Courts and District Attorney on Riverside County Criminal Case Dismissals

Carmela Karcher

“There have been mass dismissals, and the courts have chosen to dismiss over 200 felony and misdemeanor criminal matters,” Riverside County District Attorney, Mike Hestrin, said.

COVID-19 emergency orders, a generational deficit of judges and an overall lack of courtrooms.

All this contributed to a massive backlog, around 2,800 unresolved criminal cases.

With the thick dockets that grew after the lockdowns, cases are now being dismissed.

“There was an order that suspended the rights of speedy trials and that was a waiver that was done across Riverside County,” Hestrin explained. “Those waivers lasted many, many months. When those waivers ended, the courts are now looking at each particular case and deciding how best to get the case out to trial.”

According to state laws, a court is allowed to continue a case beyond the deadline for “good cause.”

The problem is, backlogs due to a lack of judges is not considered a “good cause” to continue a case.

Knowing this, Hestrin says they are determined to work through these cases, but mass dismissals are not the answer.

Hestrin continued, “It’s going to cause not only great distress to the victims of crime that are finding that their case was dismissed, but it’s going to also result in potentially more of a backlog because defendants that are charged with crimes are not going to have any incentive to engage in plea bargain negotiations or any kind of resolution to cases prior to trial.” 

The courts say they are taking every step necessary to prevent these dismissals by requesting help from retired judges, when available, deploying civil judges to hear criminal trials and more.

But this will all take time.

“The case dismissals are putting the public safety at risk,” Hestrin said. “We are doing everything we can at the District Attorney’s Office to push back on this and make sure that the cases are not being dismissed. We’re showing up to court. We’re filing a motion in opposition. We’re going to make our case that these decisions are unjustified. We’ve got to get back to where we’re trying cases and where defendants know that a speedy trial is going to be assured in this county.”

The cases most dismissed involve domestic violence charges.

Because of this, Hestrin says he will alert the public on a weekly basis on what’s happening in our courts.

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