The coronavirus pandemic has spread like wildfire around the world in the first part of 2020. Not only has this virus brought with it much death and suffering, but it has also impacted all aspects of our society in ways previously unimaginable. The Utah court system has been no exception. As the governor has ordered many non-essential businesses to shut down and asked residents to stay at home and practice social distancing, the business of the criminal courts has been seriously delayed.
At Overson Law, PLLC, our experienced Salt Lake City criminal defense attorneys are closely monitoring all the latest developments with the criminal court system during this unprecedented public health crisis. We are here to guide you through this time of uncertainty and to ultimately help bring your case to the best possible resolution. For a free consultation, call our office today at (801) 758-2287.
What is the Status of the Utah Criminal Court System During the Coronavirus Pandemic?
During the pandemic, the court system has been operating on a severely curtailed basis. Few in-person proceedings are taking place aside from those that present exigent circumstances, like requests for temporary protective orders in domestic violence cases. All criminal jury trials have been postponed indefinitely. Other matters such as pre-trial hearings and hearings on motions may be postponed or may be conducted remotely. The Utah Supreme Court has also allowed some bench trials to resume remotely. It is best to have an experienced criminal defense lawyer like those at Overson Law, PLLC reach out the local court and prosecutor to determine the status of your case and if there is anything you need to do.
What Can Be Done to Advance Your Case During the Coronavirus Pandemic
What action can currently be taken to advance a criminal case that has bene postponed due to the virus will vary greatly depending on the individual circumstances of the case. Serious charges like homicide will likely be given precedent over more minor cases. Local judges and prosecutors are being given a great amount of discretion during this unprecedented time to decide whether to hold some hearings and case conferences remotely via videoconferencing. In some cases, they are allowing cases to be resolved through pleas by affidavit, sent through the mail. In others, entire bench trials, or trials without a jury where the judge rules on guilt or innocence, are actually being held remotely.
A plea by affidavit can provide you with the opportunity to resolve your case from home. Typically, this is reserved only for persons who live outside of the state of Utah. However, because of the ongoing public health crisis, some prosecutors and judges are permitting state residents to utilize them if they would like to resolve their case remotely. An experienced West Valley City criminal defense attorney like those at Overson Law, PLLC can work to negotiate a deal remotely and convince the prosecutor and judge to accept a plea by affidavit through the mail.
If you want to take your case to trial, whether anything can be done to move it forward at this moment will depend on whether it is a bench trial or a jury trial. Juries are not being empaneled at the moment, so jury trials can not move forward. Your lawyer may be able to argue motions or conduct pre-trial conferences remotely, but the actual trial will have to wait until the court system reopens. If you are on trial for some low-level offenses, such as traffic matters, however, you will have a bench trial before a judge rather than a jury trial. Talk to your lawyer about speaking to the judge and prosecutor about the possibility of conducting a bench trial remotely if this is something that interests you.
If the prosecutor and judge are not willing to accept a plea by affidavit or negotiate with your lawyer to move the case forward while the crisis is ongoing, there is little you or us can do about it. However, we can stay in constant contact with court officials until the system begins operating more functionally again. We can also use this time to help gather evidence and build your case.
What If I am Arrested and Charged with a New Crime in Utah During the Pandemic?
Getting arrested is always bad news, but it can be especially dangerous while the deadly, contagious coronavirus pandemic spreads among police forces and in jails. Unlike the court system, police forces throughout Utah are working full-time and are continuing to investigate cases and make arrests as usual. If you committed a crime before the pandemic and were being investigated, the investigation will continue. If you commit a new crime, the police will seek you out and arrest you.
If you are arrested, you will likely be taken to the local police station for what is known as the booking process. You will be photographed and fingerprinted and your belongings will be inventoried until your release. You will then be kept in the holding cell at the station or at the local detention center until you are scheduled to go before a judge for an arraignment and bail hearing.
Due to the pandemic, many of these hearings are being conducted via videoconference, causing delays. You could end up spending more time in a crowded, unsanitary jail awaiting your hearing than usual while a virus is spreading in just such places. An experienced bail hearing attorney like those at Overson Law, PLLC can work to get you before a judge as quickly as possible and can advocate for your release with little or minimal bail. After the bail hearing, we will reach out the prosecutor to see what the status of the case is and whether anything can be done to move it forward while the courts are closed.
If Your Criminal Court Proceeding Has Been Delayed Due to Coronavirus, Call Our Utah Defense Lawyers Today
Although in-person proceedings are generally not occurring right now, there may be options for you to advance your case remotely if you wish to do so. Our skilled West Jordan criminal defense attorneys at Overson Law, PLLC can and will fight to get you the answers and clarity you deserve during this time of great uncertainty. For a free consultation, call us today at (801) 758-2287.