As it has spread across the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought great pain and suffering to many as well as great disruption to the everyday lives and routines of all of us. In Utah, while the governor has not ordered a full lockdown, he has closed all businesses deemed non-essential, banned gatherings of more than 10 people, and encouraged people to stay at home except for essential purposes. Many counties have gone even further, instituting a mandatory stay-at-home order for everyone not conducting an essential activity. This has led many people to wonder whether the police and the criminal court system are functioning as usual. Below, our experienced Salt Lake City criminal defense attorneys walk you through the status of the criminal court system and what you should do if you face a bench or arrest warrant during this time.
Court Closures in Utah During COVID-19
In order to apply with state and local social distancing orders, the Utah Supreme Court announced in late March that all jury trials were postponed until at least June. Most other in-person criminal proceedings have also been rescheduled, although some are ongoing, especially if they involve matters of public safety, such as bail hearings or domestic violence matters. Many of the proceedings that are continuing are being conducted over videoconferencing systems.
If you had an upcoming criminal court date, you may have received a notice that the matter has been rescheduled to a new date or postponed until further notice. However, if you have not received such a notice, or if your notice is unclear, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney like those at Overson & Bugden right away. You should not simply assume the matter is postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our lawyers can reach out to the court and the prosecutor’s office and find out the status of your case, whether you need to appear, and whether anything can be done to advance the matter at this time.
Bench Warrants in Utah During COVID-19
A bench warrant is a warrant for your arrest issued by a judge when you fail to meet your obligations under the court system. The main reason a bench warrant is issued is when a criminal defendant fails to appear at their court date. Right now, if you simply skip a court date without first making sure the matter has been rescheduled or postponed, you face the possibility of the judge issuing a bench warrant for your arrest.
While the police do not typically come to your home or place of work or otherwise track you down to enforce a bench warrant, it is possible that during this unprecedented time of the COVID-19 pandemic they may do so, especially since they know you are at home. Even if they do not actively seek to enforce the warrant, however, anytime you have interaction with the police in the future, even for a minor traffic incident years in the future, the officer will run a warrant check, your warrant will appear, and you will be arrested.
The best thing you can do about a bench warrant is to work to get it taken care of as soon as you learn of its existence, before you are arrested. An experienced bench warrant attorney like those at Overson & Bugden can work with the court and the prosecutor to negotiate a situation where you appear in front of a judge to face the warrant without spending any time in jail. We also understand that there are sometimes valid reasons for missing court, and we can work to tell the judge your side of the story so they do not revoke your bail or impose penalties for the missed appearance.
Arrest Warrants in Utah During COVID-19
Although the criminal courts are largely closed, this does not mean that the police are not enforcing the laws and making new arrests. In fact, police are out and about patrolling more than ever to enforce local and state lockdown ordinances. If the police see you commit a crime, you will be arrested on the spot. If an investigation is occurring into a crime you are alleged to have committed, it will continue and the police will be able to apply for an arrest warrant remotely at the investigation’s conclusion. The police will enforce the arrest warrant by coming to your home and taking you into custody.
It is never a pleasant experience to be arrest, but being arrest during a COVID-19 pandemic comes with added risks to your health. After you are booked, you will have to wait behind bars for a bail hearing. These hearings are delayed at the moment due to the virus as judges and lawyers adjust to the new videoconferencing system. This means you could spend days or weeks in an unclean, overcrowded jail waiting for a bail hearing.
As soon as you are arrested, or as soon as you learn an arrest warrant has been issued against you, you or a loved one should contact an experienced West Jordan criminal defense attorney like those at Overson & Bugden. We can work to get you in front of a judge as soon as possible. We can also work to convince the judge that you should be released on minimal to no bail so that you can get back home as soon as possible. If the prosecutor is open to it, we will also continue to negotiate an amenable solution to your case.
If You Might Have Warrants Out Against You, Call Our Utah Criminal Defense Lawyers Today
No one wants to live with the constant threat of being arrested and taken into custody over their head, especially during the current public health crisis of COVID-19. At Overson & Bugden, our experienced West Jordan criminal defense attorneys can work to get your warrant quashed without you facing adverse consequences such as spending time behind bars. If you have been arrested, we will fight to get you before a judge as soon as possible and to convince the judge to release you while the underlying matter is resolved. Call us today at (801) 758-2287 for a free consultation.