Utah Criminal Defense Attorneys
Especially for those who have little or no experience with the criminal justice system, being arrested or cited for a crime can be one of the scariest experiences of your life. You are likely to feel alone, confused, and even helpless. However, it is vitally important that you keep your cool as much as possible and understand the steps you need to take to protect yourself and your rights. Failure to do so could put your liberty and your future at risk even more than it already is.
Perhaps the most important things you need to do is for you or a loved one to reach out to a skilled Utah criminal defense attorney like those at Overson Law, PLLC as soon after the arrest as possible. The quicker you get into contact with us, the better chance we have of working to get the charges against you downgraded or dismissed. We will leave no stone unturned fighting to bring the matter to the best possible resolution for you and your future. Call us today at (801) 758-2287 for a free consultation.
How We Help Clients Across Utah
For over two decades, attorney Darwin Overson has successfully defended clients charged with all sorts of crimes throughout the state of Utah. This kind of hard-earned experience, and the respect and institutional knowledge that come with it, make Darwin one of the most sought-out criminal defense attorneys in the state. Darwin and our entire team have a record of putting everything we have into each case that comes before us, and treating each client as a person going through one of the toughest experiences of their life, not just another file to be closed and check to be cashed. This compassionate yet relentless approach to criminal defense is what makes us stand out, and it is why going with us gives you an excellent chance to get your charges downgraded or dismissed and bring the matter to a satisfactory resolution. Call our criminal defense lawyer for any assistance you might need.
Defending a criminal defendant involves more than simply proving their innocence. There are multiple strategies and tactics that can be used to defend yourself in court. If a defendant can prove their innocence through something like an alibi or other exculpatory evidence, that is obviously the best course of action. Unfortunately, mounting an effective defense is not always so easy.
One method we can use to defend you in court is to suppress evidence. The police will have undoubtedly launched an investigation into your alleged criminal activities and turned up evidence supporting your guilt. However, we do not always need to assert your innocence to effectively defend you in court. If the evidence was obtained unlawfully, we could suppress the evidence, so it never makes it to a jury.
One example of evidence suppression is when the police obtain evidence without a search warrant. The police cannot simply show up at your home and demand to search for evidence. They must have probable cause to believe they will find evidence and they must be issued a search warrant by a judge or magistrate. If the police do not have a valid warrant, any evidence they seize can be suppressed. Call our criminal defense lawyer for more information about evidence suppression.
Know Your Rights During Police Questioning and Interrogation
After you are arrested, you will be brought to the local police department for booking and possibly questioning. Miranda rights protect people who are in police custody and subjected to questioning or interrogation. These are several rights every person has in this situation to protect them from any unlawful overreach by law enforcement. Your Miranda rights include the right to remain silent and not answer police questions and the right to an attorney during questioning. You will also be warned that anything you say to the police may be used against you in court. You will also be informed that you may have an attorney appointed to represent you free of charge if you cannot afford one yourself.
By waiving your Miranda rights, you agree to allow the police questioning without an attorney’s presence. However, if you explicitly request a lawyer, all questioning must immediately cease until a lawyer is present. If questioning continues, your Miranda rights have been violated and you may have grounds to argue against any incriminating information the police obtained from you. If you believe your Miranda rights were violated, or you were not informed of your rights before being questioned by the police, please contact our law firm.
The Arrest Procedure in Criminal Cases in Utah
Arrests can happen at the scene of a crime or sometime later, after the police have had time to launch a criminal investigation. No matter how you are arrested, there are rules and procedures that law enforcement must follow in order to avoid violating your rights.
Citations From the Police
In some instances, for minor crimes and infractions like most traffic matters, the police officer will issue you a citation with a court date on it and then permit you to go on your way. However, some folks make the mistake of assuming that they can just throw such a citation aside and pretend like it never happened. This is a terrible idea because if you do not show up for court as required, a judge is likely to issue a bench warrant for your arrest. Once a bench warrant has been issued, you can be arrested any time you come into contact with the police and face even more serious potential penalties than you were already facing.
