Writ of Habeas Corpus
Criminal defense attorneys are a funny breed. We believe in the Constitution and hold tight onto each and every individual right espoused therein. That means when we see an injustice, we jump at the opportunity to stand up for our client and find every possible way to make things right. But with the slowdown of the Courts, the Writ of Habeas is all but forgotten.
Habeas vs. Coronavirus, Who Wins?
The current Coronavirus epidemic crisis has caused a great deal of stress and strain not just on the economic structure of our communities, but also from an emotional standpoint that will probably last for quite a while. I think we will be picking up the pieces psychologically from this trauma for quite some time. That being said, Marylanders and Americans are a strong and resilient group and we find a way to bounce back and make things happen. When our back is against the wall, we will find ways to survive and thrive. That’s what I see happening today in our community.
Can the Courts Find a Way to Remain Open to the Public?
The government’s strong decisive action to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus is absolutely limiting certain fundamental rights that we enjoy as Americans without question. I’m talking about the right espoused in the United States Constitution called a “Writ of Habeas Corpus.” This Writ was designed to keep a check on government in confusing and stressful times and allows all American citizens to be brought before a judge in a timely manner, to argue their innocence. The last time the Writ of Habeas Corpus was officially suspended was by President George Bush, through the Military Commissions Act of 2006. This bold move was put in place as a result of terrorist activities and sought to implement surveillance measures designed to prevent same. Prior to that, the last President to suspend habeas corpus was President Lincoln who was seeking preserve the Union at all cost. The point is, this fundamental writ has protected the American public for centuries and should not be suspended except in extraordinary circumstances.
Should We Panic?
Does the current chaos justify a suspension? I would argue, absolutely not. Defendants who have been accused of crimes are being held unjustly, simply because the Courts have been deemed unavailable and their hearing dates have been put off until the unforeseeable future. This is unacceptable. In this day and age, Courts have the ability to use modern technology including video conferencing for hearing purposes. It is outrageous for any defendant to be sitting in jail because of the circumstances we are facing. The Courts should address this issue immediately and find new ways to open their doors electronically to administer justice. That includes allowing for immediate use of the Writ of Habeas Corpus.
What Role Do Law Firms Play?
Yesterday, law firms were deemed “essential services” under Governor Hogan’s Executive Order. I applaud and agree with the Governor’s move. However, because Courts are not open to hear and administer the grievances of its’ citizens, his Order goes by the wayside. A steering committee should be appointed immediately, to find ways to keep Courts open to the public to administer day-to-day legal processes so we can continue to function as a society. Putting the justice system on hold for a few months will cause many problems. There are innocent people sitting in jail right now who should be released on bail, but their Constitutional rights are being stripped away.
Courts Need to Adopt Immediately
Times are changing and the Courts need to adapt NOW by using the ingenuity of electronic platforms to keep their doors open to the public. An open and functioning Court system is essential to keeping a civil society operating on a day to day basis.
Don’t Hesitate To Consult A Lawyer
If you have a pending case or criminal charge, it is imperative that you speak to a lawyer who understands how to navigate through the system. Failure to act now can have devastating consequences in the future. Call attorney James Crawford at 443-709-9999 today.