A state appeals court has said that the Coronavirus outbreak does not justify ignoring deadlines for a preliminary hearing, where a judge decides whether prosecutors have enough evidence to require a defendant to go to trial.
Under California law, those who are charged with a felony ( CA Penal Code 859b) are entitled to a preliminary hearing within 10 court days of the arraignment. In March, the time frame was extended to 15 days and then to 30, because of court closures due to the pandemic.
Courts can follow the extended time frames to arrange a hearing, yet they cannot use COVID-19 as a means for further delays in preliminary hearings unless they have specific evidence of a need for a postponement in a specific case.
Justice Mark Simons of the First District Court of Appeals in San Francisco declared that allowing judges to put off hearings “risks detaining the defendant for a prolonged period on a groundless complaint.”
The appeals court ruled that preliminary hearings should not be postponed, as they do not present a high risk of spreading the coronavirus. In contrast, when it comes to trial dates, they have ruled that trial postponements are justified as more people are involved and there is a greater risk of spreading the virus.
If you know of anyone who is awaiting their preliminary hearing date and is worried it will be postponed, please contact us at 1-800-499-9902.