Criminal cases all tend to run the usual course. They begin with an arrest, charges are assessed, bail is determined, a trial is held, and penalties are imposed in the event of a conviction. While the path may seem the same for all cases, each case is handled individually and treated with care and respect. Different charges will, of course, result in different penalties. Similarly, different offenses may require different bail amounts. To prevent judges from arbitrarily imposing fines and bail, the State of Utah has developed the Uniform Fine and Bail Schedule.
Utah’s Uniform Fine Schedule, also referred to as the Fine and Bail Forfeiture Schedule, is used by Utah criminal courts to assess fines for various criminal charges and determine bail. The Schedule contains guidelines for assessing fines for various criminal charges. This information includes specific criminal charges as well as guidelines for offenses not specifically mentioned within the Schedule. The Schedule is also used to determine a starting point for bail. While the Schedule is meant to provide uniformity across the state in regards to fines and bail, judges may deviate from the Schedule if the interests of justice so require.
If you are facing criminal charges in Utah, the state’s Uniform Fine and Bail Forfeiture Schedule is likely to make an appearance at some point in your case. Our Utah bail defense lawyers will fight to get you the lowest bail and fairest fines possible. We can help you protect your rights throughout your case. Call Overson & Bugden at (801) 758-2287 to set up a free, confidential legal consultation with our dedicated team.
What is Utah’s Criminal Fine and Bail Schedule?
Utah’s Uniform Fine and Bail Schedule exists pursuant to the Utah Code § 76-3-301.5. According to this statute, the Schedule must include guidelines for fines for criminal offenses. Fines must be set in ways proportional to the gravity of the offense and should be imposed uniformly across the state. Not only does the Schedule contain suggested fines for specific offenses, but it also contains information about enhancing or reducing fines.
Courts frequently consider both aggravating and mitigating factors when determining issues of fines and bail. Under the Uniform Fine and Bail Schedule, guidelines have been established regarding how to determine these factors and how they should play into a judge’s decision. These guidelines include a number of factors like presentence investigation reports and information on how to determine if someone is a flight risk or safety threat for bail purposes.
The Schedule is quite vast and cannot be so simply summed up. Exactly how the Schedule is used in your case will depend on a great many variables, including what you are charged with, your criminal record, and the magnitude of your alleged criminal offense. Call our Utah bail defense lawyers for help with fines and bail hearings.
Using the Schedule to Determine Fines for Criminal Offenses in Utah
Utah’s criminal statutes do contain provisions regarding fines for misdemeanors and felonies. However, these statutes provide very little guidance to judges on exactly how to impose fines. The statutes provide a maximum fine penalty but do not give any information on determining fines that are less than the maximum. This is where the Uniform Fine and Bail Schedule comes into play.
The Schedule contains information regarding fines for a wide variety of offenses. From traffic tickets to serious felonies, the Uniform Fine Schedule provides guidance for nearly every offense on the books for Utah. What’s especially important is the guidance for mitigating and aggravating factors when determining the proper fine amount for criminal convictions.
For example, the Schedule includes a matrix for assessing fines for misdemeanors based on the defendant’s criminal disposition. Criminal disposition in this context refers to a defendant’s criminal history and is rated in five stages from poor to excellent. A defendant with a poor criminal disposition convicted of a Class A misdemeanor would face the maximum statutory fine of $2,500. However, a defendant with an excellent criminal disposition would only have to pay $510 if convicted of the same offense.
Determining Bail in Criminal Cases Using the Bail Schedule in Utah
The Uniform Fine and Bail Schedule does not actually refer to bail directly. Most of the Schedule contains information explicitly about fines. However, the Schedule for fines is to be used as a starting point for determining monetary bail. The Schedule also states that, while the fines are a starting point for bail, the defendant’s ability to pay bail must be considered.
This means that when determining bail, the court will look to the potential fines for a defendant’s charges. The suggested fine for a defendant’s criminal charges will act as the starting point for bail. Depending on any mitigating and aggravating factors, like criminal history and offense severity, bail may be adjusted up or down.
Utah recently passed bail reform laws that allowed judges to impose the least restrictive means necessary to secure a defendant’s appearance in court, including non-monetary bail. However, just this year, that law was repealed. While non-monetary bail is no longer a required consideration by law, judges may still choose to consider it under their own discretion. Call our Utah bail defense attorneys for help defending yourself against unreasonable bail and fines.
Do Utah Judges Always Use the Fine and Bail Schedule?
Generally, courts and judges must consult the Uniform Fine and Bail Schedule before making a final decision in a criminal case. However, this does not mean that judges have no discretion in individual cases. Judges are frequently permitted to deviate from the Schedule, if necessary, under the circumstances. If they do so, they usually must provide some sort of reason for their deviation, which could be challenged on appeal by the defendant.
The Schedule is intended to make the imposition of fines and bail determinations more uniform throughout the state. However, there will always be cases that are out of the ordinary and may require special considerations. For example, a defendant charged with committing an extremely violent crime may warrant special consideration from the judge. While the Schedule allows judges to consider aggravating factors, an especially heinous crime may call for a more stringent punishment.
