As you know, the Coronavirus pandemic has turned normal life upside down, and our court system has not been immune to this. On March 17, 2020, the Presiding Judge of the San Diego Superior Court closed all courthouses and courtrooms to the public, except for “time-sensitive, essential functions.” Since March 17, 2020, the court has released numerous updates regarding the Court and their operation.
On April 30, 2020, the Court extended the court closure until May 22, 2020, with a reopening date of May 26, 2020. Once the Court reopens, there will surely be additional guidance regarding the new safety measures that will be implemented to enter the courthouses.
Through May 22, 2020, access to any and all San Diego Superior courthouses shall be authorized and restricted per San Diego Superior Court General Order No. 043020-47, as follows:
- Through May 22, 2020, access to any and all courthouses, courtrooms, business offices, and public areas shall be restricted at all times to judges, commissioners, court staff, persons seeking services authorized by the court, persons required to appear for scheduled hearings, and authorized personnel;
- Through May 22, 2020, access to any and all court proceedings, including, but not limited to, arraignments, preliminary hearings, and ex partes, shall be limited to parties, their attorneys, witnesses subpoenaed to testify or statutorily permitted to attend, and other authorized persons;
- The term “authorized persons” in paragraphs 1 and 2 above includes, but is not limited to, news reporters and news media representatives subject to prior approval pursuant to the procedures outlined in the California Rules of Court, the San Diego Superior Court Rules, San Diego Superior Court General Order of the Presiding Department, Order No. 010120-02, or any other application rule, order, or policy;
- This order does not restrict or otherwise abrogate the express and inherent authority of the Court and its judge to provide for the orderly conduct of proceedings, including the decision to permit or deny access to any courtroom or hallways adjacent to courtrooms;
- Social distancing of at least six (6) feet shall be enforced in all courthouses, courtrooms, business offices, and public areas to the extent possible.
The Court is also trying to create new options to hold various hearings via video/phone systems, but these hearings will likely be limited to “time-sensitive, essential functions,” which is a vague term used by the Court. However, some guidance has been provided as it relates to criminal cases. It is important to understand this is a very fluid situation, and the guidance changes frequently. The following is provided by the Court as of May 4, 2020.
Services That May Be Provided by the San Diego Superior Court During the Covid-19 Pandemic
- In-custody miscellaneous criminal hearings including, but not limited to, change of plea, arraignment, and preliminary hearings, via video/audio systems.
- Petitions for writs of habeas corpus, including related motions and filings.
- Requests and orders to lower or increase bail or order pre-arraignment release on defendant’s own recognizance.
- Requests and orders to release from custody (pre-sentencing or in connection with revocation proceedings) pursuant to stipulation and stipulated Pen. Code § 977 waivers for preliminary hearings with defendant’s release.
- Probable cause determinations for persons arrested without a warrant.
- Search warrant requests by law enforcement.
- Petitions for Expungement under Penal Code § 1203.4.
Additional Guidance from the Court
- If you have a court date (trial or other hearing) that is between March 17, 2020 and May 22, 2020, the hearing will be rescheduled and notice of the nearing hearing dates will be mailed out. The Court requests you do not physically go to the court to get more information. If you have an attorney, reach out to your attorney. If you do not, please refer to the Court’s website (www.sdcourt.ca.gov) for up-to-date information.
This rule generally applies to out of custody defendants. If the defendant is in-custody, different rules could apply, as discussed above. The Court has provided additional guidance regarding in-custody defendants and time-sensitive, essential functions. The guidance can be found on the Court’s website.
- If you have due dates for court-ordered programs that fall between March 17, 2020 and May 22, 2020, the Court has indicated they will extend these deadlines. The Court requests you do not physically go to the court to get more information. If you have an attorney, reach out to your attorney. If you do not, please refer to the Court’s website (www.sdcourt.ca.gov) for up-to-date information.
- All dates from March 17, 2020 to April 30, 2020, inclusive, have been deemed holidays for purposes of computing time under Penal Code § 825. Beginning May 1, 2020, the emergency holiday designation for purposes of Penal Code § 825 no longer applies.
- The Court extends the time period in Penal Code § 825 within which a defendant charged with a felony offense must be taken before a magistrate from forty-eight (48) hours to not more than seven (7) days, applicable only to cases in which the statutory deadline otherwise would expire from May 1, 2020 to May 22, 2020, inclusive.
- The Court extends the time period provided in Penal Code § 859b for the holding of a preliminary examination from ten (10) court days to not more than thirty (30) court days, applicable only to cases in which the statutory deadline otherwise would expire from March 17, 2020, to May 22, 2020, inclusive. (See Statewide Emergency Order by Hon. Tani Cantil-Sakauye, March 30, 2020).
- The Court extends the time period provided in Penal Code § 1382 for the holding of a criminal trial by ninety (90) days, applicable only to cases in which the statutory deadline otherwise would expire for March 17, 2020, to June 15, 2020, inclusive. (See Statewide Emergency Order by Hon. Tani Cantil-Sakauye, April 29, 2020).
Please visit the San Diego Superior Court website for the most up to date information regarding the court.
Each criminal case is different and has its own unique facts and circumstances, so speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney about your rights during the Coronavirus pandemic. The experienced criminal defense attorneys at Garmo & Garmo, LLP are staying informed about the latest updates from the San Diego Superior Court. If you have questions about your specific case, please contact our office at (619) 441-2500 or send us a message.