Part 6: COVID-19, Criminal Case and Drunk Driving Arrests
Massachusetts courts are closed for business until May 4, 2020 for most cases. Courts are only hearing emergency cases right now. So what happens if you arrested for drunk driving? When will you be arraigned for a DUI case?
There are two things happening when you get pulled over for an OUI right now. In one type of OUI cases, police are giving people citations and a court date is being set for a future date. In some cases where the DUI suspect is not a threat and there are no other issues, police are issuing citations to minimize contact to comply with COVID-19 social distancing guidelines.
If you receive a citation, you should request a hearing. A hearing can be requested by signing the back of the citation under part 2 and mailing it to the court house. It is very important for you to talk to a lawyer before requesting a hearing. Prior to mailing in a citation make sure you get a copy of the ticket. If you do not have a scanner, you can use your phone to take a picture of both sides of the ticket.
In normal times it could take a few weeks to months to get a hearing. Now with the COVID-19 uncertainty and back log it is difficult to estimate how long it will be before a person would be scheduled to go to court. Unfortunately, the court closure will likely have a negative affect on your license and your ability to drive. This will be explained in a future post.
If you arrested, most courts are conducting all arraignments over the phone. Arraignments is a very important event during the criminal process (read my blog post about arraignments and their importance) It is likely that you will be at the police station and you will be teleconferenced in for the arraignment.
In recent days several court personnel including a few judges have tested positive for the Corona virus. In response several court houses have closed down. Below is a list of current court closures:
Dorchester Boston Municipal Court reopens Friday, 3/27
Dudley District Court reopens Friday, April 3
East Brookfield, reopens Thursday, 3/26
Framingham/ Natick District Court, TBA
North Adams, Northern Berkshire District Court, April 2
Roxbury, Boston Municipal Court, reopens Monday, April 6
Springfield - Ireland Courthouse, reopens Monday, 3/30
Waltham District Court, reopening date pending
Worcester Trial Court, reopens Monday, 3/30
The good news may be that if you are not an essential worker you may be working from home now. With most people working from home and sheltering in place, most people do not need their cars. The bad news is that COVID-19 has created a lot of issues with the criminal process. Arraigning people over the phone could create constitutional issues. (read more about constitutional issues here) The criminal process is also going to take much longer than normal due the Corona virus, the uncertainty surrounding drunk driving and all criminal cases makes people's work, personal and license issues much more difficult.