West Valley City Criminal Defense Lawyer
For most people, being arrested on suspicion of committing a crime is a frightening and completely alien experience. The process of being handcuffed, questioned, fingerprinted, and photographed can be extremely traumatic, and many individuals who are charged with committing criminal offenses initially feel overwhelmed, panicked, and confused. Regardless of personal background or charge details, virtually everyone facing a criminal allegation worries about the same questions. Will I lose my job? Will I have to go to prison? Will I be fined?
Unfortunately, in the state of Utah many criminal convictions do come with extremely harsh legal consequences. Even convictions which are assigned a comparatively “light” misdemeanor grading can result in months of incarceration, and thousands of dollars in fines. Furthermore, the penalties for being convicted of a crime often continue to haunt former convicts well into their futures. An individual who has a documented offense on their criminal record may be overlooked by prospective employers, barred from living within certain buildings or communities, or even fired from the position they currently hold.
When Should I Contact an Experienced West Valley City Criminal Defense Attorney?
In some cases where you are charged with minor crimes or infractions, like most traffic matters, the police will simply issue you a citation with a court date on it and allow you to go on your way. However, it is very important that you not treat this as a “get-out-of-jail free card” and toss the citation aside. If you fail to appear for court as scheduled, you run the risk of the judge ordering a bench warrant for your arrest. Instead, you should contact an experienced West Valley City criminal defense lawyer like those at Overson Law, PLLC as soon after you receive the citation as possible. We can work to reach out to the prosecutor and try to get the entire matter resolved on the date of your first court appearance.
Most times when the police believe you have committed a crime, they will place you under arrest. If they personally witness you commit the crime or otherwise have probable cause, they can place you under arrest on the spot. Otherwise, they will conduct an investigation into the reported crime, including interviewing witnesses and assessing physical evidence like DNA. Once they believe that they have enough to prove you committed the crime, they will go before a judge to make an application for an arrest warrant. If the judge grants the warrant, the police will typically come right away to wherever you are to execute the warrant and place you under arrest.
After your arrest, you will be transported to the local police station for what is known as the booking process. During this process, the police will photograph you, fingerprint you, collect your biographical information, and inventory any of your personal items for safekeeping. This is also when you will typically be allowed a phone call, which you should use to contact a skilled West Valley City criminal defense attorney like those at Overson Law, PLLC, or to reach out to a loved one who can contact us on your behalf. This is especially important because your first appearance and bail hearing, two important events, will occur within 72 hours of your booking, and usually sooner, and we will need time to prepare to appear with you. While awaiting your first court appearance, you will be kept in the station’s holding cell or at the local jail.
Important Stages of a West Valley City Criminal Case
The West Valley City criminal process can be long and complex. By engaging the services of an experienced Utah criminal defense attorney like those at Overson Law, PLLC as early in the process as possible, you can rest assured that we will fight at every stage to bring the matter to the best possible resolution for you and your future.
At your first appearance, the judge will read the charges against you and advice you of the rights afforded to you as a criminal defendant, including the right to an attorney if you have yet to retain one. In misdemeanor cases, the arraignment, where the judge asks you to enter an initial plea of guilty or not guilty, also occurs at the first appearance, while in felony cases, it does not occur until later, after a potential preliminary hearing. Either way, unless we have already come to an amenable deal with the prosecutor, we are likely to advise you to enter a not guilty plea so that we can have time to collect all the evidence and assess the strength of the case against you. The plea can easily be changed to guilty later if you decide to accept a plea deal.
The bail hearing is where the judge will decide whether to hold you or release you from jail while the underlying charges are dealt with in the court system. If the judge decides you can be released, they will also decide whether or not to set cash bail or to impose some other sort of conditions on your release. This hearing takes place at or around the same time as your first appearance, meaning you must act fast to retain a skilled West Valley City bail hearing attorney like those at Overson Law, PLLC. Our experienced attorneys know how to make the most persuasive arguments to get the judge to release you on little to no bail, based on such factors as your criminal history, the severity of the alleged offense, and your ties to the community.
In cases involving class A misdemeanors or felonies, there is the possibility of a preliminary hearing where the prosecutor will be forced to prove to the judge that there is probable cause to support the case proceeding. The prosecutor will usually ask you to waive this hearing, but you should never do so without first consulting with your attorney. Sometimes, we may wish to hold the hearing even if we do not believe the judge will dismiss the charges, just so we can get a preview of the prosecutor’s argument and how their witnesses and evidence hold up in court.
In some cases where you are a first-time offender charged with a relatively minor crime, we might be able to work out a deal with the prosecutor for you to enter a plea in abeyance or enter into a pre-trial intervention program. In either case, if you successfully stay out of trouble for a time and complete the court’s requirements, your charges will be dismissed. If pre-trial intervention is not on the table, other potential deals include the prosecutor downgrading the charge to something less serious, like from a felony to a misdemeanor, or recommending a lenient sentence to the judge.
