Your Case Has Been Scratched: Now What?
Learn what to do if your case has been scratched or vacated by the court during the Covid-19 epidemic.
What should you do if your case has been scratched or vacated by the court during the Coronavirus epidemic?
You have just appeared in court and been told your matter is “scratched” or “vacated.” Although you may jump for joy thinking it is wonderful news, or kidding yourself believing you got lucky this time, your actual situation is unclear.
A case being scratched or vacated does not mean dismissed.
The terms “scratched” or “vacated” are NOT legal terms meaning the case is dismissed. Rather it only means your case is no longer on the Court’s docket or calendar for that day.
If your case is “scratched or vacated,” it means the prosecutor has not filed a complaint against you within the time set forth by law (48 hours) from the time you saw the jail court commissioner. The County Attorney’s office has 7 years in which to file a felony complaint (although generally, it happens within 12 months). If the matter is a misdemeanor, such as a DUI or Domestic Violence charge, the prosecutor has 1 year to file a complaint from the date of the incident.
If a case is filed, the prosecutor decides whether to issue a summons (written notice of your court date) or have law enforcement arrest you on a warrant. It is extremely important that the investigating law enforcement agency, the Department of Motor Vehicles, and the prosecutor’s deciding your fate, all have your most current address. If they decide to issue a summons, but you never receive it, they will have no choice but to issue a warrant for your arrest.
Release conditions are removed.
When your matter is scratched or vacated, any release conditions set by the court upon your arrest will be removed. Release conditions were ordered by the court to ensure your appearance at any court proceeding. As the court matter is no longer taking place, the release conditions should be removed.
Keep in mind if you have other orders in place arising from an Order of Protection or restrictions placed upon you by the Family Court or an administrative agency (likely DCS), those orders remain in place. But when a case is scratched or vacated, any limitations placed on you by the criminal courts or formally lifted. Any issues in those matters will need to be dealt with separately.
Understanding your next steps.
Frequently, when a felony case is scratched or vacated it means the prosecutors in many cases have either not seen the police reports from law enforcement, or they are waiting for additional evidence to support charging the case. The additional evidence can take many forms, but normally consists of waiting for lab results (drug and alcohol cases), restitution (theft and injury cases), medical records from the victim (injury cases), forensic test results (DNA, fingerprints, ballistics, or computer forensics) and paperwork supporting issues with a criminal history or driving history. Obtaining this information can take weeks or months. All the while, you will have no clue if and/or when you will be charged and possibly rearrested.
You have a window of opportunity to secure your evidence, your witnesses, clean up your drug or alcohol issues, and obtain counseling. You have time to try to find and secure video evidence or prove up an alibi.
I would strongly encourage you to contact counsel to discuss your options. Counsel can work with you to begin preparing your defense to the allegations. Counsel can work with you to best prepare a mitigation packet to convince the prosecutor to provide you a better than average plea offer to resolve your matter.
Counsel can notify potential witnesses and individuals to preserve any video or email/text or social media evidence.
Now is the time to hire a criminal defense attorney!
As noted above, “scratched or vacated” does not mean dismissed. It only means that the problem has been set off for an undetermined amount of time. It means you have a window of opportunity to begin your defense or otherwise present yourself before the court in the best light.
Procrastination can be devastating. You can lose witnesses and evidence. And, should you be taken into custody when the case is refiled, trying to obtain the information while in jail can be impossible. So please, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your concerns and to begin mapping out your best strategy moving forward.
Call us today! (602) 957-3300