What COVID-19 Court Closures Mean for Your Case

If you’re involved in a criminal case in North Carolina, it’s natural to feel confused and overwhelmed under “normal” circumstances. But in light of the rapidly evolving coronavirus pandemic, the future of pending cases is even more turbulent. 

Many state and federal courts are changing the way they operate and making modifications, from closing entirely, to restricting access, postponing cases, and allowing video conferencing for certain types of hearings. 

On March 13, the Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court issued an order to reschedule district and superior court hearings scheduled for March 16 through April 16. Additionally, no new cases could be added during that time frame, with a few exceptions.

However, on April 2, the Chief Justice issued a new order that adjusts time frames further. 

In short, the order:

  • Allows court proceedings to be conducted by remote audio and video tools.
  • Directs attorneys to avoid court facilities. 
  • Allows the use of sworn statements for court filings. 
  • Extends the deadline for payment of MOST fines and fees by 90 days.
  • Directs courts NOT to report failures to pay court debts to the DMV.

What this means for your case:

  • Many criminal hearings that directly impact personal freedom will still be held, for example: first appearances or bond hearings, appointment of counsel for indigent defendants, probation hearings, and probable cause hearings.
  • Proceedings involving a need for emergency relief, like temporary restraining orders, juvenile custody orders, medical treatment orders, and civil commitment orders can still be held.
  • Many of these cases can be held via audio and video tools at a judge’s discretion and with the consent of all parties.
  • The due date for money owed under an order in a criminal case with a payment due date ON OR AFTER April 6 and BEFORE OR ON May 1 is extended by 90 days.
  • Nonpayment of monetary obligations in these cases will not be considered a “willful failure to comply.”

What to do right now:

If you’re unsure of whether you need to appear in court, if your case is being rescheduled, or whether you can face additional penalties for failing to appear due to coronavirus fears, the best course is to stay informed. 

Check for updates.

The best place to find updates in the status of court closures and operations is the website for the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts: www.nccourts.gov.

Call your local county clerk of court’s office.

Do NOT go to the courthouse –particularly if you are exhibiting symptoms OR have been in the presence of someone who’s recently traveled outside of the county. Give your clerk’s office a call to see whether your case requires physical presence and whether your deadlines have been extended.

Call a lawyer. 

If you’ve been charged with a crime in North Carolina give Cotten Law a call to discuss your options. Jeremy has represented tens of thousands of clients charged with offenses such as yours and has hundreds of stellar reviews. He can help you determine if – and how – your case will be impacted by the constantly-evolving coronavirus situation.

Our offices serve clients in central North Carolina including Wake, Johnston, Harnett, Orange, Sampson, Lee, and Chatham Counties. Give our office a call or click over to our main page to chat live with an assistant 24 hours a day.