If you do not wish to take a plea deal or are not satisfied with the deals offered, our battle-tested trail attorneys at Overson Law, PLLC are ready and able to fight for you at trial. Note that for non-class A misdemeanors, there is no right to a jury trial, and so the trial will be a bench trial before a single judge who makes all rulings, including deciding guilt or innocence. For class A misdemeanors and felonies, you will have the choice between a bench trial or a jury trial where the jury must vote unanimously to convict you. Consult with your attorney about which option offers you the best chance at success in your case.
Our Utah Criminal Defense Lawyers Serving West Valley City
If you are convicted of committing a crime, everything you value could be taken away, including your career, your income, your freedom, your personal relationships, and your self-esteem. Depending on the nature of your offense, you could also lose valued privileges such as the ability to drive, vote, or own a firearm. You may also be ordered to fulfill additional sentencing requirements, such as mandatory substance abuse counseling, or registration on a list of sex offenders. A criminal conviction can permanently change your entire life.
When your future is stake, you cannot afford to represent yourself in court. Police officers and prosecuting attorneys are specifically trained to overwhelm alleged offenders with harsh interrogation tactics, and defendants are often unaware that their legal rights are being violated. West Valley City criminal defense attorney Darwin Overson believes people accused of committing crimes are innocent until proven guilty, and will aggressively advocate for you in court to protect your rights and ensure a fair trial. Regardless of the allegations against you, you deserve the benefit of an experienced and committed defense attorney.
The West Valley City lawyers at Overson Law, LLC have over 15 years of experience handling a wide variety of criminal matters, including but not limited to:
- Juvenile Offenses
- Sex Offenses
- White Collar Offenses
West Valley City Arrest Data
According to the Crime in Utah Report, which is compiled annually by the Utah Department of Public Safety, in 2012 West Valley City had a population of 132,434 residents. The West Valley City Police Department reported making:
- 4,563 adult arrests
- 1,710 juvenile arrests
- 6,273 total arrests
This data means that over the course of 2012, almost 5% of the West Valley City population was arrested. Crimes with the highest arrest tallies included:
- 120 robbery arrests
- 388 aggravated assault arrests
- 889 burglary arrests
- 4,038 larceny arrests
In 2012 West Valley City experienced a crime rate of 45.97 per 1,000, the fourth highest crime rate in Utah.
Utah Crimes: Penalties and Sentencing
The two primary assault categories are:
- Simple Assault
- Aggravated Assault
Simple assault is elevated to the more serious charge of aggravated assault when the victim’s injuries are classified as severe, or when the victim works within certain areas of the public sector (e.g. EMTs, police officers).
- Simple Assault
Grade: Class A Misdemeanor
Sentence: 1 year, jail
- Aggravated Assault
Grade: 2nd Degree Felony
Sentence: 15 years, prison
You may have noticed that the West Valley City arrest data differentiated between robbery, burglary, and larceny (theft). While these terms are interchangeable in casual conversation, they are separate offenses in the eyes of the courts.
- Robbery: Involves stealing directly from a person (e.g. mugging, purse-snatching).
- Burglary: Involves entering a premises with the intent to commit a crime (e.g. breaking and entering).
- Theft: Involves stealing goods, services, or another commodity (e.g. identity theft, cable theft).
Charges related to robbery, burglary, or theft may receive a minimum grading of Class B Misdemeanor (theft only), up to a maximum grading of 1st Degree Felony. The minimum grading for robbery and burglary is 3rd Degree Felony. Robbery and burglary are not misdemeanor charges.
Narcotics charges and the associated legal consequences vary widely. Most narcotics charges fall into one of two categories:
- Simple Possession (personal possession only)
- Possession with Intent to Distribute
The crime grading for drug offenses is influenced by type and amount of drug, which can in turn influence the charge itself. For example, if a person is found in possession of two pounds of marijuana, he or she is more likely to be charged with intent to distribute than a person who is found in possession of two grams.
In general, Utah drug crimes can be given classifications ranging from a minimum Class B Misdemeanor (e.g. marijuana possession, less than one ounce) up to a maximum 1st Degree Felony (e.g. intent to distribute heroin in a school zone).
- Class B Misdemeanor
Sentence: 6 months, jail
- 1st Degree Felony
Sentence: 5 years to life in prison
Additionally, drug conviction penalties often include mandatory substance abuse counseling.
If you have been accused of committing a crime, it is critical that you protect yourself by retaining the services of a West Valley City criminal defense attorney as soon as you possibly can. Contact our law offices online, or call Darwin Overson at (801) 758-2287 for a free and confidential consultation. Our phone lines are staffed around the clock, and our attorneys are available to make holding center and jail visits.