Around the country, a number of state and federal courts have started to use virtual grand juries to indict, and virtual juries for actual trials. If you are concerned that jurors involved in virtual processes may not represent a true cross section of the population, or that virtual hearings are inherently unfair, you are not alone.
Many federal, state, and municipal courts have limited the number and types of cases they will be handling in the near term. Some have adjourned jury trials for several weeks and in some cases even months to see what happens after a period of isolation. Courts have summarily waived Speedy Trial Act rights and ordered continuances for a period of time. State courts in particular are promoting the use of video and teleconferencing in lieu of appearing in court. Municipal courts have adjourned court appearances for motor vehicle summonses and code violations. Detention has been waived in certain cases depending on the type of crime, the age of the offender, and other relevant factors.
A federal or state agent or detective knocks on your door at 6 a.m. and serves you with a grand jury subpoena for documents and/or testimony. Do you simply gather the documents requested and send them to the U.S. Attorney’s Office or the County Prosecutor’s Office, or do you retain experienced criminal defense counsel? If the subpoena requires testimony, what rights do you have?
In the federal system, a person may be charged and arrested by way of a complaint or indictment. A complaint is a written statement of essential facts establishing the offense charged made under oath by the agent before a magistrate-judge. Based upon the complaint, an arrest warrant may be issued upon the establishment of probable cause to believe that an offense has been committed and that the defendant committed it. The warrant must list the defendant’s name, or description by which he can be identified, the offense charged, command that the defendant be brought without unnecessary delay before a magistrate-judge and be signed by the judge.
Technology has advanced the ease and quality of life immeasurably. Smart phones are handheld computers that can surf the internet; deliver emails, texts and phone calls; take videos and pictures; make dinner reservations and track your every movement through various apps. Our cars can almost drive themselves with lane change warnings; infrared cameras; heads-up displays, cruise control with radar; event data recorders that record speed, braking and seatbelt use; and GPS tracking in case the car is stolen. Home security cameras, Amazon Echo, smart TV, smart appliances and the like can all be controlled remotely through the internet. A variety of devices that are small and comfortable enough to wear, such as Fitbits, iWatches and the like can track our movements, heart rates, calories burned, number of steps and location.
The stages of a criminal case as it proceeds through the legal system can be confusing for individuals who find themselves on the wrong end of legal charges for the first time. Though popular media has no shortage of stories set within the criminal justice system, these fictional depictions often leave out important details. When a substantial portion of your personal and professional future hangs in the balance, it's critical to have a complete and accurate understanding of the steps through which your criminal case will proceed.