Story by: Ahmed Sharma
SAN ANTONIO – Despite many businesses shutting down as a result of the coronavirus, the Bexar County District Attorney’s (DA) Office assures us their office will remain open.
According to a press release, they have reduced their staff who may be at high-risk of contracting the virus and some who are able to work from home. As a result, the DA’s office said this will allow them to meet court responsibilities, while simultaneously preventing large groups of people from being in small spaces.
“It is our goal to keep the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office in operation,” District Attorney, Joe Gonzales said. ” Law enforcement continues to make arrests. The need for our assistance, either in the form of protective order applications, or criminal prosecutions in general, does not stop when a pandemic threatens us. Our job continues to be protecting the citizens of Bexar County.”
This includes the Bexar County Family Justice Center, whom the DA’s office said will continue to provide services for domestic violence survivors. Anyone that needs assistance is encouraged to call first at 210-631-0100. Even though some people may not be able to call, they said they are trying to keep the waiting area as healthy as possible. Therefore, the following steps will need to be implemented:
1. Applicants can call the Center at 210-631-0100 during business hours (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.). A Crime Victim Liaison and Protective Order Advocate will collect important information including the person’s information, administer a danger assessment, go over the protective order application, and conduct a phone interview for a statement. They will also discuss other important matters like safety plans.
2. The Protective Order Advocate will call the person back once a protective order prosecutor has reviewed the case and determined whether the person meets the required legal criteria for obtaining a protective order.
3. A protective order advocate will make an appointment for the person to come to the Center in person to sign a sworn affidavit that must accompany the protective order application. Before scheduling the appointment, the advocate will ask questions to make sure she/he is not symptomatic of COVID-19.
4. Once the signature is obtained, the District Attorney’s Office will file a protective order application on behalf of the State of Texas for the person’s protection. A judge will determine whether the protective order should be granted.
As for the District and County Courts, the DA’s office said they’ve agreed to hold no jury trials until April 27th. However, Grand Juries have continued their service, thereby allowing the court to present cases for them to consider for formal charges.
The DA’s office also said, prosecutors not in court, will be reviewing cases that have been filed by law enforcement. In turn, this will ideally limit the need to have people appear in person so that the court will have limited contact and reduce the risk of getting COVID-19.