With courts closed and people staying at home to combat the COVID-19 epidemic, criminal activity has fallen far below normal levels. In most cities, people are not committing crimes, and are therefore not researching or contacting lawyers. Across criminal defense, traffic on Nolo consumer legal resources has fallen significantly. Criminal defense, however, is a wide practice area with several sub-specialties, some of which have seen increases in consumer interest since the beginning of the epidemic, while others are slowly building back to their previous levels.
Overall, consumer interest in Criminal Defense is down. It bottomed on the week of March 15th at 36% below pre-COVID levels (the week of March 1st).
Guns and Crime
Within criminal defense, the first trend to emerge was an interest in guns and gun crime related articles.
As with many calamities, COVID-19 caused a large increase in gun buying. Consumers seem to have dug into the laws surrounding guns prior to their purchases. We do not expect this trend to continue over time, but it shows an interesting aspect of consumer behavior.
Coronavirus is spreading rapidly through incarcerated populations. Inmates and their families are both using all resources at their disposal to secure release or safeguard parole agreements.
Parole traffic fell immediately after the start of lockdowns as the country was captivated by the news, but traffic immediately bounced back and continued at a steady trend.
In addition, states have begun to commute some prison sentences in order to reduce populations and contain the spread of COVID. As these policies emerged, traffic to commutation resources increased and remained at elevated levels. We predict that this will continue until the epidemic can be contained through medical interventions.
Crimes still being committed
One of the few crimes that is still being committed with many people confined at home is burglary. Economic uncertainty combined with deserted businesses has created both a motive and an opportunity for burglary. This has also increased consumer interest in legal resources around burglary. This trend has proved to be sustainable and continuing to increase as the epidemic continues, so we project that the legal need will grow further.
Another interesting, and more difficult to explain trend is an increase in murder and manslaughter related page views.
We are seeing some limited information to indicate that violent crime is returning to some cities, but this is purely anecdotal. We will continue to monitor this trend and provide updates as they emerge.