Category Archives: Coronavirus

COVID-19 Impact on Trials

Coronavirus: California suspends jury trials in superior courts for 60 days – Orange County Register

Excellent article in Time magazine by reporter Melissa Chan discusses the Coronavirus Pandemic’s impact on our criminal justice system.

Since COVID-19 was declared a national emergency in March 2020, every state and Washington, D.C., has canceled or scaled back in-person criminal court proceedings to stem the spread of the virus. The snarled justice system has left hundreds of thousands of families waiting for trials and other resolutions, while creating a cascade of civil rights issues for the accused.

According to Chan, more defendants – especially those with health problems – are striking plea deals to avoid sitting in jail for an undetermined amount of time, defense attorneys say. And virtual courts are exposing the disadvantages of the poor, who are less likely to afford Internet access for court dates, as a staggering number of new criminal cases stack up.

The first few courts in the U.S. to stop jury selection and postpone new criminal and civil trials did so around March 2020. At that time, health officials began urging millions of Americans to stay at home and keep 6 ft. away from others when venturing out. Even the U.S. Supreme Court postponed oral arguments for the first time in more than 100 years.

By fall 2020, some criminal jury trials had resumed with restrictions, including in areas of New York State, where each county was allowed to hold one criminal trial at a time in courtrooms outfitted with plexiglass barriers and jury seats spaced several feet apart.

But the reopening was short-lived, reports Chan. A surge in COVID-19 cases around the holidays forced another round of court restrictions. At the end of November, about two dozen U.S. district courts nationwide resuspended jury trials and grand jury proceedings, marking a “significant pause” in efforts by federal courts to resume full operation, court officials said.

Today, even in jurisdictions where in-person proceedings have resumed, limits on how many people can be in a courtroom at the same time for things like jury selection continue to slow the system.

In a pre-pandemic world, state courts typically resolved 18 million felony and misdemeanor cases annually, according to an NCSC study in August 2020, and an estimated 8 million to 10 million U.S. citizens reported for jury duty each year.

“We’re in sort of this holding period.” ~Paula Hannaford-Agor, director of the Center for Jury Studies at the National Center for State Courts (NCSC).

Apparently, jury trials returning to any semblance of normality until at least 2022.

My opinion? The courts are doing their best to open again, albeit safely. Nobody wants a jury trial to become a super-spreader.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

A Return to Jury Trials

What Jury Service During the Coronavirus Pandemic Looks Like - The New York Times

Whatcom County Superior Court will resume 12-person jury trials starting March 15, according to a Wednesday afternoon press release from Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Rob Olson.

Several Whatcom County courts, including the Superior Court, used emergency administrative orders to suspend jury trials in mid-March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Judge Robert Olson’s March 3 news release said “extensive new” safety precautions have been put in place to protect the safety of jurors and the public in order for trials to resume.

“The suspension of jury trials was needed to protect the public and court staff, and it gave us the opportunity to redesign our jury processes with the input of public health experts, trial participants, and other stakeholders . . . Now it is critical that we re-start jury trials, which are key to the fair administration of justice.” ~Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Robert Olson.

Prospective jurors will have their temperature checked and be screened for health problems on arrival. Safe distancing will be maintained during the selection process and no food, drink or reading materials will be provided for safety.

Just one trial will be conducted at a time using both large courtrooms to allow for safe distancing, and all trial participants will have to wear masks.

Anyone showing symptoms of COVID-19 or other health problems will be excused from jury duty.

My opinion? Excellent news. Conducting jury trials during the Coronavirus Pandemic has posed significant practical and legal challenges for courts. Hopefully, our courtroom safeguards will help chart a trustworthy path to safely resuming jury trials soon.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Prison Inmates Retaliated Against for Getting COVID-19

Image result for jail inmates getting covid

Excellent article by Lilly Fowler of Crosscut reports that prisoners, attorneys and other advocates said the WA Department of Corrections has not only been careless with protocols meant to keep COVID-19 cases in check, but has also lashed out at those who become ill.

They accuse the department of stigmatizing those who become sick with the virus, even as cases skyrocket in prisons and work release facilities across the state. Critics blame the department’s lack of an organized response for the rapid spread of the virus.

Apparently, the Office of the Corrections Ombuds, the state’s watchdog, has already found fault with the Department of Corrections’ response to the COVID-19 outbreak at the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Central Washington. Two people there died in June, and more than 300 prisoners and 100 staff have been infected. Coyote Ridge houses approximately 2,500 inmates.

