Criminal

When you are charged with a crime you may receive a citation, or you may be arrested. In either case, if requested, the prosecution must file a formal “Information” against you. If you are arrested, you may be released on bail. In either case, you will need to contact the court to schedule your court date.

Your first appearance on a charge is called an arraignment. When you arrive at court you will be required to watch an instructional video, and also to complete a form advising you of your rights.

You may have an attorney with you, but it is not required. If you meet certain income guidelines, the court may appoint an attorney for you, but only if jail time is a real possibility.

When you appear before the judge, you will be asked to “plead” to the charge(s) against you. You may plead “guilty”, “not guilty”, or “no-contest”. A no-contest plea has the same procedural effect as a guilty plea, but rather than admitting guilt, the defendant admits that the prosecutor would likely prevail at trial. It is up to the judge whether or not he will accept a no-contest plea.

If you plead guilty or no-contest, you will next need to be sentenced. See the below heading for further information regarding sentencing.

 

Pleading Not Guilty

If you want to contest the charge(s) that has been filed against you, you must plead “not guilty”. If you plead not guilty you will be scheduled for a pre-trial conference. At the pre-trial conference you will meet with the prosecutor to discuss your case. Sometimes a plea bargain can be entered into. The judge will then determine whether the plea bargain will be accepted. A judge does not have to accept a plea bargain. However, the judge will inform you of that decision, and will allow you to reconsider your plea, before entering a plea. If a resolution cannot be had at the pre-trial conference, a trial will be scheduled.

Jury trials, by law, are not allowed for infractions. All misdemeanor trials are bench trials (where the judge is the trier of fact) unless a party makes a written demand for a jury no later than 10 days before trial. (Your trial may be rescheduled to allow time to gather a jury, if you make a jury demand less than 30 days before trial.)

At a trial, the prosecution has the burden of proof, which is “beyond a reasonable doubt” in most criminal cases. Additional information about the rules and procedures governing trial may be found here. If you are found “not guilty” your case will be closed. If you are found “guilty” you will proceed with sentencing.

Sentencing

If you plead guilty or no-contest, or are found guilty after trial, you will be sentenced. There are many reasons for a sentence. These include protecting the public, discouraging behavior, and others. Fines are most commonly used in sentencing. In order to ensure uniformity, fines are determined, in most cases, by the Uniform Fine and Bail Schedule that is published by the State of Utah.

In addition to a fine, you may be put on probation. This may include many components, including testing, treatment, community service, restrictions on your use of alcohol or a vehicle, and many other items.

For all misdemeanor crimes you could be sentenced to a term in the county jail. The maximum jail times are 6 months for a Class B misdemeanor and 90 days for a Class C misdemeanor. You may not be sentenced to jail for an infraction. Jail time is generally within the discretion of the judge. The possibility of jail time increases with the severity of the charge, your prior history, and your refusal to follow the court’s orders. Additional information regarding criminal penalties can be found here.

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