Riverside County Courts Update: April 24, 2020

Good morning everyone! 
The court is now trying to address what it can do with in-custody cases that can be resolved, even if the defendant isn’t getting out immediately.  There is NO REQUIREMENT that you do this, and there are strategic reasons why you may NOT want to have your client sentenced (eg, non-violent plea with a strike prior where locally getting 4019 but would have 66% time upstate.)   Plus, as of right now, CDCR isn’t accepting new inmates as it is.  But for other people there may be strategic reasons why you may want to participate in this process, and it’s important for me to just emphasize that the decision of whether to add a case on for a plea and sentencing is ultimately yours.
Here are instructions prepared by the court on the process, so I won’t go through it a second time but the basics are simple:  If you have a CURRENTLY IN CUSTODY client (not someone who is out but will be going in), then you can ask to calendar the matter once all the requirements on the list have been met re: readiness.  Judge Hanson stressed on the call that this is not for cases where there are outstanding details not hammered out yet. 
All of this begs a few questions:  How can we even figure out if our clients want these deals?  Are they asking us to go into the jail to go over all this with the clients?  What’s the deal with the video conferencing?  
As of right now, we still don’t have proper access to video conferencing capabilities with clients in the jail, other than for a quick 5 minute limited conference to get time waivers.  I will be raising this issue at the meeting today but I expect that should be improving soon.  Because of RSO’s failure to keep everyone in the justice system properly updated on the state of COVID-19 within the jails and RSO, I can’t advise anyone that going to the jail is a good idea right now.
While everyone is asking about the May 1st open date, I would be willing to wager many a steak dinner that a May 1 opening to the public will not occur. Unofficially, I would anticipate the closures being extended to mid May or more likely June at the very least at this point.  Other counties are already in the process of getting permission from the CJ to do so.
Hope everyone’s staying safe,
Graham D. Donath, President
Riverside County Criminal Defense Bar Association

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