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Posted on April 13, 2020 in Arizona Law

Could Mayor Gallego’s “Great Emergency” Declaration Lead To Martial Law?

It is highly doubtful that Maylor Gallego’s announcement of a “great emergency” will lead to martial law. This is especially true since the City Council walked back her declaration just three days later.

On March 17, 2020, The Mayor of the City of Phoenix, Kate Gallego, declared a citywide State of Emergency. The State of Emergency was in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. In a Twitter announcement, Mayor Gallego directed bars that did not serve food to close and directed all restaurants to switch to carry out and delivery only.

However, just three days later, the Phoenix City Council voted to declare a local emergency instead of approving the Mayor’s “great emergency” declaration. The local emergency does not give Mary Gallego the power to make significant changes or declare proclamations. In other words, the City Council reigned in the powers the Phoenix Mayor would have had under a “great emergency” declaration.

The matter is moot at this point because the statewide declarations issued by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey are far more sweeping and more restrictive than the initial orders by Mayor Gallego.

Martial Law and the COVID-19 Pandemic

There has been a great deal of conversation about whether federal or state governments would initiate martial law in light of the coronavirus outbreak. Some online sources have sounded the alarm that martial law was imminent when President Trump mobilized the National Guard to assist in several of the hardest-hit states.

While some people have speculated that martial law is not out of the question, including Gov. Newsom of California, there has been no nationwide or statewide declaration of martial law.

President Trump mobilized the National Guard under Title 32 of the U.S. Code in many states to assist the public and local governments. However, federalizing the National Guard under Title 32 simply means that the federal government pays for the costs. State governors retain control over the direction of the National Guard in their states.

Martial law is the temporary shift in power and control from civil institutions to military control. It can be used when governments can no longer maintain the peace during a crisis of emergency. Trump Administration officials have gone to great lengths to assure Americans that martial law has not been declared, and the Administration was not moving toward martial law.

What Has the City of Phoenix Done to Control the Spread of COVID-19?

The City of Phoenix has instituted additional steps to help flatten the curve for the spread of the coronavirus throughout the city. For instance, downtown city buildings are only accessible by appointment only. Some of the non-essential city services and facilities are currently closed. Many city services are available online or by telephone.

The Executive Order by Arizona Gov. Ducey recognizes that courts and legal processes are essential services that could remain open. However, the Phoenix Municipal Court has taken several steps to protect employees and the public. Some of the court functions have been postponed because of COVID-19.

The court postponed many criminal matters. They are not dismissing criminal cases.

For example, arraignments are postponed until May 12, 2020, or after. Criminal jury trials are now continued. Trial Date Conferences will be scheduled in criminal jury trials after April 30, 2020.

What Should I Do If I Have a Case Before the Phoenix Municipal Court?

Defendants who have criminal matters before the Phoenix Municipal Court can contact the court to ask about their case. You should not assume your criminal matter is postponed until you verify that with the court or your criminal defense lawyer. Even though cases handled by the city court range from traffic violations to Class 1 misdemeanors, you should continue to treat these matters seriously.

If you have not retained a misdemeanor attorney, you may want to do so now. Punishments for criminal charges heard by the city court can carry up to six months in jail and a $2,500 fine. Additionally, a guilty verdict results in a criminal record.

During the COVID-19 outbreak, you may be arrested. Your legal rights have not changed. You have the right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney.

You must provide your name and address, but you do not have to answer questions. Be polite and respectful when explaining to the police officers that you will not answer questions until you have the chance to consult with an attorney. Make sure that you ask for an attorney as soon as possible after the arrest to protect your legal rights.