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Supreme Court Pushing Pandemic Pace of Criminal Cases

Seeking to lessen the considerable impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on court proceedings, the Illinois Supreme Court is issuing guidelines for faster processing of growing case backlogs across the state. An order issued by Chief Justice Anne M. Burke permits initial appearances and non-substantive status hearings to take place via teleconferencing platforms irrespective of whether those charged object to remote proceedings. Prior to the change, those charged could opt out of remote appearances.

Jury trials in criminal cases still  must be conducted in person and observe public health and social-distancing protections. However, the new order grants those accused the right to authorize a remote trial before the bench. Judges, too, have a say in those cases. Specifically, the ISC guidelines let them determine whether a remote bench trial preserves the integrity of their court proceedings.

The new orders follow those issued in May, which allowed jury trials in both criminal and civil trials to resume after a March moratorium on all but essential court business. The temporary caveats enabled local judges to decide whether and to what extent regular operations could resume in their courtrooms. Courts are using platforms such as Zoom and Webex to enable remote appearances and a civil trial in Lake County reportedly is the first to employ a remote jury in the state. 

Burke’s order leaves pleas and sentencing hearings at the discretion of the accused. However, it does not address the so-called speedy trial clock. The high court suspended the 120-day window following an arrest during which a jury trial must take place by law. Defendants held longer without trial must be released from custody, according to the state statute.

The DuPage County Criminal Defense Attorneys at The Chicagoland Law Firm welcome changes that help our clients achieve faster more affordable resolution to their criminal and civil matters. We serve clients in court proceedings around the state via Zoom and Webex and use those platforms to help them achieve the best outcomes possible based on facts in their case. Contact our offices in Downers Grove and downtown Chicago for a free consultation. We are your best defense.