Criminal Defense in the Time of Coronavirus

I often say that our clients come to us on the worst day of their lives, the day they are arrested, or learned that a loved one was arrested and may be separated from them for a very long time. As the world faces a health crisis whose proportions remain unknown, the distress of being a criminal defendant is harder than it ever was. Jails and prisons are even more dangerous than usual and even a short period of confinement could be deadly. In the face of this, we are here to help.

But it is not business as usual. The courts are on very limited operations. Most of our appearances have been adjourned. An oral argument scheduled for tomorrow at the Second Circuit will be conducted via teleconference. Some police departments have wisely slowed the rate of arrests to avoid placing potentially infected people in detention facilities that have so far been spared. Once the virus enters a jail or prison, it seems almost certain everyone inside will get it and the vulnerable will die. If you have a loved one who is incarcerated, circumstances have changed and you must continue to advocate for their release.

Unfortunately, our main adversaries, the wise men and women at the United States Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, have not yet come to understand that simple humanity demands that some long-term investigations wait until this crisis is over. The Federal Defenders of New York, who oversee federal indigent defense in New York City, have provided unparalleled leadership, pressing for legal access to inmates and for an end to non-emergency new arrests, but with little response so far. Click here for the Federal Defender’s letter to the courts and U.S. Attorneys.

As for our office, we have technology in place to work remotely without interruption. During business hours, please call our main number — 212-685-0999 — and you will be routed to one of our attorneys or our paralegal for immediate attention to your case. We have full remote access to our entire file systems and should be able to respond quickly as we always have. As always, call or text my cell phone if you need to after hours. If you are a new client, use our contact form, provide as much detail as possible, and we will get back to you right away if we think we can help.

If you are incarcerated, we are sorry that we will not be able to visit you in person anytime soon. Demand a legal call, send me an email, or write a letter. I will respond.

If you are not incarcerated, please be patient with the delays in your case; we will try to make them work to your benefit.

If you have a civil case with us, we will be asking for even more patience as civil calendars get adjourned until after the crisis unfolds.

No one knows how long this will go on, or if law enforcement authorities will have a heart and release people at risk. But we will keep pushing.

Stay safe.

Photo by Korhan Erdol from Pexels

 

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