A criminal conviction is not something anyone has. IT can feel like the world is against you, that life will never be the same because you messed up in some way. Worse still, your conviction may have serious consequences like fines or prison time. Individuals in Utah who are convicted of assault but are first-time offenders may be wondering if there is some sort of alternative to a sentence that can help them return to being upstanding citizens.
Fortunately, Utah does have some access to diversion programs for first-time offenders. You can work with our lawyers and the prosecutor handling your case to get into the diversion program. If you are able to get into the program, it is very important that you stay in it to completion. If you are kicked out of the diversion program, you will have no choice but to fight against the full charges against you in court.
To have us review your situation for free, call Overson Law at (801) 758-2287 and speak to one of our Utah criminal defense lawyers.
What is the Diversion Program for First-Time Offenders in Utah?
Utah offers a diversion program as an alternative to prison for first-time offenders. The idea is to focus on rehabilitating people who are not likely to commit other crimes and do not need to be locked away to protect society. Entrance into a diversion program is voluntary. As a reward for completing the program, individuals are given a less serious charge – or even a full dismissal of the charges. For that reason, entrance into a diversion program is highly desirable for individuals accused of crimes in Utah.
There are a couple of reasons why the diversion program exists in Utah. First, it can help stop people from committing future crimes by helping them with the baseline issues from which crime stems. It is well known that there are many external factors that compel people to commit crimes, so it is a good thing that there is a program to address these issues. Second, there is a strong incentive for people in the program to finish it. If someone fails out of the diversion program, they have to face the full charges against them in court.
Who is Eligible for First-Time Diversion Programs in Utah?
Defendants who do not have any prior state or federal convictions for drug crimes are eligible for the diversion program in Utah.
Diversion Program Levels in Utah
The Utah diversion program actually has different levels for individuals who have been accused of crimes of different levels of seriousness. When you are selected for the diversion program, you undergo a “risk assessment,” which places you at the appropriate level. Our South Jordan, UT criminal defense lawyers will explain each level in the section below.
The First Level
The first level of the diversion program is for individuals who are not determined to be at high risk. This level usually applies to non-violent crimes and misdemeanors. If you are facing assault charges, even if it is your first offense, you will likely not be in the program at this level.
The Second Level
The second level also deals with individuals charged with misdemeanors and third-degree felonies. However, unlike with the first level, a “low risk” assessment is not needed. The second level of the diversion program lasts somewhere between six and nine months, and charges are dismissed upon completion by the defendant.
The Third Level
The third level of the diversion program is for defendants who are assessed to be “low” or “medium” risk. Additionally, people accepted into this level have already accepted a plea in abeyance. A plea in abeyance is detailed in Utah Code § 77-2a-1(3). This is a plea where the defendant signs off on a guilty or “no-contest” plea, but no sentence is given to the defendant so long as the defendant complies with the conditions set out in the plea. The court, instead, holds onto it, ready to file it as a guilty verdict and send it to sentencing if you violate the terms of your program. These conditions are agreed to by the prosecutor, our lawyers, and you, including a term that you must complete of the diversion program as one of the conditions of the agreement.
The third level of the diversion program lasts between 12 and 36 months, and charges are dismissed when the program is completed.
The Fourth Level
The fourth level of the diversion program is for individuals who have not been convicted of a crime involving sexual violence or assault with a weapon but have a history of drug use.
Depending on the specifics of your particular assault charge, there is a good chance you will be in the third or fourth level of the program. However, our lawyers can work to get you into the program at the level that makes the most sense for your situation.
What Criminal Charges Are Not Eligible for Diversion Programs in Utah?
Some specific crimes make individuals accused of them ineligible for diversion programs in Utah. Those charges that bar people from diversion programs are detailed in Utah Code § 77-2-9.
First, capital felonies and first-degree felonies make one ineligible for a diversion program. Capital felonies are felonies that can result in the death penalty, while first-degree felonies are the most serious of all other felonies and include crimes like murder and rape.
Second, any motor vehicle offenses involving drugs or alcohol bar individuals from participating in the diversion program. Additionally, felonies committed with the use of a motor vehicle prevent participation in the program.
Finally, crimes that involve sexual violence, like domestic violence or a sexual offense against someone who is under the age of 14 disqualify people from diversion programs in Utah.
Talk to a Utah Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
Overson Law has West Valley City criminal defense lawyers ready to help you with your needs when you call us at (801) 758-2287.