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Coronavirus and Your Court Date: What You Need to Know

Posted by Shawn B. Hamp | Mar 10, 2020 | 0 Comments

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Update (March 17th, 7:40am):

Mohave County Superior Courts and Courts of Limited Jurisdiction, new Corona Virus Court Procedures Update.

  • All Jury Trials are suspended for two weeks. Court dates beyond two weeks may also be affected by this order.
  • All time limits for court cases have been suspended by the Arizona Supreme Court.
  • The courts shall remain open. Notices will be placed to instruct the public to not enter the building if they are exhibiting any symptoms of cough, fever, or respiratory issues.
  • Judges will have the discretion to remove someone for health reasons.
  • Judges may restrict all court proceedings and remove non-essential people away from the courtroom.
  • A Court phone number will be created for any legal parties who are supposed to appear cannot so that the court can make arrangements to conduct hearings telephonically and that non-appearance is not penalized.
  • Initial Appearance Hearings and Arraignments will be completed on an individual basis and not in group settings.
  • Telephonic hearings should be completed in all matters as much as possible.
  • Waivers of appearance will be encouraged.
  • Video appearances will also be scheduled for inmates and other functions as possible.
  • Eviction hearings will continue to be conducted as required by statute. Telephone appearances will be encouraged.
  • Orders of Protection Hearings with electronic filing and telephonic ex-parte hearings shall be conducted. Parties will be given notice via email and mailed certified copies.



UPDATE (March 16th):

On March 11, the Arizona Supreme Court issued Administrative Order No. 2020-42, clearing the way for the suspension or cancellation of court hearings. Specifically, the order allows the Administrative Director to suspend time requirements in the Code of Judicial Administration should the outbreak requires public health emergency measures that hinder the judicial process. In other words, the court system is now legally allowed to postpone hearings that would not usually be allowed to be postponed. 

However, this order did not yet make any direct changes to any court policies or calendars. There has been no general closure of the court system. Unless the judge in your case has issued a specific order, you are still therefore expected to attend as scheduled. 

The Law Offices of Shawn B. Hamp will continue to monitor the situation. With updates and changes around the country, including the court system in Kentucky largely shutting down and the declaration of a national emergency, the status of the court system in Arizona could change. Please contact your attorney with any questions. 



With COVID-19 (coronavirus) spreading globally, including a
rising number of known cases in Arizona, some of our clients are wondering whether Coronavirus might affect their criminal cases. Here's some general information that could be helpful, and as always, speak with your attorney if you have questions about your specific circumstances. 

Do I still need to come to my court date?

As of today, it's business as usual for courts in Mohave County, including superior, city, and justice courts. There has not been any change to the court calendars or policies on attendance due to the coronavirus. If you have been ordered to attend a court hearing, you are still expected to attend. Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to receive the Court's permission to appear by telephone, continue your court hearing, or have your presence waived by your attorney. However, do not assume that your judge will simply allow you to call in or excuse your absence—if you think you should not come to your hearing, speak with your attorney in advance about getting permission. 

When should I seek permission to miss court?

If you have an upcoming court date, you should consider seeking the Court's permission to miss court if any of the following apply:

  1. If you are experiencing possible symptoms, which include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Also call your doctor right away.
  2. If you have had recent travel, especially to an area known to have a coronavirus outbreak. Symptoms can first show as late as two weeks after exposure to the virus, so if you have traveled in the two weeks leading up to your court date, you may be a carrier even if you are not showing symptoms. 
  3. If you have had recent contact with anybody who exhibited symptoms or has had recent travel.
  4. If you are a higher-risk individual. According to the Center for Disease Control, older adults and people with heart disease, diabetes, or lung disease are at higher risk of serious illness. 

Without a clear policy in place, it will be up to the judges to make decisions on a case-by-case basis. Unless the courts close down and cancel all hearings, your judge will likely not grant an exemption simply because you are concerned about the coronavirus. However, if you might be sick, carrying the virus, or at higher risk, your judge is more likely to find that there is a good reason for you not to come to court.

What should I do if I do have to attend court?

The courthouse is a location that sees lots of visitors coming from a variety of places. Attorneys come in from different offices; petitioners or defendants may have traveled in from different cities; add court staff, prospective jurors, or viewers in the gallery, and a courthouse is certainly somewhere that a disease could spread. 

Exercise due caution when visiting a courthouse, whether your court date is during the coronavirus scare or just on a typical day. The CDC's recommended preventative measures are the same as for any illness. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash your hands regularly. Now might be a good time to review the CDC's recommended steps for handwashing, available on its website. The CDC does not recommend wearing a mask unless you are infected—and if you are infected, please contact your attorney about staying home from court. Try to avoid making physical contact with anybody else. Handshaking your attorney is a formality that you can skip for now, and face-to-face meetings can often be replaced by phone calls. 

Contact your attorney with questions specific to your case.

Every case is different. If you have concerns about how the coronavirus outbreak might affect your criminal case, contact your attorney.  

If you have questions about the coronavirus outbreak generally or your family's health, contact your doctor or refer to the Arizona Department of Health Services website

About the Author

Shawn B. Hamp

President and lead counsel for the Law Offices of Shawn B. Hamp, P.C. (An Arizona Professional Corporation), Shawn Hamp has practiced law for more than 15 years with an emphasis in criminal law. An experienced trial attorney, Mr. Hamp has been lead counsel in hundreds of criminal trials and court...

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