COVID-19 is affecting all of our lives in many ways that are changing quickly; these are unprecedented times. You might be wondering how it will affect your court case in Rhode Island. Please be advised that the Rhode Island courts are up and running on a limited basis and they may look and feel a little different.

Court Proceedings Amidst COVID-19:

Some cases, including those deemed to be “emergency matters”, are still being held in person, while other cases are being heard virtually, or not at all.

District Court

Pursuant to a recent order, arraignments or first appearances before a judge, are only occurring in misdemeanor cases such as driving under the influence (DUI) and domestic violence offenses.  Felony arraignments, especially for individuals being held without bail will be arraigned in Court.  All other charges not covered in this list will be given the Summons to return to Court for an arraignment at a later date.

Additionally, no pre-trials or trials are being scheduled in the Rhode Island District Court. The Court has established disposition calendars to address the buildup of cases due to the pandemic. Prosecutors and defense counsel are encouraged to discuss all pending cases remotely, to the extent possible, in an effort to reach a resolution rather than meet and present arguments in the physical courtroom. No conference will be scheduled until attorneys have discussed the case with opposing counsel and all dispositions will be scheduled remotely using WebEx (or “virtual court”).

Bail hearing and violations hearing are still occurring, due to the constitutional rights at stake.

Expungements will be heard only if the prosecutor and defense attorney have discussed the case and there will be no objection based on someone’s eligibility.

Superior Court

Limited calendars have resumed in the Superior Court, such as the Diversion Court and the Pre-arraignment (PAC) calendar. Like the District Court, pre-trial conferences are occurring remotely via WebEx.  Jury trials will resume at a later date.

Similar to District Court, bail and probation violations are still occurring, due to the constitutional rights at stake.

Expungements will be heard only if the prosecutor and defense attorney have discussed the case and there will be no objection based on someone’s eligibility.

Traffic Tribunal

Arraignments for chemical test refusals and traffic violations have resumed at the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal.  However, trials and appeals have not yet resumed.

What In-Person Hearings Look Like Nowadays:

Rhode Island Courts are following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  For example, when going to an in-person hearing at any of the Rhode Island Courts, individuals will be met at the entrance by court personnel who will ask a series of health-related questions, to ensure the person is not suffering from Covid-19 symptoms or been around someone who may be positive.

Further, only persons with scheduled court cases are permitted entry into the courthouse; friends, family members, and others are not permitted unless a court official directs otherwise.

Anyone seeking entry to the courthouse will be required to wear a mask or other face-covering (unless a diagnosed physical condition prohibits such— i.e. asthma),

Additionally, people are encouraged to practice social distancing while inside the courthouse. (i.e. maintaining at least a six-foot distance from others in waiting areas and courtrooms) and will wait in lines outside of the courtroom before their case is called, rather than congregating inside courtrooms.

To access important and recent information regarding Rhode Island courts and COVID-19, check out the Rhode Island Judiciary Website: https://www.courts.ri.gov/Courts/SupremeCourt/Pages/COVID-19.aspx

Your case and your rights still matter to Abilheira Law

Abilheira Law is still open to our clients.  We are strictly following CDC guidance and are limiting face-to-face interactions.  However, we are actively taking on new clients and will “meet” our clients via zoom, facetime, WebEx, and the like.  Additionally, we are always available by phone and email to our clients.

Let us navigate the changing landscape of the Courts during Covid-19 for you and defend against your charges.  Your rights still matter and we will fight to make sure your case is handled as quickly and efficiently as possible!

For more information, contact the skilled Rhode Island criminal defense attorneys at Abilheira Law today. Call us now (401) 245-5100, or fill out our online form!