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.



Detainees pray entering the United States within 100 air miles, without having been admitted or allowed “parole”, and who cannot establish that they have been physically present in the US during the immediately preceding 14-day period of the date of arrest. They receive designation of foreigners for accelerated removal. During the expedited removal process, the detainee has no right to face an immigration judge. There is only one exception and that is when you declare that you intend to apply for asylum or are afraid of returning to your home country.

However, if the foreigner indicates it, that they intend to apply for asylum or are afraid of returning to their country of origin. The officer will refer the alien for an interview by an asylum officer. Commonly known as a credible fear interview. If the asylum officer finds the alien credible and eligible, they move him from the category of expedited removal, to normal deportation, and there he will be eligible to apply for asylum with an immigration judge and may even be able to request up to a redetermination bond hearing. .

If your loved one was detained while trying to enter the United States, call me at (480) 500-9900.



If you or your loved one is under investigation, you should consult an attorney immediately. Sometimes when detectives suspect you of a crime, they ask you to interview them. It’s common for them to say, “I have to get their side of the story to close the case.” This tactic is commonly used to obtain the last piece of evidence they needed to reach the level of probable cause required to make an arrest.
For this reason it is important to contact an experienced attorney before participating in any interviews or interrogations.



When immigration agents (ICE) detain your loved one, they typically take him or her to a local ICE processing office (in Phoenix that office is located at 2035 N. Central Ave. Tel. (602) 766-7030). There he is interviewed by an ICE officer and based on that interview the agent makes a custody determination, deciding whether the detained person should remain in custody or be released on parole to present to their next hearings or on bail to be safer. That is present.
This is your loved one’s first custody determination.
During this interview, the agent is considering whether your loved one presents a danger to the community, and whether they think your loved one will present themselves to all their future audiences.
Unfortunately, there would be no attorney present during this interview. That is why it is very important that the detained person communicates as best they can with the agent to explain all the reasons why the agent must allow parole. If you do not feel safe talking to the agent, you agree that you also have the right to remain silent.
This has been making the first opportunity to fight for their freedom. If the agent makes a determination to deny bond, your loved one will have another opportunity to ask for bond during a custody redetermination hearing. This hearing would be in front of an immigration judge who has the power to offer bail.
If you have a family member detained by immigration (ICE) and wants to fight for bail, call me for a consultation at (480) 500-9900.



Suspension is an action by the Department of Motor Vehicles that occurs 15 days after the affidavit is served on the individual accused of driving while intoxicated (DUI). If you don’t ask for a hearing, your license and driving privilege will be suspended.
If you want our help to request an administrative hearing, call me at (480) 500-9900. Maybe you can avoid suspension during the time you fight your DUI case.



You may be eligible to have your deportation canceled under section 240A (b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). To qualify for this benefit, you must establish at a hearing before an Immigration Judge that:
(1) Prior to the service of the Notice of Appearance, you have continued to maintain physical presence in the United States for ten (10) years or more, and has been a person of good moral character, as defined in section 101 (f) of the INA during said period;
(2) You have not been convicted of a crime covered by sections 212 (a) (2), 237 (a) (2), or 237 (a) (3) of the INA; and
(3) Your deportation would result in exceptional and extremely unusual hardships for your qualified family members and you deserve a favorable exercise of discretion in your application.

Qualified Relatives are: Spouses, parents or children, United States citizens or lawful permanent residents.



If you or a family member was arrested and is in the Maricopa County Jail. Take caution before paying bail. If your relative is not a United States Citizen, it is very likely that before being released, they will face an immigration agent (ICE).
Many relatives pay bail thinking that their loved one will be released, but in reality they are only detained by ICE.
So I recommend that you consult with an attorney before paying the bond.
Apart from the possibility of losing the money paid if your loved one cannot appear at the next hearing; Depending on the crime you are charged with, it may be best to resolve the criminal case before they arrive with ICE.
If you have questions about criminal bond and immigration consequences call me at (480) 500-9900, for a consultation.