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What to expect when visiting Chesterfield County courts during COVID-19

Posted at 4:38 PM, May 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-13 16:38:19-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- The Chesterfield County Sheriff’s Office is implementing new safety measures at the Chesterfield County General District Court, Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court and Circuit Court as the courts prepare to add more cases over the coming weeks.

Starting on Monday, May 18, anyone entering either of the three courthouses will be asked a series of COVID-19 screening questions and have their temperature taken.

Anyone who does not answer any of the questions affirmatively, or who has a temperature above 100 degrees, will not be allowed entry to the building, Instead, a sheriff’s deputy will take their information and relay it to the presiding judge to determine best course of action.

Sheriff’s deputies will be wearing full personal protective equipment, or PPE, during the screening process.

“The men and women of the Chesterfield County Sheriff’s Office are committed to providing all visitors to our three court campuses with a safe and secure environment for which to conduct business, appear in court, or work.,” said Chesterfield County Sheriff Karl S. Leonard. “This now includes implementing and adhering to all social distancing standards and practices.”

Anyone who has been diagnosed with, or may be experiencing COVID-19 symptoms as defined by the CDC should immediately contact their respective attorneys prior to their court date.

Only a limited number of individuals will be permitted in the courtrooms and the court hallways at any given time to comply with social distancing requirements.

No friends or family without prior approval by the courts will be allowed inside and are strongly encouraged not to travel to the courthouse to prevent long lines and standing groups.

Once screened and admitted entrance to the courthouse, only 14 people will be permitted inside the courtroom gallery.

To maintain social distancing, seats inside the gallery will be clearly marked with a white sheet of paper taped to the rear of the seat highlighting where patrons can sit.

Once the courtroom reaches capacity, additional individuals will only be allowed in as someone leaves.

Because of the tight quarters inside the Chesterfield County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office payment area, there will be no more than four people in this area at one time to maintain compliance with social distance requirements. For this reason, online payment is encouraged.

Anyone visiting the courthouse should expect long lines and increased wait times.

“As we shift to operating all of our courts under these new procedures, we ask for everyone’s patience and understanding as we navigate through this together,” Sheriff Leonard said. “Please be prepared for smaller audiences in the courtrooms, waiting lines, and a slower pace for cases being called. In the end we will get through this together and in a fashion that is safe.”