COVID-19 Crisis: Seminole County Court Dates

If you are currently facing criminal charges in Seminole County, Florida, you may be concerned about how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect your court dates. The current emergency has changed some of the procedures and the court dates associated with criminal cases in our area.

Here is some of the most current information about court dates and appearance requirements in the Seminole County court system.

The Criminal Justice Center

For both circuit and county cases in the Criminal Justice Center, changes have been made to procedures for defendants who are in custody and those who are not currently in custody.

• For defendants who are already in custody, arraignments, violation of parole arraignments, initial appearances, and bond hearings will be conducted using video conferencing. This also applies to early resolution cases and pleas for these defendants. All felony plea forms must be signed at the time the plea is submitted to the court.

• Defendants who are not currently in custody will have their cases continued until after April 15, 2020, or until the current crisis is over. Case activities will include arraignments, violation of parole arraignments, docket reviews, and soundings, pre-trials, and calendar calls. The Clerk of Court will be responsible for issuing notices for new court dates after the coronavirus emergency has concluded.

Remote appearances will take place in the Criminal Justice Center in Studio F for initial appearances by defendants. The cases will then proceed to either Courtroom 1B or 5D. Defendants will participate by remote video conferencing at the jail.

Mental Health Court

All felony and misdemeanor cases in the Mental Health Court will be continued until at least April 15, 2020. This period may be extended if the Seminole County COVID-19 situation is still developing at that date. You will be informed of your new court date by the Clerk of Court when your case is rescheduled.

Veterans Courts

The state of Florida provides added support for veterans who have been charged with felony or misdemeanor offenses. Veterans Court cases are evaluated with the unique needs of these vulnerable individuals in mind. All matters scheduled for Veterans Court will be postponed or continued until April 15 or later. The Clerk of Court will inform you of the new date for your hearing when it is rescheduled.

Drug Court

Like the other courts in the Seminole County court system, Drug Court will be out of session until at least April 15, 2020. You will be informed of your new court date or continuance hearing date when cases are rescheduled after this time.

Changes to General Court Procedures

The Florida Court System has also made general allowances regarding the procedures to be put into place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some of the most significant changes to the standard procedures include the following:

• In cases that have been designated for remote appearance and in which the defendant is recommended for release from custody, both the state and the defense may submit a Stipulated Request for Release From Custody with Conditions on behalf of the defendant. This is generally reserved for pre-trial cases in which the defendant has become ill with COVID-19 or has another condition that merits release for the protection of the other inmates in custody.

• For defendants who are not in custody, requests for a continuance can be accepted without the defendant’s signature if the attorney of record for the defendant signs the petition.

• Cases that can be conducted by telephone may be allowed to proceed without delays. If your matter cannot be held in this way, however, you will likely have to wait until after April 15, 2020, to appear in court and plead your case.

• Injunctions that are currently in effect will continue until a hearing can be scheduled, which will generally be after the COVID-19 restrictions in Seminole County have been lifted. For injunction hearings related to domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, cyberstalking, or vulnerable adult cases, these hearings can be held using video conferencing or by telephone. Injunctions that are granted during this time and before April 15, 2020, will stay in effect until a hearing can be scheduled after the COVID-19 emergency is over.

Exceptions to COVID-19 Restrictions

The restrictions put in place by the Florida court system are subject to the judgment and discretion of Judicial Officers and Magistrates. If your case falls into this category, you will be notified by the Clerk of Court about the dates and times for your hearing.

A Developing Situation

All the above information is subject to change, including the proposed date for reopening the court system in Seminole County and in the state of Florida. The Clerk of Court is responsible for keeping you apprised of the situation and will provide you with the latest information on your court date and continuances.

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