In a report about the COVID-19 outbreak at Coyote Ridge, investigators said that in addition to guards not wearing masks and failing to isolate symptomatic prisoners, inmates had delayed reporting symptoms because they feared harsh conditions in solitary confinement. The two prisoners who died had waited days to report difficulty breathing, according to the investigation.

That same summer, families of prisoners accused the Department of Corrections of retaliating against six men who contracted the virus and were housed at Reynolds Work Release in downtown Seattle. Similar to other inmates at the Bishop Lewis Work Release facility, the so-called Reynolds six were sent back to prison. Although they were eventually released, the men had been singled out in part because they are Black, Muslim or Indigenous, their families said.

According to reporter Lilly Fowler, critics say the situation at Bishop Lewis shows that the Department of Corrections’ response to the pandemic isn’t improving even nearly a year into the public health emergency. Instead, the same patterns are emerging. They argue it’s time for Gov. Jay Inslee to reconsider doing more to reduce the prison population, or at the very least ensure those who become ill and speak up aren’t retaliated against.

My opinion? The Coronavirus Pandemic has threatened to turn jail sentences into death sentences. Therefore, anyone involved in the criminal justice system should do their very best to avoid jails and prisons. Convicted defendants who are sentenced to jail should seek jail alternatives. And anyone who is in jail facing criminal charges who can make bail should make bail, or at least get bail lowered to an affordable amount.

Please review my Legal Guide titled Making Bail and contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Opioid Overdoses Spiked

Image result for drug overdose coronavirus

A new study indicates that the opioid crisis in the US is deepening.

In a large cross-sectional study published in JAMA Psychiatry on that analyzed nearly 190 million emergency department (ED) visits, researchers found significantly higher rates of visits to Emergency Departments for opioid overdoses during the months of March to October 2020 when compared against the same dates in 2019. The study found that, from mid-April onward, the weekly rates of ED visits for drug overdoses increased by up to 45% when compared against the same period in 2019.

The study is not an anomaly. In December, the Center For Disease Control said that the rate of overdose deaths was accelerating during the pandemic, driven by synthetic opioids, which rose 38.4% during the year leading up to June 2020.

This same JAMA Psychiatry study found that emergency department visits for mental health conditions, domestic violence, and child abuse and neglect increased during the same time period as did suicide attempts. The rates of family violence are rising fast, and women and children are disproportionately affected and vulnerable during this time.

My opinion? While many lives were saved with stay-at-home orders, these savings were not without cost. And while vaccines appear to have provided a light at the end of this COVID-19 tunnel, America will need to face its growing problem of anxiety, social isolation and mental illness. For some, stressors may be the fear of contracting COVID-19. For others, the stress of losing a job. And still others, the boredom of being trapped in your home with nothing to do.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member face Domestic Violence and/or Drug Charges. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Average Washingtonian Drinks Six Days in a Row During Holidays

Infographic: Drinking and DUIs During the Holidays

A survey from the Addiction-treatment.com shows that among 3,000 state residents 21 and older, the average Washingtonian drinks for six days in a row over the holiday season, without having a day off. It could be wine, beer, cider, or whatever a particular person’s choice is.

That puts Washington drinkers at the top of the list of states, according to the group. The average American drinks for four days in a row over the holidays, it says.

Some may be drinking to celebrate the end of 2020 but others may be drinking due to loneliness, depression and isolation. Here’s some other highlights from the organization’s 12 Days of Christmas infographic:

  • Almost half of respondents say drinking at Christmas is a family tradition.
  • Over 1 in 3 say they give alcohol as a gift to loved ones at Christmas.
  • A quarter admit they spike their morning coffee with alcohol during the holidays.

“It’s important that people not use the pandemic or the holidays to justify excessive drinking,” Brittney Morse, a spokesperson for Addiction-Treatment.com, said in a statement.

“We know that overindulgence in alcohol can start the process for bad habits and lead to unhealthy coping skills that could ultimately result in alcohol dependence. Now is a great time to establish new, healthy traditions that are not centered around the consumption of alcohol. This ensures every family member, even those in recovery, can enjoy the holiday traditions together.” ~Brittney Morse, a spokesperson for Addiction-Treatment.com

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a drug crime or alcohol-related crime over the holidays. The temptation to imbibe is especially pronounced these days due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney is the first and best step towards justice.

