Crimes and offenses are broken down into degrees and classifications. In Utah, a crime is either an infraction, a misdemeanor, or a felony. From there, these categories are broken down further into subcategories. A Class A misdemeanor is a subcategory that falls just shy of felony charges.
Class A misdemeanor charges should be handled very carefully as they are squarely between lesser misdemeanors and felony charges. A wide variety of crimes are Class A misdemeanors, and depending on the circumstances of the alleged offense, might be upgraded or downgraded. Penalties for Class A misdemeanors include nearly 1 year in jail, and multiple counts may mean several years behind bars.
If you were recently arrested and charged with a Class A misdemeanor, our Utah criminal defense lawyers can help you with your charges. Call Overson Law, PLLC at (801) 758-2287 for a free initial case evaluation.
What Is a Class A Misdemeanor Offense in Utah?
Criminal offenses in Utah are classified into three broad categories (from least to most severe): infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. Felonies and misdemeanors are broken down even further into subcategories. For misdemeanors, these subcategories are Class A, B, and C. For felonies, they are first-, second-, and third-degree. A Class A misdemeanor is the highest and most serious misdemeanor charge and sits just below felonies.
Since Class A misdemeanors are between lesser misdemeanors and serious felonies, there tends to be a mix of violent crimes, property crimes, and drug crimes charged as Class A misdemeanors. Our Lehi criminal defense attorneys can help you determine where your charges fall on the spectrum of criminal offenses.
What is unique about Class A misdemeanors is that they can often be upgraded to serious felonies that carry far more significant penalties. Alternatively, you can negotiate with prosecutors and have the charges downgraded to a lesser misdemeanor charge or walk away from misdemeanor charges with a fine or probation instead of jail time. A lawyer can help you prevent your charges from being upgraded while advocating for a downgrade.
What Kind of Crimes Are Classified as Class A Misdemeanors in Utah?
First, misdemeanors as a whole tend to be less severe than felonies. While misdemeanors can be punished by up to almost 1 year of jail time, felonies can be punished with many years in state prison. Our Murray criminal defense lawyers can help you fight your charges and clear your name.
Class A misdemeanors are typically less serious offenses than felonies; however, a Class A misdemeanor is also the highest degree of misdemeanor charges. As such, more serious misdemeanor charges tend to be Class A rather than Class B or C.
A good example of a Class A misdemeanor offense is simple assault. Under Utah Code § 76-5-102(3), assault may be charged as a Class A misdemeanor if the defendant allegedly inflicts “substantial” bodily harm on the victim or the victim is pregnant and the defendant knew of the pregnancy. This is a violent offense, but it is considered less serious than most felonies. However, the charges may be upgraded to felony charges for aggravated assault if certain conditions, like the use of a weapon, are present.
Penalties for Class A Misdemeanors in Utah
The penalties for Class A misdemeanor charges can be found under Utah Code § 76-3-204. A defendant convicted of a Class A misdemeanor may be sentenced to a jail term of no more than 364 days. In addition, they might also be fined up to $2,500. However, jail time is not usually a mandatory penalty. This means you could potentially be sentenced to probation or other penalties for a Class A misdemeanor, which is not an option for some felonies. All felonies of the second or first degree have mandatory minimum sentences.
Our Logan criminal defense lawyers have the skills and experience to help you fight your charges. Nearly an entire year is a long time to spend in jail for a single offense. If you are convicted of multiple Class A misdemeanor charges – which is not uncommon – you might face several years in jail if the sentences are consecutive instead of concurrent.
When Class A Misdemeanors Can Be Upgraded to Felonies in Utah
We discussed above how Class A misdemeanors are right between lesser misdemeanor charges and serious felonies. We also discussed how certain aggravating factors or circumstances might upgrade criminal charges to higher degrees. In such cases, a Class A misdemeanor offense could become a third-degree felony, and your potential penalties would increase.
For example, if an offense ordinarily charged as a Class A misdemeanor involves using a dangerous weapon on or near school property, the charges may be upgraded to a third-degree felony under Utah Code § 76-3-203.2(4).
Similarly, offenses committed in concert with three or more persons or in relation to criminal street gangs can be upgraded from Class A misdemeanors to third-degree felony charges. This rule is found under Utah Code § 76-3-203.1(4)-(6)
A critical part of handling Class A misdemeanor charges is preventing them from being upgraded to felonies. This often requires knowing what conditions might allow prosecutors to pursue greater charges and working to fight evidence of those conditions. For example, if using a weapon would upgrade your charges, our Ogden criminal defense attorneys can work to suppress any evidence of a weapon or challenge eyewitness claims that they saw a weapon.
Class A Misdemeanors and Plea Negotiations in Utah
Plea negotiations are common in criminal cases in Utah. Without plea negotiations, the entire criminal justice system would likely slow to a halt. Negotiating a plea deal might mean the difference between a Class A misdemeanor and a felony. It can also help you reduce your charges to a lesser misdemeanor offense.
A plea deal is an agreement between you and the prosecutor. The prosecutor agrees to reduce your charges or advocate for a lower sentence, and in return, you agree to plead guilty to the reduced charges. For Class A misdemeanors, our Park City criminal defense attorneys can help you convince prosecutors to refrain from upgrading your charges. In addition, we can also try to persuade prosecutors to reduce your charges to a lesser misdemeanor or lower your sentence to avoid jail time.
Call Our Utah Criminal Defense Lawyers for Advice
If you were charged with a Class A misdemeanor, our Provo criminal defense attorneys can help you prevent your charges from becoming worse. Call Overson Law, PLLC at (801) 758-2287 for a free case review.