How COVID-19 has affected criminal courts

As stay-at-home orders continue in the State of Arizona, businesses and restaurants and our daily routines have drastically shifted, including our legal systems. Our legal court systems have modified their usual operating procedures in light of the pandemic. In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Arizona Courts have encouraged citizens to maintain safe social distancing protocols even during legal proceedings.

So, what does this mean for our criminal courts and those awaiting their trials? Prior to the spread of COVID-19, many courts already had lengthy backlogs of both criminal and civil cases. These past few months have worsened the backlogs and jeopardized the constitutional rights of defendants. The Sixth Amendmentof our Constitution provides criminal defendants the right to a speedy and public trial, but the pandemic has significantly delayed the courts from providing these rights to defendants.

Court systems are struggling to figure out how to deal with defendants awaiting trial but who currently cannot be tried due to coronavirus restrictions. Many of these individuals are awaiting trials while incarcerated as the judiciary determines how to safely proceed. An example of this is with the scheduling of jurors. The judiciary is struggling to determine how to proceed with jury trials that require jurors to be seated in proximity in the courtroom and in small deliberation rooms.

While we are still in the midst of combating the spread of COVID-19, it is difficult to predict its long-term effects on the criminal justice system. However, as trials begin to resume, the preference most likely will be on criminal cases in order to meet the constitutional mandates afforded to criminal defendants.

As of now, the Maricopa County Superior Court has modified many of the court appearance policies in order to reduce the exposure to the Coronavirus. As stated in the Maricopa County Superior Court’s website, many in person hearings have returned to their pre-COVID courtrooms with new policies and procedures. Some hearing will proceed in person, unless otherwise ordered by the court through audio or video appearance. For a detailed guideline for the Maricopa County Superior Court: Criminal Department, click here

POLICIES AND PROCEDURES ARE CHANGING RAPIDLY so make sure to check in regularly for updates from the court. You can check the Arizona Supreme Court COVID-19 information page for updated administrative orders that control the State courts. The page will be a helpful tool to identify how your local Court is being affected.

Most courthouses across the state will remain open and each courthouse in the state of Arizona has posted their own set of instructions. For individualized specifications, please see the following county guidelines:

To find out how COVID-19 could be affecting your criminal, DUI or Drug cases, contact SOTO LAW by calling our office at 480.500.9900 to schedule your consultation. We remain fully operational while practicing appropriate social distancing procedures and following CDC guidelines.


Timely Representation for Drug Crime Cases During COVID-19

Dealing with the unforeseen challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a significant toll on people across the world. Every aspect of our normal lives has drastically changedand while COVID-19 is already altering parts of the global economy, one of the main areas where there has been a drastic change is the drug industry, specifically drug trafficking and other drug related crimes.

As stay-at home orderscontinue in order to attempt to slow the spread of the virus,there are less businesses open, less traffic on the streets and minimal people out in public. This is allowing many of the arresting bodies in Arizonato have more control and time to patrol the cities. Border Patrol agents, Police, Customs, ICE agents and others have been on high alert in their communities and will continue to be so during the pandemic.

Our local borders in Nogales, Yuma and Douglas have been constantly monitored as the U.S. has continued to implement travel restrictions.  The United States implemented a 30-day ban on non-essential cross-border travel from Mexico beginning March 21 that has effectively applied only to people trying to enter through the ports on a tourist visa. It has been renewed three times since then and is currently in effect until July 21.Not only has the U.S. implemented these travel restrictions but also theSonoran (Mexico) authorities. They have extended travel restrictions and will be implementing various checkpoints throughout the State of Sonora to avoid any non-essential travel from the United States to Mexico. The move comes in response to the recent surge in COVID cases in Arizona and concerns about the American Independence holiday weekend travel.

With all the surveillance going on, have you been accused or detained for a drug crime during COVID? In this situation you need representation;every second counts and any information given could be used against you. It is of the upmost importance to consult with a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.

Attorney Brian Soto understands firsthand how the scales of justice can be tilted unfavorably against minorities, especially those individuals who do not speak English. Brian recognizes that even good people can succumb to the pressures and temptations of life. He really believes that every person accused of a crime deserves the best representation and the opportunity to demonstrate that their charges do not define them as a person.

“I had charges brought up against me for a small amount of marijuana that was not even mine but since I was in the same vehicle I was being charged. I hired Mr. Soto and he was able to get my case dismissed in no time without any stress on my end. The entire staff is incredible and would recommend going with them” said one of SOTO-LAW’s clients.

During these stressful times make sure you obtain the quickest and best representation possible. Don’t waste any time and call SOTO LAW.