Changes in Criminal Court Procedures Due to Spread of COVID-19

Courts during coronavirus blogGatherings of all kinds are being suspended across the country, and the criminal court is no exception. Beginning March 17, 2020, the Maricopa County Superior Court modified its procedures for a minimum of 60 days. If you have a pending criminal case, such as a DUI, you should keep yourself informed of these changes to make sure your case runs as smoothly as possible.

Most hearings are being converted to non-appearance hearings, meaning the parties must submit written statements instead of appearing in person to present their arguments. These may be converted to telephonic hearings with proof of good cause. If there is  sensitive information in your written statement, you should file an accompanying Motion to File Under Seal and Proposed Order. The parties must file joint statements for Initial Pretrial Conferences, Comprehensive Pretrial Conferences, a Case Management Plan, and a Case Management Conference. The parties will file their own separate State Conference Reports. Settlement on demand is suspended until 5/18/20, and plea on demand is suspended until 4/30/20.

If a defendant’s non-appearance hearing is converted to telephonic, their appearance will be waived. If a party needs an emergency hearing, they must ask the court for one through a Request for Emergency Hearing. A defendant may also file a motion to continue.

Some hearings are still being held in court due to the constitutional implications of shutting down the criminal justice system. Initial Appearances will still be held in person unless noted otherwise. Preliminary hearings, arraignments, bail hearings, sentencings, probation violation hearings, fugitive of justice hearings, and Rule 11 Evidentiary Hearings will also be held in person. While participants such as witnesses, victims, and arresting officers can still attend in-person hearings, spectators will not be allowed. Jury trials are also currently suspended.

The court requests that parties do not request bench trials and instead submit any requests to the court in writing. Some specialty courts, such as the Mental Health Court and the Spanish DUI Court, are suspended until 5/18/20.

Now more than ever, the criminal justice system is confusing and risky to navigate alone. If you have a pending criminal case or were recently arrested, you need an experienced and assertive attorney to guide you through the process. Legal services were declared essential in Arizona, so our office is still open for telephonic consultations. They are free of charge, and your opportunity to discuss defenses for your case and best possible outcomes. Call and schedule your free consultation today.

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