If a balky internet connections causes a person to miss an online court hearing, they may be able to avoid an arrest warrant after some tweaks ordered Monday by Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Matthew B. Durrant.
He made a few changes to emergency orders that govern how courts operate during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
One of them says, “A court may not issue a warrant solely for a person’s failure to appear for a remote hearing or comply in a class B or C misdemeanor or infraction case” unless a court finds “that the failure to appear or comply was willful.”
Also, instead of requiring an arrest, the changes also say “warrants issued for a person’s failure to attend a remote hearing may only require a promise to appear.”
Another change allows remote civil bench trials and small claims hearings without the parties' consent. A bench trial or small claims hearing will proceed as scheduled unless the court determines it is not practical to do so.
Also, another change now requires landlords pushing eviction cases to submit a declaration that they are complying with COVID-19 relief laws.
In a statement with the announcement about the changes, the state court system said that since COVID-19 became a pandemic in March, state courts have conducted more than 140,000 remote proceedings on more than 63,000 district court cases.
Continuing orders from Durrant allow in-person hearings and jury trials in “yellow phase” counties where COVID-19 cases are decreasing or have stabilized at levels that do not threaten to overwhelm local health care systems.
Courts approved for in-person hearings and jury trials under the yellow phase currently include those in: Box Elder, Rich, Davis, Juab, Millard, Beaver, Iron, Piute, Sevier, Emery, Daggett and Uintah.
Other counties that are now in a red phase that requires online hearings, but are approved to move to yellow when virus cases decrease, are: Salt Lake, Summit, Utah, Washington, Garfield, Kane, Sanpete, Wayne, Carbon, Grand and San Juan counties.