It's been a long year, one that brought us a worldwide pandemic that affected the health and safety of millions of Americans. Secondary to the health crisis, the pandemic has affected the legal system in really big ways. At Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC, here are our predictions about what 2021 will bring to Arizona courts.
We'll See an Influx of Criminal Case Charging
Expecting criminal charges against you? The wait may be over soon.
When the pandemic hit, the Arizona Supreme Court issued several Administrative Orders that brought the county court systems to a near halt. Grand juries stopped convening out of concern for spreading COVID-19. Judges canceled nearly all jury trials for months. Prosecutors stopped charging cases. Almost immediately, we saw a backlog of criminal cases. Some were already charged, and are still awaiting jury trials. Some are not even charged yet, still awaiting complaints and indictments to be filed.
In 2021, with the rise of the COVID-19 vaccine, and a huge increase in our understanding about COVID-19 and how to prevent its spread, criminal cases are going to start flowing into the court system again - and fast. In many jurisdictions, including in Coconino County, prosecutors are contemplating how to catch up on the charging of hundreds of felony cases without completely overwhelming the courts. But with each passing day, more cases are being filed, and 2021 is going to be a year defined by "catching up" on long overdue jury trials and felony case charging.
If your case is currently awaiting review by prosecutors, the odds are it will be filed in 2021. Fortunately, there are some things you can do now to help yourself down the road when your case finally hits the court system. And remember, in Arizona, the statute of limitations for filing a felony case is 7 years and a misdemeanor case is 1 year.
Home Detention and GPS Monitoring for DUI's Will Be Limited
In 2020, we saw a lot more use of home detention and GPS monitoring - in place of jail - for DUI cases. But if the concern about COVID-19 spreading inside Arizona's jails is minimized, it is more likely that DUI cases will result in actual jail time again. We may see far more DUI cases in 2021 as bars get busy again and marijuana is now legalized in Arizona. (Remember, while using marijuana is now legal, driving while impaired by THC can still result in a DUI!)
Arizona law does allow local courts to implement home detention programs for DUI cases. The general rule is that you have to serve 20% of your jail sentence before you can be released to home detention (GPS monitoring with continuous alcohol monitoring). But during the COVID-19 pandemic, some courts allowed for 100% of the jail term to be spent on home detention, instead of risking spreading the virus in local jails worse than it already has.
But that's all going to change in 2021. Some courts will not allow home detention at all, so it is very important to fight your DUI case with the assistance of highly experienced Arizona DUI attorneys.
Video Hearings Will Be More Common in 2021
Even though COVID-19 will, hopefully, be less of a health risk in 2021, some courts have gotten used to the efficiency of using Zoom or other similar software for court hearings. We've seen small hearings, like pretrial conferences, and major hearings, like bond reduction hearings and felony sentencings, be held by Zoom. It's efficient, useful, and reduces the number of people pouring into courthouses on any given weekday. It also saves the cost of traveling to court, especially for our out-of-state clients.
Major proceedings, like jury trials, may still utilize video conferencing for the jury selection process. But when it comes to protecting your rights and defending you against serious charges, rest assured we will never allow jury trials and witness testimony to be done from afar. You have the right to confront the witnesses against you, and that right is constitutionally protected.
Contact Our Experienced Flagstaff Criminal Attorneys Today
We wish everyone a Happy and Safe New Year. If you have a criminal case - or are expecting one - fill out our contact form for a free consultation right away.