The state Supreme Court, on Friday, announced that Arkansas jury trials will be delayed until January15, 2021, due to an increase in COVID-19 cases.
Keep in mind that the delay impacts all civil and jury trials except the ones that were underway on Nov. 20 when the per curiam order was issued. Bench trials and other hearings are not covered by the order and courts shall remain open. However, the Supreme Court does encourage all courts to conduct hearings and bench trials by video, by phone or in person so long as criteria for gathering set forth by the Arkansas Department of Health are followed.
Arkansas district and circuit courts, as always, have a lot of discretion in determining whether to use technology to facilitate trials or to hold them in person.
It’s worth mentioning that speedy trial time for criminal cases will be tolled under the order. Of course, all criminal defendants have the right to have their trials heard within a year from their arrest date if they are out on bail and nine months from the arrest date if incarcerated as per Arkansas Rule of Criminal Procedure 28.1. In other words, forget about getting off the hook if the order pushes your trial out past a year if you’re on bail or nine months if you’re in jail.
The state Supreme Court does, however, encourage all courts with incarcerated people to review their dockets and consider holding bond hearings if so warranted. There is no requirement to hold a new bond hearing.
To keep up with the latest pronouncements from the Arkansas Supreme Court regarding the coronavirus, click here to visit the Arkansas Judiciary’s website section set aside for the announcements.