The Covid-19 pandemic has caused many businesses to close or limit their hours of operation. Our local county government has been affected as well. Smith County has issued a two week “stay at home” order for all of Smith County residents starting on Friday, March 27, 2020. The order is an amendment to Smith County’s Declaration of Local Disaster Due to Public Health Emergency for Smith County, Texas. Many surrounding counties, such as Cherokee County, Gregg County and Van Zandt County have issued similar orders.
Jury trials across East Texas have been suspended. This includes Smith County. Our courts are limiting all hearings at this time and each is determined on a case by case basis. Each court can use discretion on whether to hold a hearing or to determine matters based solely on motions filed by attorneys.
Governor Greg Abbott recently issued an Executive Order suspending many state provisions that affect a person’s right to personal bonds. For example, prior to this Order, if a person was detained in jail pending trial and the State was not ready for trial by a certain number of days, the person was entitled to a personal bond or a reduced bond. This is no longer true. The new Executive Order suspended Article 17.151 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure to the extent necessary to prevent any person’s automatic release on personal bond because the State is not ready for trial.
At this time more than ever, a person accused of a crime and detained in jail can become lost in the system with limited or no access to the courts. We at Rollings, Wood & Pace are continuously monitoring and tracking all of our cases, court hearings, deadlines, and dockets. We are maintaining communication with each and every local court. While it is true that access to the judicial system is limited during this unprecedented time, our office is committed to provide a voice for you and to advocate for your rights.