Many people are wondering what they should do if they have a court date coming up while we are in the middle of the COVID-19 health crisis. People are wondering if they should still go because they are worried about getting a warrant for not going. The worst idea is just blowing off the court date, this is never a good idea and it doesn’t matter if there is a health crisis or not.
Are you being represented by a lawyer in the matter?
If you are being represented by a lawyer contact them and they should be able to help you. They may tell you that the court has changed your court date so you don’t have to worry about going. They may also tell you that the court still wants the lawyer present but you, the client, does not need to appear. Other courts are allowing lawyers to appear telephonically, or by video conference. I have had several matters in the last couple of weeks where I was allowed to appear by telephone.
What if you are not sure if you have a lawyer representing you?
In some cases, you may have had a court appointed attorney represented in your matter. If you know that you have a court appointed defense lawyer contact that person to see what you should do about your upcoming court date. If you are not sure you can check with the court and they should be able to tell you. You can also try calling the public defender’s office and they can tell you if a lawyer has been appointed in your matter. If you are not sure which public defender office to contact try finding the one that deals with your court, for example if you have been charged with a crime in felony court, contact the public defender’s office that is responsible for that court.
What should you do if you are not being represented in the matter?
First thing you should do is contact the court. The court may tell you that your court date has been changed and you do not need to appear. It shouldn’t be difficult to find the court phone number on the internet. Many courts will also list an email or a fax number. If you do send an email or fax make sure you follow up and don’t just assume the message was received. I have seen on one more occasion where an email or fax gets lost and the court doesn’t receive it.
Some court are allowing people to appear by telephone or video conference if they are representing themselves without an attorney. Again, make sure you get a hold of court and find out if your court date has been changed and if you need to appear.
What to do if you can’t reach someone at the court by phone?
Many courts right now are short staffed because staff may have been furloughed or may be working from home. Most of the courts I have been dealing with lately are very short staffed so it may be difficult to reach someone by telephone. If you are having a hard time reaching someone at the court by telephone try the court website. Many courts have very useful websites where you can look up your next court date. Simply by going to the court website you may be able to see when your next court date is and if it has been changed.
This should be obvious but if you are not feeling well you should do everything possible to avoid going to court where you could expose other people to your illness.