In a stunning move, U.S. Attorney General William Barr and his Department of Justice are asking Congress to suspend parts of the U.S. Constitution that guarantee all individuals the right to a speedy and fair trial, the right to bail, and the right to due process under the law. He makes this request under the pretext of the current COVID-19 emergency – and under these proposed changes, the chief judge of each federal district would decide which people to hold indefinitely without bail or trial.
While the government does have some leeway to issue public health and safety mandates, our criminal defense attorneys believe that this particular request would have dire consequences for those who have been arrested or charged during the COVID-19 crisis. Granting these emergency powers now could also have serious consequences for the future of our country.
Is It Necessary to Suspend Our Rights?
Although A.G. Barr’s request is framed as a necessary move during the coronavirus crisis, suspending these basic rights is completely unnecessary, since our justice system can easily adapt to the new realities of physical distancing. In fact, here in Minnesota, our courts are already adapting very well, by limiting gatherings and in-person contact visitation, as well as adjusting the timelines for trials and hearings.
As of today, Minnesota courts are already allowing the following health and safety measures:
- Phone conferences for parties
- Video appearances for attorneys and litigants
- Video and/or non in-person attorney meetings with in-custody clients
- Short trial continuances for some civil cases and out-of-custody criminal cases
- Lowering bails
- Imposing more out-of-custody conditions for people in the jails.
Even if A.G. Barr gets his way, the new rules would affect only federal cases. However, state courts would most likely follow the federal rules, which means this could affect any type of non-federal criminal charges in Minnesota.
As criminal defense lawyers, we believe that our core constitutional rights should never be suspended. Our country has survived dozens of wars, economic depression, civil unrest, and past contagions without agreeing to a suspension of our rights. The Constitution is more than just words on paper: It guarantees freedom for all of us, and it should remain that way.
Committed to Our Clients During the COVID-19 Crisis
It’s easy to feel discouraged during this unprecedented crisis, but at Caplan & Tamburino Law Firm, P.A., we are still ready to handle any criminal or civil matter for our Minneapolis clients. As we move to a more flexible remote work policy and observe social distancing guidelines, our firm has prepared the right technological tools and resources to ensure that we are meeting our clients’ needs from afar.
No matter where we are physically, our team can easily conduct the following matters for potential and existing clients: video conferencing, electronic communication, sharing discovery (police reports, statements, court materials, etc.), conducting investigations, submitting court filings, communicating with the courts and prosecutors, scheduling court appearances, filing motions and written arguments, and preparing for trial. In short, we will never stop diligently representing our clients, regardless of whether the government issues a “stay-at-home” order in Minnesota.
For more information about how we can help with your case, contact our team at (612) 444-5020 today or send us a message online.