President-elect Joe Biden on the U.S. Drug Epidemic

Joe Biden says he 'regrets' supporting 'tough-on-crime' drug laws in 1990s as he considers presidential bid | The Independent | The Independent

Excellent article in Politico by staff reporters Dan Goldberg and Brianna Ehley discusses how President-elect Joe Biden will emphasize drug treatment and prevention, not law enforcement, in addressing a drug epidemic that’s only grown more dire during the Coronavirus Pandemic.

According to the article, Biden will take office at a crucial moment in the fight against drug addiction. Some states are contending with double-digit spikes in overdose deaths, sparse public health workforces are already stretched thin fighting the coronavirus and widening budget deficits brought on by the pandemic could force states to make painful cutbacks to public services.

Also, more than 76,000 people died of a drug overdose between April 2019 and April 2020, according to the most recent preliminary federal data, the most ever recorded during a 12-month period. Federal health officials say the drug crisis has only been amplified by months of social isolation, high unemployment and the diversion of resources to combat the virus.

Biden, who often spoke during the campaign about his son Hunter’s struggles with substance abuse, has called for record investments in drug prevention and treatment while also holding drug companies accountable for their role in the opioid epidemic.

According to the article, it’s staggering how much the pandemic has exacerbated the drug crisis this year. Ohio recorded 543 overdose deaths in May, the most ever in a single month. Overdose deaths in the state this year may even surpass a record 4,800 in 2017, said Dennis Cauchon, president of Harm Reduction Ohio.

“I never thought we could top 2017 levels of death and I was wrong . . . It’s a slaughter out there.” ~Dennis Cauchon, president of Harm Reduction Ohio.

Oregon reported a 70 percent increase in the number of overdose deaths in April and May compared to the same two months in 2019. In Maine, overdose deaths during the first half of 2020 were up 27 percent from the previous year. Spikes have also been documented in Colorado, Kentucky and Louisiana.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member face drug charges. The search and seizure of the drugs may have violated the defendant’s Constitutional rights. Hiring an experienced and effective criminal defense attorney is the first and best step towards justice.

Coronavirus Crime Trends

Coronavirus Quarantines Spark Drop in Crime – for Now | National News | US News

Excellent and informative article in Safewise.com written by lead safety reporter and in-house expert gives us updates on the latest crime statistics and trends in the major cities throughout the Coronavirus pandemic.

The gist?

“It depends on who you ask. From a research standpoint, it’s difficult to make a sweeping assumption—even after six months of living in a COVID-19 world. But there are consistent signs across the country that certain crimes have seen jumps during the global pandemic. The biggest increases have been in violent crimes, particularly murder, aggravated assault, and shooting incidents.” ~Rebecca Edwards, Lead Safety Reporter, Safewise.com

  • Preliminary FBI data for the first six months of 2020 shows murder and non-negligent homicide as up nearly 15% compared to the same time period last year.
  • report by the Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ) paints an even more dire picture—showing a 53% jump in homicides in 27 major US cities this summer, compared to the last.
  • FBI data also shows a 4.6% jump in aggravated assaults between January and June 2020, versus the same period in 2019.
  • Aggravated assault rose 14% summer over summer, according to the CCJ analysis.
  • Gun violence has been relentless for much of 2020, particularly in major cities like ChicagoNew York City, and Philadelphia.
  • As of September 28, the Gun Violence Archive (GVA) has recorded 13,641 homicides, murders, and unintentional gun-related deaths for 2020. That’s almost 90% of the total recorded for all of 2019.

“It’s not all bad news, though,” reports Edwards. “There are plenty of other crimes that have dropped dramatically amid stay at home orders, physical distancing, and other pandemic conditions.” She gives us the following data:

  • Counts of rape have dropped, according to FBI data—falling almost 18% year over year.
  • Robberies have also been on the decline, dropping 7% for the first half of 2020.
  • Overall, property crimes have been on a downward trajectory this year.
  • According to a preliminary FBI report,  property crime saw an 8% decrease nationwide between January and June 2020, compared to the same timeframe last year.
  • The FBI shows burglaries down across the board by nearly 8% year over year, although cities like Seattle and San Francisco have seen drastic increases.
  • Larceny thefts also dropped by nearly 10% in the first half of 2020, according to FBI data.
  • Car thefts and break-ins have been on the rise during the pandemic. The FBI shows a 6% climb in vehicle thefts between January and June 2020, compared to the same time in 2019.
  • Cities like Los AngelesDenver, and Scarsdale, New York have broken records for the number of cars stolen so far in 2020.
  • The FBI also reports a drastic jump of 19% in arson offenses nationwide. The majority (52%) of that increase came from cities with more than one million residents.

