Essentially, it means that courts will only conduct essential hearings.
This is for things like probation revocations, bonds, and jail calendars. However, the courts have allowed some discretion for what is considered essential. So what does this mean specifically for DUI cases?
Ultimately, it means that filing deadlines and the statute of limitations have been placed on hold. On top of that, pretrial conferences, motions, trials, and committal hearings have all been indefinitely delayed.
For a time, this order also put a blanket suspension on all jury trials. From March, when the order was given, to October, this suspension has remained in effect. It’s only recently that it’s been lifted, giving courts the right to assemble a jury under safe conditions.
Since a jury trial is an option for DUI cases, this means that many have had to postpone their meeting for over half a year. As a result, this means that there is a massive backlog of DUI cases that need to be judged.
In addition to allowing the assembly of juries, the order has also been expanded to allow remote proceedings. This is done to meet the growing number of cases in a way to conforms to public health standards.
When Will the Statewide Judicial Emergency End?
Unfortunately, no end is in sight for the Statewide Judicial Emergency order. The Supreme Court of Georgia is currently on its eighth order extension. This is made even more complicated by the recent influx of new COVID cases in Georgia.
Many news sites are even predicting another full resurgence. As such, it’s anyone’s guess as to when the courts will open again fully. And even when this order ends, it will still be a gradual return to normalcy.
What Does This Mean for Future DUI Trials?
Typically, the Constitution guarantees you a trial that’s speedy and fair. Unfortunately, the pandemic has essentially thrown a wrench in all of that. But what do these suspensions mean for your actual trial?
If you choose a jury trial over a bench trial, it can mean considerable delays. As we mentioned before, jury trials have only recently started again. On top of that, the new health protocols make them operate much more slowly than before.
As such, a typical four month trial period could turn into a year or more. So what does this mean for your trial? In some cases, it could be beneficial. Since there are many backlog trials to deal with, it could be that the prosecutors are looking to resolve the case as quickly as possible.
This means that you could potentially get a better negotiates resolution to your case, such as a reduction to a charge that is not a DUI. If you choose a bench trial, then you can expect a remote trial using technology. Many courts are resorting to virtual courtrooms to deal with the challenge of not meeting in person.
Why Should You Seek a DUI Attorney for Your DUI Case?
Many people make the mistake of not taking DUI cases seriously. Because of this, they may hire a cheap lawyer, or worse, try and represent themselves. Unfortunately, the reality is that there are many strengths and weaknesses you need to evaluate in a DUI case.
And, if you have little to no law experience, then it’s next to impossible to get a good verdict. Plus, you need to deal with the fact that the law is always changing. It’s even more important to look for a DUI law team at the time of COVID-19.
Only an experienced attorney will be on top of the changes in protocol and scheduling from the pandemic. As such, we always recommend at least meeting with a law firm to discuss your case.
The good news is that most credible firms offer free consultations, so it doesn’t cost you anything. Simply schedule a virtual meeting if you don’t want to meet in person because of COVID.
Need Help With Your DUI Case in Georgia?
I hope this article helped you learn more about how your DUI case will be affected by COVID-19. As we mentioned, it’s more important than ever to find a law firm that understands the complexity of the pandemic changes to the courts.
But how do you find one that you can trust? If you live in Georgia, then look no further than George McCranie Law Firm. We’ve been specializing in these types of cases for over ten years.
Plus, the George McCranie Law Firm knows to help you understand the complications caused by the COVID pandemic. We operate out of thirty-four counties in that state and can assist you with most criminal defense cases.
Not only do we help people with DUI cases, but we also specialize in a variety of areas, including immigration and personal injury. If you’re interested in scheduling your free consultation, then fill out our online case evaluation today.