The Covid-19 pandemic is impacting all sectors of our society, and the criminal justice system is no exception. As the number of reported cases continues to rise, the following are some of the impacts and potential implications facing the criminal justice system in Michigan:
Police Response To Crime Reports
Michigan police departments are adapting to the Covid-19 pandemic carefully. According to an article from Michigan Live, some are not responding in person to certain types of calls, like theft reports. Instead, they are asking that reports be submitted via phone or website. This will possibly impact how cases are handled if charges are ultimately filed due to criminal allegations that occurred during this time frame.
Assault Charges For Spreading Coronavirus
It’s scary to think that a person who has become sick with coronavirus could face criminal charges for spreading the illness, but there is precedent. People have been charged, prosecuted and convicted for knowingly exposing people to HIV.
In Michigan specifically, Section 5207 of the Public Health Code allows for the detention of a person carrying a communicable disease such as Covid-19 who may pose a health threat to others. In other words, police or other authorities have the ability under law to take a person into a hospital or other facility and keep them there for whatever period the court orders. People already in a hospital or medical facility may be kept from leaving under the same law.
Criminal Trials Delayed Or Cancelled
The Michigan Supreme Court has recommended, but not ordered, that Michigan courts postpone criminal jury trials if possible. Many jurisdictions have done as recommended, while others are taking steps such as ensuring jurors are able to maintain a safe distance from each other. According to ABC 13, some jurisdictions are still scheduling trials for defendants who are currently detained, and prioritizing those who have been waiting the longest for their trials.
All of this raises questions about potential violations of the accused’s constitutional right to a speedy trial. People facing criminal charges should reach out to their attorney to learn how their specific case may be impacted by court closings or trial cancellations.
Probation Reporting Cancelled
According to Michigan Live, some jurisdictions have cancelled all in-person probation reporting to help reduce the possibility of Coronavirus spreading in the community. These jurisdictions may offer probationers call-in reporting or other means of connecting with probation officers. People on probation should check in with their probation officers to find out how to report during this time.
Inmate Health And Safety
Many are concerned with jails and prisons becoming incubators for Coronavirus. These facilities are exactly the sort of place where easily communicable diseases like these can grow out of control, and inmates have the right to humane conditions as well as medical care. A fast spread of Coronavirus jeopardizes both of these critical rights. According to the Detroit Free Press, Michigan facilities are trying to combat the potential spread by cleaning, cancelling or limiting visitation, and releasing incarcerated individuals if appropriate.
This is a quickly evolving situation, and there may be greater impacts to the criminal justice system than we can currently foresee. If you have a criminal defense case that may be impacted by Coronavirus, it is critical that you work with an experienced attorney who is staying up-to-date with changes.