Edwards also gives statistics on Washington State:

  • Seattle had 32 more burglaries per 100,000 people between March 16 and April 12, compared to the same time period last year.
  • One Seattle precinct saw an 87% jump in burglaries in March, as businesses shuttered due to the pandemic. Overall, the city has seen 21% more burglaries.
 Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member face criminal charges during the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Crime Fell In First 6 Months of COVID

Coronavirus Is Slowing Down the Criminal Justice System. Will Criminals Cash In?

According to a recent FBI Report, crime fell in the first 6 months of Covid. More specifically, violent and property crime both plunged across the United States in the first six months of 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic swept the country.

Even though lockdowns to prevent the spread of Covid-19 were inconsistent and non-existent in some areas, murders fell 14.8 percent from a year earlier and rapes dropped 17.8 percent, according to preliminary data compiled by the FBI.

Violent robbery fell 7.1 percent, and non-violent thefts and larceny fell by slightly more from the first half of 2019, the FBI said.

But arson jumped in the first half of this year, especially in large cities and in West, it said. Arson cases rose more than 52 percent in cities with populations over one million, and were up 28 percent in the western part of the country. The FBI did not offer any explanation of the decline in crime overall, or the surge in arson.

But the period covered by the data coincides with the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including the declaration of a national emergency on March 13, California’s stay-at-home order on March 19, and New York issued a stay-at-home order on March 20.

Violent crime of all types fell in the period by 4.8 percent in the northeast and by smaller levels in the West and Midwest. But violent crime increased compared to 2019 in the South, by 2.5 percent. Generally southern states lagged others in taking serious steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member face criminal charges. Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney is the first and best step towards justice.

Federal Government Encourages Men to Limit Drinking to Once a Day

Men Should Limit Alcohol to One Drink Per Day, According to New ...

Excellent article by Cortney Moore of Fox News sheds light on how the federal government is advising men to not drink more than one drink per day  as it finalizes the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

This new guidance, which is updated every five years, is lower than the recommended serving limit the U.S. government issued in its previous iteration, which was set at two drinks per day.

“If alcohol is consumed, it should be in moderation,” the report stated at the time, which was jointly written by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “For those who choose to drink, moderate alcohol consumption can be incorporated into the calorie limits of most healthy eating patterns.”

Ms. Moore reported that during the Coronavirus Pandemic, alcohol consumption has notably increased. Days after the World Health Organization declared the virus a pandemic, alcohol sales rose by 55 percent in the week of March 21, according to market research from Nielsen. By June, alcohol sales were reportedly up by around 27 percent.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member face criminal charges with alcohol being a factor. Any increases in alcohol use during the pandemic could be a cause for concern. It can be very tempting to seek alcohol in an attempt to cope with negative emotions associated with the crisis.

Alcohol Consumption Increases During Coronavirus Pandemic

 

A recent study from RTI International found that “Pandemic Drinking” has increased in direct response to the surging Coronavirus Pandemic.

According to the article, the start of the COVID-19 pandemic forced many people into their homes, where they were encouraged to shelter in place for weeks. And, while many restaurants and bars closed as a result of the pandemic, a new study finds that people – especially women, those who are unemployed, Black people and parents – have actually been drinking more than they did before COVID-19 hit.

The results of the study came from a poll conducted in May on about 993 people from various regions of the country. Overall, it found that a person’s average drinks per day increased 27 percent, while the increased frequency of exceeding “drinking guidelines” increased by 21 percent and binge drinking by 26 percent.

Drinking guidelines established by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism say that men should consume no more than four drinks per day and/or 14 drinks per week, while women should consume no more than three per day or seven per week.

But while on average Americans are drinking more, researchers found that minorities and women are more likely to be drinking more since the pandemic began.

The study also found:

  • 16 percent of respondents increased their usual quantity by an average of two drinks; and
  • 27 percent increased the total number of drinks consumed on “more than usual” days by 4.5 drinks.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with DUI, Domestic Violence or other alcohol-related crimes during the Coronavirus Pandemic. It’s very easy to become dismayed, distracted and depressed in these times. Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.