Instead, if you receive a citation, the first thing you should do is to reach out to a skilled criminal defense attorney. The quicker you get in touch with us, the faster we can work to resolve your case. We may even be able to contact the prosecutor and work out a deal where the entire matter is resolved on the date of your first court appearance.
Arrests and Warrants
Citation is not the typical way that police deal with those they suspect of committing a crime, however. There are many different reasons why a person can be arrested. This can happen on the spot if the officer thinks that they see you commit a crime or have probable cause to believe that you did so. Otherwise, there will be some sort of investigation into the crime, which might involve interviewing witnesses, gathering physical evidence, and checking for video surveillance footage. If the police attempt to interview you, do not answer their questions until you have a skilled criminal defense lawyer like those at Overson Law, PLLC by your side. If this is the case, the police they will apply for an arrest warrant with a judge.
If the judge grants the warrant, the police will typically come to your home, place of business, or try and track you down otherwise to execute the arrest warrant. After you have been arrested, you will be taken to a station for what is known as “booking”. During the booking process, the police will take your photograph, fingerprint you, collect your information and inventory any items you had at the time of your arrest. Following the booking process, you will be placed into the police holding cell until your initial appearance and bail hearing are held. If you have been arrested or believe there is a warrant out for your arrest, call our criminal defense lawyers immediately.
The Stages of Criminal Case
Criminal cases can be a long and grueling process filled with many different events. Below are the most important stages and how we can assist you at each stage in moving your case toward the most positive possible resolution.
Within 72 hours of your arrest, but usually much quicker unless it is a weekend or a holiday, your initial appearance will occur. At your initial appearance, the judge will read the charges against you and advise you of your rights during the criminal case process, including your right to an attorney if you do not already have one. In misdemeanor cases, your arraignment, where you are asked to enter an initial plea (either guilty or not guilty), will also occur at the initial appearance. In felony cases this will occur later, after a potential preliminary hearing. Either way, our veteran attorneys for a criminal arraignment are likely to advise you to please not guilty while we collect evidence, assess the strength of the case against you, start to build a defense. The plea can be easily changed later if you decide to take a deal.
The bail hearing usually occurs at or around the same time as the initial appearance. This quick turnaround time is one of the most important reasons why it is imperative that you or a loved one reach out to us as quickly as possible after your arrest, so that we have time to prepare for this hearing and appear by your side. At the bail hearing, the judge will first decide if you can be released from custody or if you must remain in jail until the underlying charges against you have been resolved. If they decide you can be released, they will also make a decision about how much bail to set, usually in consult with the amount suggested by the Utah Uniform Bail Schedule. However, the judge is permitted to take into account extenuating circumstances presented by your lawyer that may call for the bail to be set lower or higher than the suggested amount.
An experienced bail hearing defense attorney like those at Overson Law, PLLC will know how to make the best case to the judge that you should be released to your home on little to no bail.
Extenuating factors that the judge will take into account will be the nature and severity of the alleged crime committed, whether you have a criminal history, and the strength of ties you have to the local community. The judge can also choose to release you on your own recognizance, or without any conditions, or release you with non-monetary conditions such as attending counseling.
The preliminary hearing occurs only in class A misdemeanor and felony cases in Utah, and even then, it can be waived by the defendant. At this hearing, the prosecutor will be required to show that there is probable cause for the case to move forward by presenting their evidence and witnesses. In turn, your attorney will get a chance to rebut the evidence and cross-examine the prosecutor’s witnesses. The prosecutor will almost always ask you to waive this hearing, but you should never do so without first consulting with a defense attorney like those at Overson Law, PLLC first. Sometimes, even if we do not believe we will succeed at the preliminary hearing in getting the case dismissed, we may wish to hold it anyway so we can get a sort of preview of the prosecution’s witnesses, evidence, and overall theory of the case.
In felony cases, the arraignment will occur after the preliminary hearing it you choose not to waive it. As noted above, unless we have already come to some sort of amenable deal with the prosecutor, we are almost certain to advise you to plead not guilty at this point and change your plea later if a deal is reached.
