Spring & Spring Remains Open During COVID-19 Pandemic
Attorney Chris Spring is continuing to represent clients charged with criminal offenses in Massachusetts during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, and he is accepting new clients. Attorney Spring can be reached anytime on his cell phone at 617-513-9444 and is available for phone consultations and video conferences. He is also continuing to represent clients in court when emergency hearings are scheduled.Are Massachusetts courthouses still open?
Courthouses in Massachusetts continue to operate but are handling only emergency matters, which mostly consist of hearings involving defendants who are in custody or people who are seeking restraining orders. Judges are physically present in the courthouses with a limited number of court staffers to assist them. Emergency hearings have been mostly conducted over the phone, with the parties and their attorneys dialing into a conference call with the judge and, if necessary, the probation department. Police departments have been making far fewer arrests overall since the beginning of the pandemic. Since bars and restaurants are largely closed, there have been almost no arrests of people for operating under the influence of alcohol. However, as you might expect, the police are continuing to respond to domestic disturbances and make arrests. For crimes that do not require an arrest, police departments have mostly been issuing summonses for people to appear in court at some later date rather than taking suspects into custody.What happens if I am arrested?
You will be brought to the police station and booked in the ordinary manner. The police department will alert the courthouse that you are under arrest and arrangements will be made for you to be arraigned over the phone. If the prosecutor is requesting you be held without bail or asking the judge to impose cash bail, you can either arrange for your own attorney to argue on your behalf or the judge will assign a public defender to speak to you on the phone and then make the bail argument during the arraignment. During the arraignment, the judge will inform you of the charges against you and decide whether you will be released on your own recognizance, be required to post cash bail, or be held without bail pending trial. While you will not be physically present in the courtroom, you will be able to hear everything that is happening during the hearing.Are people being released from jail as a result of COVID-19?
Yes. The Supreme Judicial Court has acknowledged the danger the virus poses to people who are in prisons and jails. Therefore, anybody who is being held without bail, or on cash bail, pending trial or a final probation violation hearing is entitled to a new hearing where a judge will consider releasing him. Additionally, anyone who has been sentenced to jail within the past 60 days can file a motion for immediate release. Attorney Spring has successfully argued for the release of clients in both of these situations.Am I still entitled to a speedy trial?
The general rule in Massachusetts is that you are entitled to go to trial within one year of your arraignment. However, the time period when court is closed as a result of the virus is excluded from the one-year computation period. As a result, you will not necessarily be entitled to go to trial within one year of the arraignment if your case is currently pending.If my case is continued, how will I find out the next date?
The clerk’s offices in all of the courthouses are still open. Attorneys are working with the clerks to reschedule matters and your lawyer will be able to find out your next date for you.What happens if I’m sick when court reopens?
You should call your attorney, who may advise you not to go to court. If you were treated at the hospital or by your primary care physician, your doctor can fax a letter to the courthouse summarizing your treatment and a judge will very likely continue your case without issuing a default warrant against you.