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Virus-related suspension of legal deadlines worries ACLU

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Steps taken by Louisiana’s governor to fight the spread of the new coronavirus could leave people stuck in state jails for weeks or months without formal legal charges, a civil rights group said Wednesday.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana makes the complaint in a letter.

An extensive executive order Gov. John Bel Edwards issued to help stem the spread of the virus includes suspension of numerous legal deadlines until at least April 13. The ACLU says that means many people arrested and jailed around the state could languish behind bars without formal charges being filed by local prosecutors.

The ACLU also is calling for development of a plan to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in local jails, state prisons and juvenile lockups.

Edwards’ office did not immediately respond to an emailed query Wednesday morning. Edwards was scheduled to hold a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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