People who violate an order to quarantine themselves due to the coronavirus are breaking the law and they could be arrested.

Anthony Rondolino, chief judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit, signed an administrative order March 27 that says anyone who is arrested on a misdemeanor violation of the coronavirus quarantine will be held without bond at the jails in Pinellas and Pasco counties.

Rondolino said the Florida Supreme Court had instructed all state judges to take steps related to violations of orders on quarantine, isolation, limits on travel, closures of public and private buildings, and curfews that have been put into effect since the Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a statewide public health emergency on March 11.

“To grant release on bail to persons isolated and detained on a quarantine order because they have a contagious disease which makes them dangerous to others, or to the public in general, would render quarantine laws and regulations nugatory and of no avail,” Judge Rondolino wrote in his order.

According to information posted at the Sixth Judicial Circuit’s website, www.jud6.org, the chief judge’s order applies to anyone who has violated Florida statute 381.00315, who is “reasonably believed to be infected” with the coronavirus or who is “reasonably believed to have been exposed” to it.

“The arresting officer is to notify the jail that the person is or could be infected before bringing them to the jail,” the order states. “The booking staff will then take appropriate measures to ensure the defendant doesn’t transmit the virus to anyone else at the jail while incarcerated.”

Judge Rondolino’s order does allow a judge to modify the no-bond status or address it in another way during a first-appearance hearing.

Violence Injunction hearings

Information was posted on the website about other changes made necessary due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Starting April 6, the Sixth Judicial Circuit will hold all violence injunction hearings on cases filed in Pinellas County in Courtroom One, Fourth Floor, of the Pinellas County Justice Center, 14250 49th St. N., Clearwater.

These cases would include domestic violence, dating, sexual stalking and repeat violence cases and others.

Cases previously scheduled for hearing on the violence injunction mass hearing dockets for a date after April 6, will be rescheduled and amended notices of hearing will be mailed.

Parties are encouraged to update their addresses with the Clerk of Court so that they receive all documents mailed by the court. If you do not receive notice of the amended court date, you may contact the Clerk of Court to request a copy of the order.

Call the Clerk of the Court at 727-464-7000 or visit https://www.mypinellasclerk.org.

New 6th Circuit Court Protocols

Florida Supreme Court has extended suspension of all criminal or civil jury trials, jury selection, and grand jury proceedings through April 17 in an effort to cut down on the number of people at local courthouses.

Persons who do not have business in the court facilities are requested to refrain from coming into these buildings.

Whenever possible, all civil, family and probate proceedings will be done by teleconference or by written submission of memorandum.

All “mission-critical cases” will continue to be handled by the court as usual, including:

• First appearance hearings, where a defendant appears before a judge within 24 hours of their arrest.

• Criminal arraignments, where a defendant not in custody enters a plea, but only as necessary.

• Bond motions for individuals in custody.

• Detention hearings, where a judge has to decide whether a child should be held.

• Shelter hearings, when a judge has to decide whether to remove a child from the home.

• Hearings on petitions for temporary injunctions relating to the safety of an individual.

• Petitions by law enforcement agencies for risk-protection orders, where someone allegedly posing a threat to someone else or themselves risks losing temporary custody of their firearms.

• Hearings on petitions for the appointment of an emergency temporary guardian.

• Hearings to determine whether an individual should be involuntary committed under the state’s Baker or Marchman acts.

• Hearings on petitions for extraordinary writs as necessary to protect constitutional rights.

• Proceedings related to a violation of quarantine or isolation, a violation of an order to limit travel, a violation of public or private building closures, and a violation of a curfew.

Judges will do everything “practicable” to minimize risk of COVID-19 exposure to the individuals involved in the proceedings and to the general public. In addition, persons who do not need to be at a hearing are asked to refrain from attending.

Canceled and suspended

Until further order of the court, non-mission-critical cases will be canceled or suspended. This includes but is not limited to traffic court hearings of all kinds, local ordinance violations, simplified divorces, small claims matters, mass dockets or calendar calls, small claims pre-trials and any court dockets that would have required the gathering of large numbers of people.

“Such matters will all need to be rescheduled and conducted after the pandemic emergency passes,” the court said.

Speedy trial

Florida Supreme Court also ordered on March 24 that all time periods involving the speedy trial procedure, in criminal and juvenile court proceedings, be further suspended through the close of business on Monday, April 20.

Under the speedy trial rule, anyone accused of a felony is entitled to be tried within 175 days of having been taken into custody, and anyone accused of a felony is entitled to be tried within 90 days of having been taken into custody.

Suzette Porter is TBN's Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.