The Call to Dismiss Misdemeanor Cases During the Pandemic
Date:  08-18-2020

Each year 13 million misdemeanor cases jam courts in this country
From The Atlantic:

My husband and I are both public defenders in Maryland. Last week, he attended his first scheduled bench trial since the courts were closed in March. The client, witnesses, court staff, and attorneys were all expected to appear in court and potentially be exposed to COVID-19. And for what? To adjudicate a misdemeanor charge of malicious destruction of property worth less than $1,000.

Even as the pandemic has forced this country to rethink seemingly every facet of American life, the criminal courts continue the routine processing and prosecution of petty misdemeanor crimes. My co-workers have had to appear in court to represent clients on traffic cases, charges of simple drug possession, disorderly conduct, and other misdemeanors. But this business-as-usual approach to minor offenses is immoral and dangerous. People charged with misdemeanors during the pandemic should receive amnesty.

Nearly 13 million misdemeanor cases clog American criminal-court dockets every year. Black and brown people are disproportionately charged with these offenses, which largely arise from housing instability, poverty, and racist policing practices. The country punishes people for actions taken in the furtherance of survival, and in the throes of addiction and mental-health struggles. The process of charging, arresting, prosecuting, and punishing these types of offenses does nothing to deter future conduct, because it does nothing to change the material conditions and structural inequities that affect the lives of the accused every day. Continue reading >>>