RIVERSIDE COUNTY, Calif. - Hundreds of cases are being dismissed in Riverside County - including felony offenses - due to a lack of available trial courtrooms, the Riverside County District Attorney's Office announced Tuesday.
The dismissed cases range from misdemeanor to felony cases and include many types of crime, officials said, most of which involve domestic violence charges but have also included other types like assault and robbery.
To date, over 200 cases countywide have been dismissed, the DA said.
California Law permits prosecutors to refile dismissed felony cases one time. Dismissed misdemeanor cases cannot be refiled.
According to officials, the dismissed cases involve situations where the DA's office has witnesses ready and a jury trial is the next step, but the Superior Court does not have a judge or courtroom available to hear the case.
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Thus, judges have chosen to dismiss criminal cases instead of granting the prosecution a continuance until a courtroom becomes available, the DA's office said.
"I assure you that we are doing everything in our power, advancing every legal argument, preparing every viable appeal, offering the court every possible solution, to keep our local judges from dismissing criminal cases," said DA Mike Hestrin. "These case dismissals are not justified and are not justice."
Riverside County’s current criminal case backlog is a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the DA said. There currently is a backlog of more than 2,800 cases.
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.