Undoubtedly, the coronavirus is causing huge issues on our criminal justice system. Even though people charged with criminal offenses have a constitutional right to a fair and speedy trial, the issues cause by the coronavirus are going to result in many unanticipated delays.
As a means of reducing the risk of transmission of COVID 19 to defendants, victims, jurors, attorneys and court employees, the Maricopa County Superior Court has instituted the following temporary orders. These administrative orders affect everyone involved in the criminal justice system throughout Maricopa County including defendants who are out of custody or who are being held in jail awaiting trial or a resolution of their felony charges. The Administrative Orders include:
1. Converting Initial Pre-Trial Conferences, Comprehensive Pre-Trial Conferences, Complex Case Management Conferences and Status Conferences to "non appearance hearings." Essentially this means that most defendants will not be required nor transported from jail to appear in person for their hearings. Instead, defense attorneys and prosecutors will be responsible for filing paperwork which provides an update to the court regarding the status of the case, any legal issues, outstanding discovery or potential for a resolution prior to trial.
2. Settlement Conferences, a proceeding in which prosecutors, defendants and defense attorneys meet with an independent judge to negotiate the potential resolution of a case are not being held. This is an unfortunate result of the coronavirus for criminal defendants as settlement conferences are an invaluable tool for suspects to speak freely about their case, ask questions to the judge or prosecutor and consider possible plea offers.
3. Jury Trials have been suspended until April 18, 2020 and are likely to be delayed even longer. Although the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure provide specific time limits by which criminal defendants must be brought to trial, the coronavirus allows the court to find that "extraordinary circumstances" exist. This basically permits these time limits to be extended and will cause suspects to wait longer periods of time before their trials begin.
4. Sentencing Hearings are usually held within thirty days of the date that a person pleads guilty or is found guilty by a jury at trial. Defendants usually face probation, jail terms or time in prison. The date by a which a person must be sentenced is now extended from thirty to fifty days from the finding of guilt.
5. Arraignments, Preliminary Hearings and Initial Appearances are ordered to proceed as normal. At these proceedings, a "Not Guilty" plea is entered on behalf of the Defendant, judges will make a determination as to whether probable cause exists to charge someone with a felony offense and Suspects are advised of the charges against them and whether they will be released from custody or required to post bond to get out of jail while the case is pending.
Obviously, the coronavirus is wreaking havoc on the criminal justice system in Maricopa County similar to other courts in large metropolitan areas around the country. COVID 19 and the measures courts must take to guard against virus spread will result in long delays, changes to court dates, etc. Consequently, if you are currently a defendant in a felony case pending in Phoenix, you should remain in close contact with your lawyer to keep informed of upcoming hearings and developments in your case.
Call (480) 833-8613 for Immediate Help
If you have been charged with a crime or DUI in Arizona, contact me for a free and immediate consultation. I have represented thousands of individuals during the last twenty years who have been charged with offenses ranging from DUI and drug offenses to aggravated assault and homicide and have achieved very favorable results. I have also conducted a number of jury trials in the city, justice and superior courts throughout Maricopa County including Tempe, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa, Chandler and Gilbert.