The 2020 Coronavirus pandemic has been arguably the greatest public health crisis in the last century. While those who have suffered and died from this terrible contagion have suffered the greatest toll, no segment of our society has been entirely shielded from the negative effects of countries throughout the world shuttering their economies to help slow the spread of the virus. Here in Salt Lake City, the criminal court system has had to seriously curtail its activities in response to social distancing mandates put in place by the mayor and the governor. Many folks with upcoming court dates are wondering whether they will be required to appear or if the matter will be postponed.
At Overson Law, PLLC, our seasoned Salt Lake City criminal defense attorneys having been closely following all the latest developments with the criminal court system as this crisis continues to unfold. We understand that it can be frustrating to have your arraignment or other criminal case proceeding delayed with a potential loss of freedom hanging over your head. Below, we explain how we will do everything we can to advance your case during these uncertain times.
How Are the Salt Lake City Criminal Courts Operating During the Coronavirus?
Most in-person criminal proceedings have been suspended while the public health crisis is ongoing. The Chief Justice of the Utah Supreme Court ordered all in-person criminal trials and hearings for criminal defendants not being held in detention suspended until June. Limited matters, such as bail hearings for some incarcerated criminal defendants and hearings for stay-away orders in domestic violence cases, continue to occur in person. Most hearings, however, have been postponed or are being conducted remotely.
It is not a good idea to assume that you particular arraignment or other court date is postponed because of coronavirus without first consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney like those at Overson Law, PLLC. We can reach out to our contacts at the courthouse and at the prosecutor’s office to find out the status of your case and if your appearance has been postponed or is happening remotely. We can also inquire about whether there is any possibility of advancing the case without actually appearing in-person in court.
What Can Be Done if My Salt Lake City Arraignment Was Postponed Due to Coronavirus?
If you are taken into custody prior to your arrest, your arraignment is likely to occur alongside your bail hearing. You or a loved one should retain the services of a skilled Salt Lake City bail hearing attorney like those at Overson Law, PLLC as soon as possible after the arrest occurs. Because of the delays in the criminal system, bail hearings are taking slower than usual to occur. Judges are learning to use at-home teleconferencing technology and the courts are more understaffed than ever. You could end up spending more time in jail awaiting your hearing than normal, at a time when jails are one of the biggest breeding grounds for the virus. Our lawyers will work to get you before a judge quickly and released on little to no bail.
If you were not taken into custody after being charged with a crime, such as in a situation where a summons was issued instead, your arraignment is unlikely to occur in person before the beginning of June at the earliest. However, there is a possibility that the judge may be willing to arraign you remotely, especially if you are looking to make a plea and finish the matter. Our attorneys can reach out to the local court to find out if this is a possibility in your case.
What Happens After the Arraignment in a Salt Lake City Criminal Case?
Usually, after the arraignment is complete and the defendant has pleaded not guilty, the case will proceed to the plea-bargaining. Our lawyers can attempt to negotiate a deal remotely where you are entered into a pre-trial intervention program or plead guilty to a lesser crime. You may be permitted to submit a plea by affidavit, a form you fill out and sign, to the court by mail. These are usually only allowed to be utilized by out-of-state defendants, but the regulations have been relaxed during the public health crisis, and it is up to each judge as to whether to accept these types of pleas in their courtroom.
If you are not interested in taking a deal or are not satisfied with the deal that was offered, our skilled criminal defense attorneys at Overson Law, PLLC are ready and willing to fight for your innocence at trial. However, because criminal juries are not currently being empaneled anywhere in the state, there is no way to proceed with a jury trial at this time. Our attorneys can work on your case during the delay by collecting evidence and conducting further research.
There is another type of trial in Utah known as a bench trial, where the judge, rather than a jury, decides guilt or innocence. For minor crimes like disorderly conduct, this is the only type of trial available. For other crimes, you may have the choice between a jury trial or a bench trial. The Utah Supreme Court is allowing judges to hold bench trials remotely at their discretion and with the consent of all parties. Talk to your lawyer about whether a bench trial may be a good choice in your case and whether the judge in this courtroom may be open to conducting the trial remotely.
If You Have a Criminal Arraignment Scheduled During Coronavirus, Call Our Salt Lake City Criminal Defense Attorneys Today
The entire Salt Lake City criminal court system has been upended by the coronavirus pandemic and the steps our state and city have taken to prevent its further spread. Unfortunately, this means that many people dealing with a criminal case have been placed into a state of limbo until the public health crisis subsides. At Overson Law, PLLC, our compassionate St. George criminal defense attorneys understand how frustrating these delays can be. We will do everything in our power to move your case forward and bring it to a successful conclusion. For a free consultation call us today at (801) 758-2287.