Effect of Coronavirus on Criminal Cases in North Carolina Courts

On March 10, 2020, Governor Roy Cooper declared a State of Emergency in North Carolina. As a result of this declaration and further executive orders in the last month, Justice Beasley, of the North Carolina Supreme Court has entered several Orders limiting the normal operation of the North Carolina Court System. Justice Beasley have expressly ordered the rescheduling of all proceedings unless:

  1. The proceeding can be conducted remotely
  2. The proceeding is necessary to preserve the right to due process of law
  3. The proceeding is for the purpose of obtaining emergency relief
  4. The senior resident superior court judge, the chief business court judge or chief district court judge determines that the proceeding can occur under conditions that protect the health and safety of all participants.

Governor Cooper has issued further Executive Orders which provide additional guidance for the public on the operation of the courts. Before making any decisions or assuming anything about your pending criminal case, you should consult one of the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC today. Contact us at 704.370.2828 or online today to schedule your initial consultation.

Can I still be charged with criminal charges during the stay-at-home Order?

Yes. Governor Cooper's specifically exempts law enforcement and corrections personnel from the stay-at-home Order. As such, standard law enforcement operations will continue. If you engage in potential criminal activity, arrests are still possible. If you are arrested, it is important to consult with a competent criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. In addition to standard criminal charges, the executive orders issued by Governor Cooper have also provided additional penalties for violations of the prohibition on mass gatherings. The stay-at-home order also provides for state and local law enforcement officers to enforce the stay at home order and other executive orders made by the Governor as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

What if I have an active criminal case?

Justice Beasley's Orders restrict the operation of the North Carolina Court system to specific matters. Various criminal matters are still proceedings, particularly those hearings and proceedings that are required to preserve the right to due process of law. Specific examples of these types of proceedings are first appearances, bond hearings, probation hearings, and probable cause hearings. However, this is not an exclusive list and other proceedings may be held. Justice Beasley has also encouraged the continuation of criminal court proceedings that can be held remotely. The Order also encourages Senior Resident Superior Court Judges and Chief District Court Judges to take steps to conduct court proceedings in a manner that protects the health and safety of all participants. It is possible that scheduled preliminary hearings will proceed in your criminal case. Contact one of our knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC to schedule an initial consultation to discuss your case and how the coronavirus pandemic will affect your case.

What about deadlines in my case?

Chief Justice Beasley issued an order that makes all filings that are or were due to be filed on or after March 16 through June 1, to be timely so long as they are filed before the close of business on June 1. This extension of filing deadlines also applies to acts that are to be done or where to be done after March 16 through June 1. This applies equally to all actions, including criminal actions. This Order issued by Justice Beasley on April 13, 2020 applies only to Superior and District Court proceedings. If you believe you may have deadlines or acts that file within the time frame set out in the Chief Justice's order, contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC to speak to one of our experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys about how this extension affects your criminal case.

Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

Although the stay-at-home Orders entered by Governor Cooper are intended to restrict public movement, they do not prohibit the operation of essential businesses. Legal services are considered an essential business. Arnold & Smith, PLLC attorneys are operating and advocating for their clients and are available to consult with you about the limited court operations and the effect on your criminal case.

If you have questions about the impact of the present limited court operations, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in the greater Charlotte area of North Carolina to help you understand your legal rights, and how best protect yourself. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Arnold & Smith, PLLC at 704.370.2828 or online today to schedule your free initial consultation.