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COVID-19 and the Philadelphia Criminal Court System


4/6/2020

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges in Philadelphia and have received notification in the mail that the date of your most recent court hearing has been moved, you will likely receive a new notice that your court date has again changed.

The Philadelphia criminal court system is closed until May 1, 2020 as a result of coronavirus. This means that preliminary hearings, status listings, arraignment, violation of probation (VOP) hearings, pre-trial conferences and both jury and waiver trials are being continued to after that date.

Defendants who are incarcerated in one of the Philadelphia county jails including Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility (CFCF), Detention Center, Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center, Alternative & Special Detention, House of Corrections or Riverside Correctional Facility (RCF) because they are fighting new felony charges or are jailed because of a probation violation or serving a county jail sentence may be able to file and have a hearing on certain motions before one of the assigned Emergency Judges.

If you are fighting new charges and are incarcerated because you could not afford bail, you are entitled to file an Emergency Motion for a Bail Reduction as a result of the impact of COVID-19. The Philadelphia Prison System has already reported that Corrections Officers and inmates have tested positive for the virus. Social distancing is near impossible in a prison and inmates are not being provided gloves, masks and items that assist in the reduction of the transmission of the virus. A bail motion requests that the judge reconsider the bail that was imposed after arrest and at the time of the initial arraignment that was conducted via video from one of the precincts. Bail is often set at that initial arraignment without knowledge of all facts about the individual who stands before the court. A new bail motion should be filed outlining family relationships, employment, educational history, and criminal history and requesting that bail be set at an amount to permit release.

If you are awaiting a Gagnon I or Gagnon II hearing for a new Violation of Probation (VOP), you may be released if a judge “lifts the detainer” that was dropped at the time of the violation. Violations may be the result of a hot urine, failure to report as required or due to an arrest on new charges. If you are awaiting a VOP hearing in Philadelphia, you are entitled to file an Emergency Motion to Lift the Detainer based on COVID-19. This motion will outline the reasons that you are being detained and why the detainer should be lifted so that you can fight your case from the street.

Many incarcerated individuals in the Philadelphia jails are serving a county jail sentence. If you were convicted of drug, assault or weapon offenses and were sentenced to a county sentence, for example, 11 ½ to 23 months incarceration, you might be eligible for release if a Motion for Release on Early Parole is filed. The Philadelphia District Attorneys Office is in agreement that persons who are close to their minimum or have passed their minimum are entitled to file these motions and may agree with the defense attorney that the person should be released early.

We must decrease the jail population now more than ever. Contact Wimmer Criminal Defense at (215) 712-1212 or use our convenient online form to discuss what options you have with regard to filing a motion for release from jail.