In addition, the consideration of mitigating and aggravating factors always involves a certain amount of discretion from the judge. A defendant may show great remorse for their actions, and remorse is often considered a mitigating factor. However, it is ultimately up to the judge to decide if that remorse is sincere or fake.
If you have been charged with a crime, contact our Utah bail defense attorneys. Our team can help you fight for fair and reasonable bail and prevent unjust fines.
Assessing Criminal History to Calculate Fines for Felonies and Misdemeanors in Utah
As mentioned previously, the statutory maximum fines for misdemeanors and felonies can be found in the Utah Criminal Code. According to the Utah Code § 76-3-301, the statutory maximums are as follows:
- First- or second-degree felonies – $10,000
- Third-degree felony – $5,000
- Class A misdemeanor – $2,500
- Class B misdemeanor – $1,000
- Class C misdemeanor or infraction – $750
Remember, certain crimes may permit fines greater than the statutory maximum. Some offenses always impose a greater fine due to the serious nature of the offense. Other offenses may impose fines beyond the statutory maximum if certain conditions are present, like if the victim is a child.
Fines may increase or decrease based on multiple sentencing factors in the Utah Adult Sentencing and Release Guidelines. According to these guidelines, a criminal history score may be assessed by assigning point values for things like prior convictions and supervision history. The more points a defendant scores, the more severe their criminal history is, and the higher their fines may be.
There are a number of things to consider when assessing a defendant’s criminal history. Among these considerations are:
- Prior felony convictions
- Prior misdemeanor convictions
- Supervision history, including probation and parole
- Past convictions related to firearms
- Any history of juvenile adjudications
- The duration of the most recent gap between criminal offenses
The court may comb through your criminal record to assess your fines and possible jail or prison time if you are convicted. For defendants with lengthy criminal records, this may be a complex process. It is easy for courts to accidentally include points for things that should be left out, as not every aspect of your criminal record is considered. Convictions that are too remote, usually outside of 10 years, should not be counted against you. Our Utah bail defense lawyers will stand by your side and make sure the penalties against you are fair.
Bail Amounts Under Utah’s Bail Schedule
The suggested fine amounts in the Schedule are also starting points for bail. If the suggested amount for your fine is $5,000, that is where bail consideration will begin as well. However, bail is pointless if a defendant is unable to pay. It would not matter if bail were $10,000 or $10. If a defendant cannot pay, they cannot be released. In recent years, the legal field has recognized the importance of a defendant’s ability to pay. Defendants must not be jailed simply because they are poor.
While Utah’s Uniform Fine and Bail Schedule is used to determine proper monetary amounts for bail, judges must consult the Ability-to-Pay Matrix for Pretrial Release. The matrix includes adjustments for family size, poverty level, and a defendant’s risk assessment. Essentially, a defendant with a higher poverty level, more family members, and a lower risk assessment is less likely to have to pay cash bail. Instead, a non-monetary restriction may be employed by the court.
On the contrary, defendants on the opposite end of this spectrum are more likely to pay monetary bail. For example, a defendant with a higher income, fewer family members to support, and who is a higher flight risk will probably pay some amount of money toward their bail.
Our Utah bail defense attorneys can help you get the least restrictive bail possible. We can argue that you are not a flight risk, and if you have a lower income, we can argue you are unable to pay.
Bail Reform and the Uniform Fine and Bail Schedule in Utah
Bail reform has become a hot topic in the legal world in Utah and many other states. Bail reform does not refer to any single change in the laws surrounding bail. Instead, bail reform is the constantly changing and evolving state of bail and how we assess pretrial release to keep up with changing societal norms and values. The Schedule is itself a piece of bail reform, as it creates uniformity in bail and fines where uniformity did not previously exist.
In Utah, recently enacted bail reform allowed judges to consider non-monetary bail for defendants who were low risk or unable to pay. Non-monetary pretrial release restrictions could include things like electronic monitoring or regular check-ins with law enforcement.
Unfortunately, this recent bail reform was very short-lived and repealed in early 2021. While the repeal means that non-monetary pretrial restrictions are no longer required to be considered, it does not mean that a judge could not impose such restrictions. It is still possible that indigent defendants who cannot afford bail or defendants who are very low flight risks may still be granted bail without paying money.
If you are facing a bail hearing for your criminal charges, our Utah bail defense attorneys can help you fight for the lowest bail possible. We will review your case and argue for non-monetary bail if possible. If monetary bail is required, we will help make sure that it is fair and affordable.
Call Our Utah Bail and Fines Attorneys for Help
If you have been charged with a criminal offense, contact our Utah bail defense attorneys for help. Our team is experienced in helping people fight for affordable bail and keeping fines as low as possible. Call Overson & Bugden at (801) 758-2287 to set up a free, private legal consultation with our skilled and knowledgeable staff.