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  • Writer's pictureLisa Jensen

2021: A Space Odyssey

So we're past the year everyone thought was the Worst. Year. Ever.

Now what?

Well, COVID-19 is still dominating everything, including the court system. Statewide, trials are not going forward as normal, and you can expect that if you are looking for your day in court, things are going to be slow-going for a while longer until the pandemic is controlled. Whenever that is.

But there is good news. One of the most positive side effects of the need for social distance seems to have been a much-needed boost for attorneys to become more tech-savvy. The legal industry has notoriously lagged in this regard, and now your attorney is much more likely to know what "zoom" is and have an understanding of the technologies out there than ever before. Which is great, because in a world where cops are trying to use "surveillance techniques" and spy on your life from your cell phone to your online social presence, having attorneys get with the 21st century is long overdue.

More good news, not necessarily related to COVID-19 but certainly welcome in a time when we need something positive besides a test result: the laws, they are a-changing! Probation periods for misdemeanors used to typically be three years, but now in many cases they will be only one year. In felonies, what was a three year should now be a two year term of supervision (including post-release and parole). Expanded diversion options are becoming available to defendants looking to avoid a criminal record. The newly-elected District Attorney in Los Angeles, George Gascon, has been cleaning house in both open cases in his office and post-conviction sentences by making good on his pledge to do away with sentencing enhancements, and he has revamped the policy on pre-trial incarceration, giving a vital push to an ongoing battle to radically shift the status quo away from having people stuck in jail on a cash bail they cannot pay and as a result, pleading to a crime just to get out of custody rather than because they were convinced it was their best option.

All in all, it's a time of bold moves and big changes, and it feels really dark right now, but there's hope on the horizon.

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