COVID-19's Effect on Criminal Cases in General Sessions Court
On March 13, 2020, the Tennessee Supreme Court entered an Order Suspending In-Person Hearings in most cases until at least March 31, 2020, although the suspension will likely be extended past then. One exception to this suspension as it relates to General Sessions cases are, "Proceedings necessary to protect constitutional rights of criminal defendants, including bond-related matters and plea agreements for incarcerated individuals." In a nutshell, cases involving defendants who are in custody can continue forward. Though chances are that, if you are a criminal defendant in General Sessions court who is reading this, you are probably not in custody. So, what about the other cases? Right now, the best answer we can give is, "They're working on it."
Every county has been left to decide what procedures to employ in moving its General Sessions Court cases forward during the COVID-19 quarantine. In Montgomery County, every case from March 16, 2020 until March 30, 2020 has been reset exactly four weeks from its original date and time. Since then, the clerk's office has had attorney's offices notify it of cases where attorneys have been fully or partially retained, and those cases have been set in May 2020. Criminal defendants who still need attorneys should expect that their cases will be continued again once the Supreme Court's order is extended.
As an attorney, the COVID-19 quarantine’s effect on our clients has been as frustrating for us as it may be for you. Being a defendant in court can be very stressful on its own. Once you add uncertainty about when you can resolve your case, additional stress can be inevitable. From our standpoint, the current outbreak has made difficult what is normally one of the easiest questions for us to answer: “When is my next court date?" As more information becomes available, however, we will let you know as soon as we can. We all appreciate your patience. Stay safe out there.
If you have additional questions about the impact the COVID-19 outbreak might have on your Tennessee criminal case, contact us for a free initial consultation by calling (931) 398-5308.