In Utah, crimes that are more serious than infractions, but not quite as serious as felonies, are known as misdemeanors. Misdemeanors include most DUI cases, simple assault, some drug possession charges, and minor theft charges, among others. Even though they are not the most serious type of crime, they are serious enough to come with some severe penalties. If you have no prior experience with the criminal justice system, however, you may have no idea what steps you should take after a misdemeanor arrest to give you the best chance at getting your charges downgraded or dismissed. Even if you have an inkling that you should get a lawyer, you may not realize how fast you have to act to get one before decisions are made that can affect your entire case. Below, our skilled Salt Lake City criminal defense attorneys at Overson & Bugden, who have years of experience successfully defending our clients against all sorts of misdemeanor charges in courts across Utah, explain when you should hire a lawyer and how we can help you bring your case to a successful resolution.
When Should You Hire a Lawyer after Being Charged with a Misdemeanor in Utah?
The answer to this question is always as soon as possible. For some misdemeanors, the police will simply issue you a citation with a date on it for your initial court appearance and allow you to go on your way. If this is the case for you, reaching out to a skilled Utah attorney for a criminal arraignment like those at Overson & Bugden as soon as possible will give us a chance to reach out to the prosecutor before your court date to assess the evidence and try to work out a deal for the charges to be downgraded or dismissed at the first appearance.
It is particularly important that you or a loved one reach out to a skilled criminal defense lawyer right away if you have been arrested, as will be the case in most instances where police believe you have committed a misdemeanor. Once you have been arrested, events will occur very quickly and you will not want to be without representation for long. For example, both the arraignment where you enter your first plea and the bail hearing where a judge decides if they will set bail or release you are typically held within 72 hours in a misdemeanor case. A skilled Utah bail hearing attorney will be able to argue that you should be released on little to no bail, based on such factors as your lack of a criminal record and your ties and contributions to the community. We are also likely to advise you to enter an initial plea of not guilty to give us time to collect all the evidence, assess the strength of the case against you, and work out a potential deal with the prosecutor.
What Kind of Penalties Can I Face for a Utah Misdemeanor Charge?
In the state of Utah, there are three classes of misdemeanor charges, listed here in order of least to most serious: class C misdemeanors, class B misdemeanors, and class A misdemeanors. Class C misdemeanors are punishable by up to 90 days in jail and up to $750 in fines or compensatory service. Class B misdemeanors are punishable by up to 6 months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines of compensatory service. Finally, class A misdemeanors are punishable by up to a year in jail and up to $2,500 in fines.
It is important to note that, depending on the particular misdemeanor with which you have been charged, there may be enhancements or aggravating factors that could allow for even more serious penalties. Furthermore, the criminal penalties are not the only consequences you will face. Having a conviction on your criminal record, even for a misdemeanor, can prevent you from getting work, financial aid for college, or joining the military in some cases.
How Can a Utah Defense Lawyer Help Get my Misdemeanor Charge Downgraded or Dismissed?
For some misdemeanors, our attorneys may be able to convince the prosecutor to allow you into a pre-trial diversion program for first-time offenders. If you complete such a program successfully, your charges will be dropped and you will not have a criminal record. You also may be able to enter a plea in abeyance, which is a similar program where you plead guilty but the plea is not accepted unless you do not meet the terms set by the court for a probationary period. If you do complete the requirements successfully, your plea will not be entered and the charges will be dropped.
If these programs are not on the table in your case, we can work to try to get the prosecutor to agree to a deal where the charges are downgraded to something less serious, like an infraction or a lower grade of misdemeanor. We can also try to work out a deal where you plead guilty in exchange for the prosecutor agreeing to recommend a lenient sentence to the judge. If you are not satisfied with the deals offered or simply do not wish to take a deal, our skilled trial lawyers at Overson & Bugden can craft the best possible defense based on the particulars of your case and fight for a not guilty verdict in the courtroom.
Call Our Skilled Utah Misdemeanor Defense Lawyers Today
Many people make the mistake of thinking of misdemeanors as a less serious type of criminal charge, when in fact the penalties these crimes can come with are enormously serious. Aside from lengthy jail sentences and high fines, you could be left with a criminal record that can jeopardize your future. The most important thing you can do to offer yourself the best chance for your case to reach a successful resolution is to hire an experienced Layton criminal defense attorney like those at Overson & Bugden as early in your misdemeanor case as possible. We will live no stone unturned fighting for your innocence. Call us today (801) 758-2287 for a free consultation.