What is the Difference Between Felony and Misdemeanor Probation in Utah?

Probation is a common consequence of criminal convictions, not only in Utah but throughout the United States.  Generally speaking, a person on probation does not have to go to jail or prison, but does have to comply with certain rules while he or she is out in the community.  Otherwise, there can be serious consequences, including incarceration – the very outcome that people on probation are trying to avoid.  Salt Lake City probation violation lawyer Darwin Overson explains how probation works for defendants who have been convicted of felonies and misdemeanors in Utah.

How is a Misdemeanor Crime Different from a Felony Offense?

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In order to understand the difference between probation for felonies and misdemeanors, first you need to understand the difference between felonies and misdemeanors, period.

Misdemeanors and felonies are both crimes.  Both will result in criminal records, both are capable of leading to expensive fines for the defendant, and both can potentially cause the defendant to be incarcerated.  (By comparison, there is a class of less serious offenses known as “infractions,” which can result in fines but not jail time.)

Some misdemeanors are more serious than other misdemeanors, and the same is also true of felonies.  The severity of a felony or misdemeanor is determined by its “degree” or “class,” respectively.  There are three classes of misdemeanors in Utah: Class C, Class B, and Class A, with Class A being the most serious.  There are also three classes of felonies: third degree, second degree, and first degree, with first degree being the most serious.  Many commonly charged crimes, such as assault and DUI, can fall into several of these categories depending on the details of the case and the circumstances under which the offense was committed.

The fines and sentences for misdemeanors and felonies can range hugely.  The least serious misdemeanor, a Class C misdemeanor, will result in a maximum fine and sentence of $750 and 90 days in jail, respectively.  By comparison, a first degree felony can result in a fine as great as $10,000 and a possible life sentence in prison.

Only one crime can lead to the death penalty in Utah: the felony crime of aggravated murder.  Because capital punishment is a sentencing possibility, aggravated murder is sometimes called a capital felony.

What Happens When You Are Placed on Probation for a Felony or Misdemeanor in Utah?

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Probation may be sentenced for both misdemeanors and felonies.  However, there are some exceptions written into the Utah Criminal Code.  Defendants who have been convicted of certain violent felonies, which are listed under Utah Code § 76-3-406, are ineligible for probation.  These felonies include, but are not limited to, rape, aggravated kidnapping, and murder.  (For a full list, see our article on probation for violent felonies.)

One of the main differences between misdemeanor probation and felony probation in Utah is the duration of probation.  As you have probably already guessed, the probation period for felonies tends to be much longer.  Generally speaking, misdemeanor probation in Utah lasts for one year, unless it is a Class A misdemeanor, in which case probation may last for three years.  Probation for a felony is also generally three years, though it can potentially last for a longer period of time.

These probation durations come from Utah Code § 77-18-1(10)(a)(i), which states the following:

“Probation may be terminated at any time at the discretion of the court or upon completion without violation of 36 months [of] probation in felony or class A misdemeanor cases, [and] 12 months in cases of class B or C misdemeanors or infractions…”

Regardless of whether you are on probation for a felony or a misdemeanor, you will be expected to follow certain rules, and to refrain from certain activities, such as drug use.  You may also be placed under supervision by a probation officer, whose job is to monitor you to ensure your compliance with these rules, unless you are placed on a certain type of probation called “bench probation,” which is unsupervised.

Despite the lack of supervision, you will still be required to avoid criminal charges, pay court fees, and notify the court about changes to your information if you are placed on bench probation.  Depending on the circumstances, bench probation may be a sentencing possibility for defendants convicted of certain misdemeanors.

With regard to supervised probation, probation officers will come from different agencies depending on what you were convicted of.  For example, if you are on supervised probation for a Class C or Class B misdemeanor, your probation officer will likely be employed by a private provider, or by a provider that operates at the county level.  If you are on probation for a Class A misdemeanor or a felony, your probation officer will be a person who works for the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole (BOPP), which operates at the state level.

To quote the BOPP, “Once a person is sentenced to prison for the commission of a felony or Class A misdemeanor, the Board of Pardons and Parole has jurisdiction over that individual. When a person is sent to prison in Utah, the offender must serve the entire sentence imposed unless the Board acts to release the offender prior to the expiration of the sentence.”

Contact a Salt Lake City Probation Violation Attorney for a Free Legal Consultation

Whether you’re on probation for a felony or misdemeanor, a violation can lead to very serious consequences.  You could even be sent to jail or prison, losing all of your most precious freedoms.

If you or one of your family members has been arrested for a probation violation in Salt Lake County, Utah County, Wasatch County, Summit County, Davis County, Weber County, or other areas of the state, it is in your best interests to contact a skilled and experienced Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer immediately.  Call the law offices of Overson Law at (801) 758-2287 to set up a free and confidential legal consultation today.