Late on Friday May 15th, 2020 the Rhode Island Supreme Court issued Executive Order No. 2020-12 which addressed the Court's COVID-19 Pandemic Response and Continuity of Operations. With respect to criminal proceedings in Rhode Island, the May 15th Order addresses a number of different issues:
Criminal Trials in Rhode Island
The Rhode Island Supreme Court has directed the Superior Court to develop a plan for the resumption of criminal jury trials for the most critical criminal cases. Any criminal trial that was scheduled to commence between March 16th, 20202 and August 1st, 2020 are continued to August 1st, 2020 at the earliest.
The Courts have been authorized to schedule bench trials provided that the trial is conducted remotely prior to June 1st. After June 1st, 2020, the Courts may proceed with in-person bench trials provided that suitable social distancing and other safety precautions are implemented.
Newport County and Washington County Courthouses
Earlier this year the Supreme Court closed both the Newport County Courthouse (Second Division District Court) and the Washington County Courthouse (Fourth Division District Court). On May 15th, the Rhode Island Supreme Court set Tuesday September 8th, 2020 as the re-opening date for these two courthouses. All individuals who are facing criminal charges arising out of Newport County or Washington County will appear for Court in the Kent County Courthouse (Third Division) for all court appearances prior to Tuesday September 8th, 2020.
Courthouse COVID-19 Screening Procedures
The Supreme Court has determined that the following procedures shall be instituted in each judicial building:
1) Everyone entering the building shall be subject to virtual screening for COVID-19 exposure or symptomology;
2) Every person entering a building shall be expected to wear a face covering or mask. At the discretion of the judicial officer presiding on each case, masks need not be worn while participants in a court hearing are testifying, provided social distancing can be maintained;
3) Only those judicial officers, attorneys, essential personnel, litigants, witnesses, and other necessary parties who pass verbal screening shall be allowed to enter the judicial buildings;
4) All proceedings taking place within a judicial building shall be conducted in a manner which adheres to the directives issued by the Governor and the Department of Health with respect to social distancing and crowd restrictions to the greatest extent possible.
If you need help with a Rhode Island criminal charge or a traffic court matter, do not hesitate to contact our experienced team of Rhode Island Criminal Defense Attorneys today. Although COVID-19 has slowed the legal system, we are working 7 days a week to assist clients in need and are available to speak with you and assist you with your Rhode Island criminal case or traffic ticket. Contact us 24/7 at 401-228-8271.