Thousands of arrests are made for crimes every day in the United States. However, not everyone arrested and charged with a crime actually committed one. Police officers responding to the scene of the crime will prioritize making people safe and may arrest people who should not be arrested in the process.
A criminal defense lawyer can help you fight any charges levied against you. Criminal penalties can follow you for the rest of your life. For example, a felony conviction could make finding a job or getting a loan harder. Do not confront serious allegations without consulting legal counsel.
Talk to our criminal defense lawyers at Overson Law at (801) 758-2287 for a free, confidential case review.
The Legal Process in Draper, UT
You have a right to legal counsel in criminal proceedings. If you choose to have a lawyer represent you (and you should), a public defender will be appointed, or you can hire your own criminal defense lawyer.
The legal process in Utah can be daunting and confusing. Below are the steps your trial could take before being resolved.
First Appearance in Court
You will be formally notified of any charges against you at the first appearance in court. While you might know what you are being charged with before this point, the first appearance is when it is made official. For felony cases, the preliminary hearing date is set at the first appearance in court.
An arraignment is when defendants are notified of their rights. If your hearing is for a misdemeanor, this will be at the first appearance in court. At their arraignment, the defendant must enter a plea. That plea is either “guilty,” “not guilty,” or “no contest.”
A guilty plea waives a defendant’s right to a jury trial because it is an admission of guilt. Usually, guilty pleas are the result of negotiations between the prosecutor and the defendant’s legal counsel. The court will try and make sure the defendant understands what rights they are waiving in a guilty plea. If you plead guilty, the case moves to sentencing.
A “no contest” plea is not an admission of guilt. However, a plea of no contest does indicate that the defendant believes the prosecution will likely win at trial, and the case moves to sentencing.
A “not guilty” plea preserves all of the defendant’s rights to a trial by jury. Pretrial conferences and other proceedings are scheduled at this point. Prosecutors often withdraw any plea deals or compromises when a defendant pleads “not guilty” because they want to dissuade defendants from going to trial. Trials are time-consuming and complicated, and prosecutors would like to resolve cases as fast as possible.
Preliminary hearings are only held for felonies and Class A misdemeanors. Preliminary hearings determine whether probable causes exist both that a crime was committed and that you committed that crime.
Pretrial Motions and Conference
Legal counsel for both sides can file motions before trial. Motions are a way of asking the court for something. Common motions in a criminal case are motions to suppress evidence or motions for more time to find evidence or discovery.
Pretrial conferences are held between the prosecution and defense attorney to see if a plea agreement can be reached. The case will go to trial if an agreement cannot be reached.
At trial, the prosecution and defense will present evidence and make their best arguments to the jury. The judge will mostly act as a facilitator to make sure that both sides are represented fairly. Both sides may question witnesses, and evidence will be offered in support of the prosecution and defense.
After both sides have presented their arguments to the jury, the judge will give the jury instructions, and then the jury will deliberate whether the defendant is guilty or not. The jury then comes back with a verdict of “guilty,” “not guilty,” or “guilty of a lesser crime” than what the defendant was charged with.
If found guilty, the defendant will be sentenced within 45 days of the guilty verdict. A defendant can waive this right and be sentenced on the day of the trial if they so choose.
Common Criminal Charges in Draper, UT
It should be no surprise that not all crimes are the same. A burglary has different steps than murder or assault. Sometimes, multiple crimes can happen in one series of events. For example, if you steal something and then drive away while over the legal limit, you will be charged with both theft and driving under the influence. Our attorneys can assist you with fighting a wide variety of criminal charges.
Theft, Robbery, and Burglary
Theft and burglary often get mixed up with one another, but they are not the same crime. Theft refers to the act of stealing something, while burglary refers to unlawfully entering a building with the intent to commit a crime once inside.
Do not confuse burglary and robbery, either. Robbery refers to the forceful taking of something from another person. Burglary is merely the act of unlawfully entering or remaining in a place intending to commit a crime.
You do not need to enter forcefully to commit burglary. If a store lets you in and you intend to steal something, that is still burglary.
Driving Under the Influence
Driving under the influence is a serious crime. Not only does it pose a grave risk to yourself and other drivers, but the penalties are severe if you are convicted. In addition to jail time and fines, driving under the influence could result in the suspension of your license for up to two years.
Utah Code § 76-5-102(2) defines simple assault as unlawfully causing or attempting to cause bodily injury to another person. For example, if you hit someone in the arm and bruise them, that is a simple assault.
You do not need to cause an injury to be charged with simple assault. If you try to punch someone and miss, or only go as far as to pull your fist back but never release the punch, you can still be charged with simple assault.
Dangerous or reckless conduct that “creates a substantial risk” of injury to another can also be considered simple assault. For example, if you shove someone out of your way in a supermarket and they suffer injury, you can be charged with simple assault.
Aggravated assault is a more serious crime and is always charged as a felony in Utah.
Utah Code § 76-5-103(2) defines aggravated assault as any use of a dangerous weapon to cause serious bodily injury or an attempt to do the same, attempts to strangle or choke someone so that they lose consciousness, and threats of serious bodily injury.
A dangerous weapon does not have to be specifically designed as one. For example, all firearms are considered deadly weapons, but so are golf clubs and heavy metal pipes, even though they are not designed as weapons.
Aggravated assault that targets a law enforcement officer is a first-degree felony that could result in life in prison.
Call Our Draper, UT Lawyers Today
Call our criminal defense lawyers at Overson Law at (801) 758-2287 to discuss your case for free.