Will Federal Criminal Trials and Cases Continue in Utah During the Government Shutdown?

Salt Lake City criminal lawyer

The public interest in a US government shutdown (the “Shutdown”) should not cause a halt in federal criminal trials. There is a public safety interest in the adjudication of criminal cases and confinement of criminals. This public safety interest has been determined to be critically important. Consequently, federal criminal trials are not expected to be postponed even if the shutdown continues. However, there is some uncertainty as to what will happen in Utah. The clock is ticking fast as the day when the money runs out approaches—it’s merely one day away.

If you are concerned or have particular questions about the impact of the Shutdown, you should reach out to an attorney to review essential timeline requirements. Deadlines and timelines can have a serious effect on the outcome of a criminal case, especially when the delay exceeds the constitutional time limits. A proactive criminal defense attorney will look at whether the most extended Shutdown in US history will have an impact in his or her clients’ case. Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer Darwin Overson has decades working as a defense lawyer representing clients facing a wide array of criminal charges. If this Shutdown is causing problems for you or someone you know, you should talk to an attorney. For a free consultation, contact us online, or call (801) 515-0883.

Important Dates for Criminal Cases During the Government Shutdown

On January 25, 2019, federal funds allocated to keep courts open during the current federal government shutdown are expected to be depleted. Utah’s district courts website has no information as of yet. Federal criminal trials cases have continued uninterrupted during the Shutdown. Also, hearings, sentencing, and grand jury proceedings have been held without disruption. However, hearings and trials on civil cases have been systematically postponed due to personnel cuts in the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Utah. The cases delayed are primarily the ones where the U.S. Attorney’s office is involved.

According to Mark Jones, the clerk of Utah’s federal courts, there is uncertainty as to whether operations can continue after January 25th since there is no budget to remain operating past this date. Utahns are becoming increasingly anxious because there are no official announcements as to what will happen to federal criminal trials by the end of this week.

There are obvious concerns as to whether this prolonged Shutdown will cause unconstitutional delays of trials and sentencing hearings in Utah. On January 22, 2019, the Federal Administrative Office of the US Courts issued a statement announcing that the U.S. court system can continue operating during the partial Shutdown until January 31. There is some expectation to extend operations until February 1st. Criminal trials shouldn’t be postponed because there is a public interest in safety as convicted defendants are prosecuted and imprisoned. Public safety is typically “weighed against” or viewed in contrast to the interests pursued in the shutdown. Since public safety in criminal trials outweighs the need for a partial Shutdown over a political dispute regarding a border wall. The interest in continuing criminal prosecutions should withstand the financial challenges the shutdown presents. While it’s of critical importance to ensure that the constitutional protections that defendants are entitled to receive will not be postponed or undermined due to the Shutdown, there are concerns over the quality of services that the federal government is able to sustain with all the employees that have been furloughed and the mounting tensions for unpaid federal employees who are still required to report.

How the Government Shutdown Has Impacted Criminal Trials and Investigations in Utah

In spite of reports that federal criminal trials will not be affected, there is information of emerging snags for federal investigations of criminal prosecutions. Budgetary constraints may be compromising the evidence needed for thorough investigations currently underway.

Federal Criminal Prosecutions

Since the day the Shutdown began on December 20, 2018, the federal court has been operating with funds sourced through case filing fees and “carryover dollars” from 2018’s budget. Last week, naturalization ceremonies were canceled as well as other activities not considered “core” responsibilities. The impact this Shutdown is having on the lives of immigrants seeking to become US citizens in Utah is cause for concern considering the unpredictable ways in which this delay can affect their job situation and legal status.

In a recent NPR interview, Lawrence Leiser, head of the National Association of Assistant US Attorneys spoke about the ways in which the government shutdown is having a problematic impact in federal criminal prosecutions. Leiser says prosecutors don’t have money for basics like DNA testing, paying informants or traveling to interview victims and witnesses. These constraints can be causing irremediable defects, and the integrity of investigations can be questioned. Conducting thorough investigations is one of the principal duties of US Attorneys’ offices all over the country. If the thoroughness of these investigations is compromised, this can lead to injustices for both victims and defendants. This is particularly important in regards to DNA testing, which carries considerable weight during criminal prosecutions.

Attorney-Client Visits During

The attorney-client meetings in prison are an essential part of the criminal defense practice. When criminal defense lawyers are unable to confer with their clients, evidence can be irremediably lost.

Reportedly, officials say prison staffing constraints are limiting the number of attorney-client visits each day. Many, so the court is being asked to postpone hearings.

Bail Hearings

Bail hearings have been reduced because there have been cuts in U.S. marshals’ personnel. US Marshals transport prisoners. Reductions in their hours have caused some defendants who might have gotten bail to spend extra nights in jail.

Our Utah Criminal Defense Attorney Can Answer Your Questions About the Shutdown

The longest shutdown in US history to date is inevitable to create problems. Utah criminal defense lawyer Darwin Overson stands ready to put his experience to work if this government shutdown can impact your criminal defense. Call (801) 515-0883 to schedule a free consultation.


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