ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WDVM) — The pandemic caused so many disruptions in our way of life over the past two years — and that includes upholding the guarantee of a speedy trial for the accused. Lawmakers in the Maryland legislature are looking at this issue.

The pandemic had wreaked havoc with criminal trials in the State of Maryland. The Constitution guarantees the right to a speedy trial, but there is no provision for a pandemic. The federal government awarded Maryland a grant of $5 million to work at addressing these COVID-related issues in the criminal justice system.

“People who are being held in our criminal justice system, pre-trial, which means they are innocent until proven guilty, should not have to pay for their own home monitoring if they are eligible for a public defender,” said Senator Shelly Hettleman (D – Baltimore County).

Shutdowns in the court system placed a burden on the accused.

“What if someone is not able to be there to provide child care for a family, is unable to go to work? These create a domino effect in a family and community that creates even more instability,” said Delegate Stephanie Smith (D -Baltimore City).

Nonprofits helped defer those expenses somewhat for items such as a GPS monitor.

“And people are being monitored and it’s working and we just to be sure it continues,” said Senator Hettleman.

That federal grant says Senator Hettleman has been a financial lifeline.

“And especially through COVID, limiting the people that were in jail was actually just a good public health standpoint to have,” said Delegate Smith.

Pretrial detention has fallen especially hard on people of color, a disproportionate financial burden. Now is the time to reboot

“We’re creating a workgroup to look at what our pretrial system is statewide so that we don’t have to come back and do this each year,” Senator Hettleman said.

It comes down to basic Constitutional fairness in criminal justice they say. It wasn’t until just last week that many trials in Maryland courts — which had been postponed because of the pandemic — were able to resume.