With state courts now holding a bare-bones docket amid the COVID-19 outbreak, some inmates are getting sentencing reconsideration hearings to either be released on time served, or serve the rest of their sentence at home.
Monday’s “Judge’s Session” docket at the district courthouse included seven inmates who had already been found guilty of misdemeanors or traffic offenses and had served part of their sentence, for a hearing on reconsideration of that sentence requested by their lawyers last week.
Requests for the release of some inmates, many of whom are authorized to travel in and out of the detention center for work release, cite works which say “detained populations are particularly susceptible to airborne viral outbreaks.”
“In an incarcerated environment, people are not able to socially distance themselves from others and are often required to spend the majority of their day in close proximity to others,” public defender Max Frizalone wrote in a request for the release of Fuquan Hassain Nath, who was convicted of DUI in December, and was released Monday ahead of his expected May 2 release date.
“He poses a danger to the community due to his pattern of driving while intoxicated” or impaired, Bryan Jones, assistant state’s attorney, wrote in a response to the release request, also noting another trial date set to be heard for Nath’s fourth DUI/DWI offense was set to be heard prior to his May release date. “The danger to the community is not mitigated by current events.”
Courts have been closed to the public and are currently only hearing certain matters, mostly emergent, time-restricted matters following an order from Maryland’s top judge, Mary Ellen Barbera, postponing scheduled hearings and trials until at least April 3.
Allowed matters include peace orders, protective orders, bail reviews, emergency issues and arraignments.
The order does not bar the court from holding matters regarding locally incarcerated defendants.
Those awaiting trial on pre-trial release, who, on higher levels, are mostly confined to their homes with electronic monitoring, are no longer being asked to check in with pre-trial services in person at the detention center.
Until further orders, “Everyone’s checking in by phone right now,” Corrections Corporal Mickey Adkins told a St. Mary’s district judge on a television screen in court on Monday.