Are New Jersey’s Criminal Courts Open During Coronavirus Pandemic?
Posted by Scott Gorman - May 15, 2020

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted virtually all aspects of life in New Jersey. As a result of Governor Murphy’s “stay-at-home” order and the federal government’s social distancing guidelines, the state’s economy largely shut down, and, although many businesses have now been able to reopen, people across the state are still out of work. While we are not facing the same restrictions we were a few months ago, life in New Jersey is still far from normal.

For the most part, when Governor Murphy issued the state’s “stay-at-home” order, New Jersey’s Superior Court (the state court in which criminal cases are tried) also closed. At the time, the New Jersey Courts’ website stated:

“As of March 18, 2020 and until further notice, there are no in-person Superior Court and Tax Court proceedings (except for extremely limited emergent matters and certain ongoing trials). As many matters as possible (including case management conferences, motions, and hearings) will be handled by telephone or video conference. . . .”Although the courts are now in the process of resuming operations, they are currently operating in a very limited capacity. The Courts’ website currently states

“The New Jersey Courts resumed some in-person court services on Monday, June 22. A small number of judges and court staff are working on-site each day. The rest continue to work remotely to ensure safe distancing can be maintained.”

The Criminal Cases section of the Courts’ website includes additional information specific to the handling of criminal trials and sentencing. For example, at present: 

  • Jury selection and criminal jury trials will resume incrementally on or after September 21, 2020.”
  • “Cases for indictable offenses are ‘tolled’ from April 27 through September 20. This means that time period also does not count toward the overall time it takes to resolve that case.”
  • “Judges might decide to put off a sentencing hearing because of COVID-19. Judges also might delay the start of a jail or prison sentence as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Also, the victim will be given the chance to respond to the proposed delay.”

Since New Jersey’s Criminal Courts are Operating at Limited Capacity, Does This Mean My Case Could Be Dismissed?

If you were charged with a crime prior to the pandemic, or if you have been arrested for a crime during the COVID-19 crisis, what do the current circumstances mean for your case?

Currently, criminal cases in New Jersey are not being dismissed due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. While your trial may be delayed, you will still have a trial eventually. As New Jersey’s Superior Court was closed for an extended period of time and is taking a phased approach to reopening, the delay in your case could be substantial. 

At this point, it is too early to tell how long cases will be delayed, and, as prosecutors’ backlogs of cases grow, it is possible that they may be more open to considering plea deal negotiations. If you contact us, Essex County criminal defense attorney Scott Gorman will be happy to review the status of your case for you and help you evaluate the options you have available.

Request a Free Initial Consultation with Essex County Criminal Defense Attorney Scott Gorman

Do you have questions about the status of your criminal case in Essex County New Jersey as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic? If so, we encourage you to get in touch. To speak with defense attorney Scott Gorman in confidence, call 201-489-9199 or request a free consultation online today.

Published in Categories: Criminal Defense