Colorado attorney general asks for courts to reschedule criminal trials

Posted at 12:36 PM, Mar 23, 2020

DENVER — The Colorado attorney general has asked state courts to reschedule trials to protect those involved in the trial from the novel coronavirus.

Trials require several parties: the defendants, the jury, witnesses, judges, attorneys and court staff. As the virus spreads around the state, Attorney General Phil Weiser said that continuing with these trials endangers everybody involved, and as a result, anybody they come in contact with.

He said under the state’s speedy trial statue, all criminal charges must be dismissed if a case does not go to trial by a certain date. But it also allows prosecutors and defendants to agree to extend the deadline, he said.

“Thus, I urge the parties in criminal cases to reach an agreement on doing just that — recognizing that we are in a public health emergency,” he said.

Under the speedy trial statue, a prosecutor can have additional time because of “exceptional circumstances of the case” or “unavailability of evidence material,” Weiser said. If the courts are not safely able to conduct trials, this would mean that the evidence material would be “unavailable” and would justify a delay due to those exceptional circumstances, he explained.

“I urge Colorado’s courts to recognize that, with the need to protect all trial participants from the deadly COVID-19 virus, trials should be rescheduled, and the speedy trial deadline should be recalculated under both of these statutory exceptions,” he said.

In addition, he said he plans to recommend that the General Assembly recognize public health emergencies, such as COVID-19, in the speedy trial law as a reason to extend the deadlines in the future.