(Golden, CO – March 24, 2020) As the coronavirus, COVID-19, continues to spread and disrupt the lives of those in the First Judicial District, which includes those in the criminal justice system, the District Attorney’s Office and the District Courts have risen to the challenge. The First Judicial District serves Jefferson and Gilpin counties.
“We are working with the courts to manage the number of people in the criminal justice system in this district who are exposed to this highly contagious virus, including in-custody individuals, staff, and the public,” said DA Pete Weir. While there is an adversarial relationship between prosecutors and defense attorneys, cooperation between both sides is critical in response to their mutual enemy, COVID-19. This collaboration is committed to balancing the safety of the public while attempting to relieve the jail population.
The justice system is in a critical state. Crime will not cease. Offenders have rights but must be held accountable. Each day, newly arrested offenders have a first appearance before a judge. At any given point in time, there are thousands of cases pending in the First Judicial District. In response, the DA’s Office is actively reviewing files to identify those offenders who may be the least risk to the community and the best candidates for a personal recognizance (PR) bond and a continued hearing date. This process is not as simple as it may sound. It is not possible in every case to systematically reschedule a hearing; there may be legal issues such as the right to “speedy trial” and the constitutional rights of crime victims.
In spite of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s early release jail program which is already in existence, it is clear that this is not enough in the face of this pandemic. Emergency weekend hearings were held before numerous judges to move this process forward expeditiously.
The Colorado Supreme Court issued a directive last week vacating and rescheduling jury and civil trials, and recommending to judges in each judicial district that all other hearing be rescheduled whenever possible. In response to that order, the DA’s Office is working with First Judicial District Chief Judge Jeffrey Pilkington to take this action further in an attempt to help “flatten the curve.”
“This is a tremendous undertaking,” said DA Pete Weir, “The courts in Jefferson and Gilpin counties are working hard to try to resolve the issue of reducing the risk of exposure for everyone involved and at the same time ensuring the safety of our community.”
The District Attorney’s Office has adjusted its operation to create a balance between the need for social distancing and holding offenders accountable. While the District Attorney’s Office is closed to the public, it is open to law enforcement and officers of the court. All the functions of the District Attorney’s Office will continue. Our reception desk is staffed and may be reached at 303-271-6800.
Questions regarding scheduling of criminal case should be directed to the courts.