Once we have gotten you released from jail and entered your initial plea at your arraignment, our lawyers will turn our focus to requesting any outstanding discovery that has not yet been provided, filing any necessary motions like a motion to exclude evidence obtained as a result of an illegal search and seizure, and beginning plea negotiations with the prosecutor. If you are a first-time offender being charged with relatively minor offenses, we will try to get the prosecutor to agree to let you into a pre-trial diversion program or to enter a plea in abeyance. In both of these cases, your charges will be dropped if you complete the program successfully and stay out of further trouble for the time required by the court.
In many cases, pre-trial diversion or a plea in abeyance may simply not be on the table. However, there are a number of other potential deals a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can try to work out. In some cases, we may be able to convince the prosecutor to downgrade the charge to something less serious, such as from a felony to a misdemeanor, and saving the state the time and cost of putting on a trial. Another possibility is you pleading guilty in exchange for the prosecutor recommending a lenient sentence. The judge will almost always honor a request from the prosecutor for leniency at sentencing.
If you do not wish to accept a plea deal, our skilled trial lawyers at Overson Law, PLLC are ready and able to fight your case at trial. Anyone charged with a misdemeanor or felony in the state of Utah is entitled to a trial before a jury of their peers where the jury must vote unanimously in order to convict them. If you are charged only with an infraction, such as most traffic matters, your trial will be a bench trial before a single judge who will make all the decisions including ruling on guilt or innocence.
Our lawyers can work to convince the jury or the judge that there is reasonable doubt about whether or not you actually committed the crime alleged. We will present evidence and witnesses and aggressively question and refute the prosecution’s witnesses and evidence. Our battle-tested trial lawyers at Overson Law, PLLC will leave no stone unturned fighting to get you a not guilty verdict so that you can have your life back and preserve your future.
If you are found guilty, the judge will schedule a hearing in which they will decide the penalty. Sometimes there are mandatory minimum sentences that dictate the sentence, but sometimes there is some discretion that the Judge has to decide what kind of penalty you will face. An experienced sentencing lawyer like those at Overson Law, PLLC can argue for lower penalties by presenting evidence of your good character and reputation outside of this particular incident. In some cases, we may even be able to have character witnesses testify on your behalf. We will work to get you more lenient sentences like probation instead of jail time.
The Penalties for Criminal Offenses in Utah Can Be Severe
There are a number of different penalties you can face if you are convicted of a crime in the state of Utah, including but not limited to jail time, fines and fees, court supervision through probation or parole, court-ordered drug and alcohol treatment, community service, and stay-away orders. As noted above, some crimes have mandatory minimum or maximum sentences attached to them, while others allow the judge more discretion. The class and grade of crime you are convicted of, to be discussed below, is the main force in driving which penalties you might face, but your criminal history will also be taken into account. For example, if you are a first-time offender convicted of DUI, you may get off with just fines and probation, or even be permitted to enter into a pre-trial diversion program. However, if this is your third or fourth DUI conviction, jail time is almost certain.
Crimes in the Utah Criminal Code are generally separated into three distinct categories: felonies, misdemeanors, and infractions. Felonies and misdemeanors are further subdivided by degree and class, respectively. Felonies are the most serious type of charge, for which you generally might face the most serious potential penalties like long jail sentences, while misdemeanors are less serious but can still lead to sever punishments in some cases. Infractions are more minor issues like traffic tickets which do not usually lead to the most serious types of penalties, but can lead to trouble if you accumulate a large number of them. Felonies are subdivided into capital felonies, first-degree felonies, second-degree felonies, and third-degree felonies, with capital felonies, where you can face potential capital punishment, the most severe, and third-degree the least severe. Misdemeanors are subdivided into class A, B, and C misdemeanors, with A being the most serious and C being the least serious.
Probation as an Alternative to Prison in Utah
Many criminal offenses may be punished with a prison term. However, many of these offenses may also be penalized by a probation term instead of prison. Generally, a convicted defendant will be formally sentenced to an ordinary prison term. However, the judge may choose to suspend that prison sentence and place the defendant on probation. Probation allows the defendant to return home, but they are bound by the court’s terms and conditions. Probationers are often required to meet with probation officers regularly. Any probation violations, such as committing another crime, having drugs, or otherwise doing something they are prohibited from doing, can result in an arrest. Violations of probation could result in the probationer serving out the rest of their original prison term. If you are charged with violating your probation, please reach out to our defense lawyers for more information.
