Hundreds of Wake County court cases postponed due to COVID-19

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Hundreds of Wake County court cases are being postponed due to COVID-19.

The Chief Justice signed an order to reduce the spread of infection as hundreds to thousands of people can go through the courthouse on a regular day.

District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said they now have four criminal courts operating each day. Typically there are more than a dozen.

“It’s hard right now to know how this is going to shake out. Certainly, we know there are a lot of people out there who have charges pending against them or who are victims of crime who this is impacting them getting their day in court,” said Freeman. “It is something that is unprecedented. I’ve worked in the criminal justice system for 25 years and have never seen anything like this. We look forward to the day we can restore services completely.”

The district attorney’s office is rotating shifts and implementing working from home to accommodate social distancing.

Their goal is to move through custody cases, cases of those in jail, domestic violence cases and plea deals. 

They’re unsecuring a lot of bonds for low-level offenders, according to Freeman.

Violent crime cases are seeing delays as trials are being put on hold.

Many cases won’t be heard until mid-May or later.

“It’s like winding down a giant machine. It takes a lot of effort to bring it down from a raging boil to this simmer and then we’ll have to get it kicked back up. I will say fortunately right now, crime is down. People are tending to follow the directives of staying at home,” said Freeman.

The district attorney says many crimes, like driving while impaired, are down.

However, domestic violence cases are up by about 20 to 25 percent.

“Unfortunately, we are seeing an uptick in domestic violence and you know, unfortunately, that is often a side effect of when the economy goes bad, when people lose their jobs, when people are forced to stay together under stressful situations. None of that is justification, but what we do see is unfortunately during those times there’s an elevation,” said Freeman.

There are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Wake County jail at this time.

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