How Is COVID-19 Affecting Tennessee Criminal Law?

Since COVID-19 started making waves in the US in March of 2020, every state has had to postpone or scale back in-person criminal court cases to prevent the spread of the virus. This has caused thousands upon thousands of people left without trials or any resolutions to their cases. The pandemic has changed the face of how the country deals with the law and cases completely.

With juries–which have to consist of 45-60 people–not proceeding until possibly 2022 in some states, the criminal justice system is having to reform and think of new ways to maintain justice and fairness for all parties involved. While many states are starting to open back up as of April 2021, there are still many issues COVID-19 continues to exacerbate. Having qualified legal representation is now more imperative now more than ever.

What the country can hope for this time is less harsh treatments for lesser crimes and fines instead of incarceration. This article will focus on the state of Tennessee and the changes its justice system is seeing since COVID-19 started and what it is doing to help the backlog of cases due to the pandemic.

Changes to State Law

Here are some of the changes the Tennessee courts and those housed in its system have been seeing in the wake of COVID-19.

  • The Tennessee Supreme Court has put out an order for judges across the state to start plans to expand pretrial release, release incarcerated individuals who qualify, and reduce penalties for minor or technical infractions. A majority of the states’ bigger cities have taken steps and now smaller counties are seeing those similar changes.
  • Since the start of the pandemic, hundreds of Tennessee inmates have been released to reduce populations in local jails. Sheriffs, defense attorneys, prosecutors and judges all teamed up to get people out of lock up and back home so they could be safe.
  • The pre-existing pretrial release program was expanded and fast tracked so that now most misdemeanor offenders can avoid jail time without having to pay a cash bail, which is great for a lot of low-income people who can’t afford to pay bail and often spend time in jail for minor offenses. This not only saves people a record, but it keeps them from losing their jobs and worse.
  • Video proceedings became a typical way to hold court cases, with over 11,000 being done since March of 2020. This could start a new way to expand the way offenders see their cases held and more minor cases may not even have to go into court, lessening the burden on the court system as well.

Changes to In-Person Court Hearings

In February of 2021, the Tennessee Supreme court issued an order lifting some  of the restrictions for in-person court hearings.

  1. In-person court proceedings for termination of parental rights cases were lifted on March 1st, 2021.
  2. All state and local courts in Tennessee lifted all other non-jury court proceedings in municipal juvenile, trial, general session and appellate courts on March 15, 2021.
  3. Jury trials are to continue to be suspended until March 31, 2021 and could go further depending on COVID news. The Chief Justice of the court can make case-by-case exceptions to this order.

Even though restrictions have been eased, the courts in Tennessee are still pushing virtual proceedings whenever it is reasonably applicable.

The best way to a fair and streamlined case is to have qualified legal representation. Your attorney will know all the up-to-date information for your city or county and will fight so you feel safe throughout your entire case.

Get The Representation You Deserve

When you choose experienced criminal defense attorney Hunter Fowler to defend you in a criminal case, you’re getting an attorney who sees the big picture. In his office, you’re not just a name and a number on a piece of paper; you’re a citizen with rights and a future to plan for after your case is closed.

As your Murfreesboro criminal law attorney, Hunter uses his legal expertise to defend your rights and reduce the impact of your criminal charges during and after your case so you can make appropriate restitution and restore your life.

Having an upcoming criminal case can be even more stressful, especially during the pandemic. Finding a compassionate and conscientious attorney is imperative to a quick resolution and Hunter Fowler is ready to provide you with the legal service you deserve. If you have any questions or need to speak with us about your case, please give Hunter Fowley a call or email today.