A backlog of criminal cases challenged American court systems long before a once-a-century pandemic descended upon the land.
But since COVID-19 reared its ugly head almost a year ago, the problem has only been further exasperated. Thus, the Illinois Supreme Court was correct to recently provide guidelines to help some of these cases proceed.
It’s clear that a defendants’ right to a speedy trial has been compromised by the situation. The state supreme court had this in mind when it released the guidelines, as for the most part, approval to proceed with a case rests with the defendant.
According to a recent story published by Capitol News Illinois, the only circumstances where a hearing can be held remotely without consent from the defendant comes in the early stages of the case. The guidelines state that certain criminal hearings, such as initial appearances or non-substantive status hearings, can be held remotely, even if the person charged with a crime objects to a remote hearing.
Beyond that, the defendant has to grant permission for a remote hearing. This stipulation applies to sentencing hearings or hearings where a plea of guilty will be entered, and bench trials where a judge rather than a jury issues a verdict. Jury trials will never be held remotely under the guidelines.
These guidelines apply a commonsense approach to solving an uncommon problem. They protect the rights of the defendant, while, at the same time, putting the wheels back in motion so justice can be served. The legal maxim “justice delayed is justice denied,’’ has threatened the system for the past 11 months. This guidance helps ease the threat.