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What You Should Know About Criminal Court During the Pandemic

What You Should Know About Criminal Court During the Pandemic

The Minnesota Judicial Branch mandates all judicial officers, staff, and visitors to criminal court facilities to wear face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during the pandemic.

Minnesota Criminal Courts Issue COVID-19 Regulations

On May 28, Minnesota courts reopened for in-person access on a limited basis. As courts plan for further reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic, strict regulations are in place to protect public safety. Judicial Branch facilities are planning a gradual expansion of court operations, and Judicial Branch employees have been ordered to return to work to support court operations and in-person proceedings as needed during the transitional phase of reopening.

The Judicial Council has authorized in-person proceedings and criminal jury trials for limited types of hearings in civil, criminal, juvenile, and probate cases. However, the Judicial Branch has issued strict regulations related to COVID-19 with safety measures that follow guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Minnesota Department of Health.

Effective July 13, 2020, the Judicial Branch mandates face coverings for every person who enters a court facility. Face coverings must be worn at all times in public areas, common areas, and hallways. Face coverings may be removed in public areas only when plexiglass barriers are in place or physical distancing measures are maintained. During court proceedings, face-covering requirements apply to the following:

  • Judicial Branch staff members and judges
  • Prosecution and defense attorneys
  • Plaintiffs and defendants
  • Court witnesses and case participants
  • People attending in-person hearings
  • Courtroom visitors

While in a courtroom, face coverings may only be removed if physical distancing requirements can be maintained, or the presiding judge authorizes the removal. The presiding judge also has the authority to remove face coverings if they interfere with prospective jurors, witness testimony, or Minneapolis criminal lawyers addressing the court, or if plexiglass barriers or face shields are in place in the courtroom. Although criminal jury trials have now resumed, jury trials in civil cases are not permitted prior to September 1, 2020.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Minnesota courts must comply with the Judicial Council’s approved Minnesota Judicial Branch COVID-19 Preparedness Plan which addresses safety measures for all in-person court activities. If a person is charged with a crime in Minnesota and awaiting trial, dates and time frames of the trial should be explained by Minneapolis criminal lawyers handling the case. The COVID-19 pandemic and reopening plans for Minnesota courts may impact criminal cases and court dates.

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