Types of Crimes Our Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys Regularly Handle
Because of the many years of experience of Darwin Overson and the other members of the team at Overson Law, PLLC, there are almost no crimes out there that we have not defended a client against somewhere across the state of Utah. As such, no matter what you find yourself charged with, our attorneys will have the knowledge and experience to assist you. Below we describe some of the most common charges we have worked to help clients get downgraded or dismissed.
There are two types of assault charges a person can face in Utah: simple assault and aggravated assault. Under the law, simple assault is a misdemeanor, and aggravated assault is a felony. As such, a conviction for aggravated assault is likely to lead to more severe penalties than a simple assault conviction. However, a conviction for either can result in jail time, expensive fines, and other serious penalties. Our attorneys can work to get your charges dismissed or downgraded, like from aggravated to simple assault, and to keep you from facing the harshest possible penalties.
The category of “theft crimes” includes the crime of theft itself as well as the crimes of robbery and burglary. Theft is stealing something from someone else. Robbery uses force or fear to accomplish the theft, such as if you held a knife to someone and forced them to turn their wallet over. Burglary involves breaking into a building with the intent to commit a crime, which can include theft but also rape, homicide, and other felonies. Theft and robbery can both be charged as either felonies or misdemeanors, depending on the circumstances, including the amount stolen, but burglary is always a felony.
Drug crimes in Utah include possession of drugs, manufacture of drugs, distribution of drugs, possession with the intent to distribute, and possession of drug paraphernalia. These charges can be felonies or misdemeanors depending on a number of factors including whether you were moving the drugs or if they were for personal use, and the type of drug involved. A conviction for a crime involving any type pf drug, including marijuana, can lead to serious consequences, including a criminal record that will haunt you for years to come, As such, you should reach out to one of our experienced drug crime attorneys as soon after your arrest as possible so we can get to work on mitigating the damage and avoiding a conviction.
Sexual crimes are perceived as particularly heinous and are often treated very harshly by law enforcement and prosecutors. Particularly violent sexual offenses, such as sexual assault or rape, are associated with very harsh penalties. A convicted defendant may spend years behind bars. The charges for sex crimes are often upgraded when children are involved. Some sex offenses involving children are statutory, meaning it does not matter if the victim gave consent or the defendant did not know the victim was a minor. Defendants convicted of sex crimes may be required to register as sex offenders. The sex offender registry is public and anyone from neighbors to potential employers can find out if you are on the list.
Anyone driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol may be convicted of a DUI. In Utah, anyone driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05% or more may be arrested and charged with a DUI. The penalties for DUIs vary depending on the defendant’s circumstances. A driver with no history of DUIs and a lower BAC will face less harsh penalties than someone with multiple DUIs on their record or an extremely high BAC. DUI charges become more complicated and the penalties are made much worse when people are hurt. For every person injured by a drunk driver, the driver faces additional charges. Drivers convicted of DUIs can lose their license, sometimes for years, and be made to install breathalyzer devices in their own vehicles to prevent them from driving under the influence.
In addition, the following is a non-exhaustive list of other crimes we have worked on:
- Underage Drinking
- Disorderly Conduct
- Sexual Assault
- Insurance Fraud
- Welfare Fraud
- Unemployment Fraud
- Domestic Violence Charges
- Juvenile Charges
If You’ve Been Arrested in Utah, Our Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Help
No matter what type of criminal charges you are facing, from the slightest infraction to the most serious capital felony, it is vital that you be represented by experienced counsel like the battle-tested attorneys at Overson Law, PLLC. Through our years of experience, the team at Overson Law, PLLC is ready and able to help you with any charges you face, and will work ceaselessly to bring the matter to the most positive possible conclusion for you and your future. Contact us today at (801) 758-2287 for a free, confidential consultation.