RIVERSIDE COUNTY, Calif. - The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office announced Monday that the county’s Superior Court judges have tossed out more than 500 misdemeanor and felony criminal cases over the past four weeks.
Riverside County DA Mike Hestrin says the cases have been dismissed due to a shortage of judges and courtrooms amid a backlog of cases that were delayed earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some of the felony cases that have been dismissed include charges of attempted murder, arson, vandalism, driving under the influence and domestic violence.
The DA said many cases were set to begin jury trial, but the Superior Court did not have a judge available to hear the case, so instead of granting a short continuance until a courtroom became available, the DA said the cases have been dismissed entirely.
Late last month, it was announced 200 cases have been dismissed and that number continues to climb.
"The dismissal of cases and thus allowing criminals back into our community with no consequences for their actions is a danger to everyone," said Riverside County DA Mike Hestrin in a press release. "The consequences of the decisions being made from our judges is going to cause extreme harm to the victims of crime and our community-at-large. This is a public safety crisis, and it needs to stop."
California Law permits prosecutors to refile dismissed felony cases one time. Dismissed misdemeanor cases cannot be refiled.
The Constitution and California State Law guarantee a criminal defendant with the right to a speedy trial. However, Penal Code section 1382 does not require a dismissal when good cause exists to continue a trial beyond the statutory deadlines. The California Appellate Courts have held that a backlog of trial cases caused by the pandemic is good cause to continue a trial.