The coronavirus pandemic has thrown the entire world for a loop. As we battle this contagion, not only are we all concerned for our health and safety and the health and safety of our loved ones, but we are worried about the devastating effects the response is having on our society. Here in Salt Lake City, the governor and the mayor have mandated the closure of businesses deemed non-essential and required those not performing essential activities to stay home. In response, in-person criminal court proceedings were largely suspended, and many criminal cases have been delayed.
At Overson & Bugden, our Salt Lake City criminal defense attorneys are closely monitoring the fluid situation in the criminal court system. We can help you figure out if your case has been delayed and what steps, if any, can be taken at this time to advance it remotely. Below, we explain the current status of criminal court in Salt Lake City and what you should do if you have an upcoming court date or if your court date has been postponed.
What Is the Current Status of the Salt Lake City Criminal Court System?
Due to efforts to social distance and slow the spread of the disease, most in-person criminal court proceedings have been rescheduled or postponed indefinitely. There are exceptions, including bail hearings and hearing related to stay-away orders in domestic violence cases. For the most part, however, any matters than have not been postponed are being conducted remotely. Juries are not being empaneled right now, so if you were at the trial stage and do not wish to make a deal, you are likely to have to wait a while longer to resolve your case.
You should not assume that your case has been delayed. It is best to call an experienced criminal defense attorney like those at Overson & Bugden. We can reach out to our contacts at the courthouse and the prosecutor’s office to confirm the status of your case, find out if you need to appear in person or remotely, and ask if anything can be done to advance the case at this point.
What to Do if Your Salt Lake City Criminal Trial Has Been Postponed Due to Coronavirus
As mentioned above, criminal juries are not being called or empaneled under the orders of the Utah State Supreme Court. If you are waiting for your trial to begin, do not wish to have a bench trial, and do not wish to try to negotiate a settlement, then you will have to wait until jury trials resume to resolve your case. If you are interested in and eligible for a bench trial, or are open to reopening settlement conversations, there may be a way that our lawyers can advance your case at this time.
Bench trials occur before a judge rather than a jury. For some low-level crimes like disorderly conduct, a bench trial is the only option. For other crimes, you have the option to request a bench trial instead of a jury trial. The Utah Supreme Court has permitted some bench trials to be conducted remotely via videoconferencing systems. This is entirely within the discretion of the local judge in consultation with the prosecutor and court staff. If you wish to have your case tried as a bench trial, our experienced criminal defense attorneys at Overson & Bugden can reach out to the judge and prosecutor to see if they are open to possibility of a virtual trial.
We can also work to negotiate plea deals during this time. There is a thing know as a plea by affidavit, where you plea by filling out and signing a form and sending it in the mail. Usually, this is reserved for out-of-state defendants. However, during the pandemic, some courts have begun accepting these pleas for in-state defendants who wish to settle their case. We can work with the prosecutor to get your charges downgraded to something less serious or get their word to recommend a lenient sentence in exchange for your plea, and work with the court to accept that plea in the form of an affidavit.
What If I Get Arrested on a New Charge in Salt Lake City During Coronavirus?
Unlike the courts, the police are still working full-time, investigating new cases and applying for arrest warrants. If you commit a new crime during the pandemic, the police will seek you out and arrest you. You will be taken to the station for booking and then held in a cell until your bail hearing can occur. Jails, which are often dirty and overcrowded, have been breeding grounds for the virus. Because of staff shortages, these hearings are currently delayed and sometimes occurring over videoconferencing during the pandemic. You will likely spend more time in jail that usual at the worst moment A n experienced Salt Lake City bail hearing attorney like those at Overson & Bugden can work to get you before a judge and released to your home as quickly as possible.
After this, we can try to work out a plea with the prosecutor remotely. If you are not interested in accepting a plea deal or one is not offered to your liking, we can fight for your innocence at trial. However, unless it is a bench trial, your criminal trial is certain to be delayed for at least a little while longer as the city begins the gradual process of opening back up.
If Your Case Has Been Affected by Coronavirus, Call Our Salt Lake City Criminal Defense Lawyers Today
The coronavirus has upended nearly every aspect of our society, and the criminal court system has been no exception. It can be frustrating to have prepared for your case for weeks of months only to have it delayed due to this unexpected crisis. At Overson Law PLLC, our Murray, UT criminal defense lawyers will do everything in our power to advance your case to a positive resolution during these times of great uncertainty. Call our firm today at (801) 758-2287 for a free consultation.