What Happens at a Scheduling Conference in Utah Criminal Court?

The criminal justice system can be extremely confusing and disorienting, especially for those who have never before been charged with a crime. Events are likely to feel like they are happening very quickly, which is why it is vital to retain an experienced Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer like those at Overson & Bugden as soon after your arrest as possible. We can help you at your arraignment and bail hearing, and then focus on the possibility of negotiating a settlement deal at the scheduling conference. Below, we explain what the scheduling conference is, how it interacts with the events in the criminal process that come before and after it, and how our lawyers can work at this conference to push your case towards a successful resolution.

What Happens Before the Scheduling Conference in a Utah Criminal Case?

The process will begin when you are either issued a citation with a court date on it, which usually occurs only for minor infractions like most traffic matters, or placed under arrest for a crime. The police can arrest you on the spot if they have probable cause to believe you committed the crime, but usually there will be some sort of investigation before the officers apply for an arrest warrant with a judge. If the warrant is granted, they will come arrest you and take you to the local police station for the booking process. Once you are booked, you will be kept in the holding cell or at the local jail until your initial appearance, which usually must occur within 72 hours of booking at most.

The initial appearance usually includes a bail hearing, where the judge will decide whether to release you on your own recognizance, release you on a set amount of bail, or hold you in jail until the matter is resolved. While judges most often rely on the Utah Uniform Bail Schedule to set bail for a particular crime, they can also lower the amount at their discretion, in consideration of such factors as your criminal history and ties to the community. Our skilled Utah bail hearing attorneys know how to make the most persuasive arguments that you should be released on little to no bail.

The initial appearance will also consist of the judge reading your charges against you and advising you of legal rights, including your right to counsel if you do not already have a lawyer. In misdemeanor cases, you will also be asked to enter an initial plea of guilty or not guilty. Your lawyer is likely to advise you to plead not guilty while we collect more evidence and assess the strength of the case. In a felony case, the formal arraignment where you enter your plea will occur later, possibly after a preliminary hearing.

What is a Utah Scheduling Conference?

The scheduling conference is essentially a collaborative meeting between all parties meant to facilitate a potential settlement of the case before the matter proceeds to trial. It will typically occur in cases involving felonies or schedule A misdemeanors. While informal plea negotiations may have started between your defense attorney and the prosecutor before the scheduling conference, this is usually where they will formalize an agreement. If you are a first-time offender, we may be able to get the prosecutor to agree to let you into a pre-trial intervention program, which can help you avoid a criminal record. Other possible deal include the prosecutor downgrading the charges to something less serious or agreeing to recommend a lenient sentence in exchange for the guilty plea.

Of course, there will be some cases where you do not wish to take the deal offered, or you are simply uninterested in taking any deal and want to take the case to trial. If this is so, then the scheduling conference will be used as a time to schedule any hearings on pre-trial motions and set the dates for trial.

What are the Possible Outcomes of a Utah Scheduling Conference?

If the scheduling conference ends in a settlement agreement, a court date will be set for you to enter your plea, or to agree to whatever deferred prosecution or pre-trial intervention program you were offered. If you successfully complete a deferred prosecution agreement or pre-trial intervention program, the charges will be dropped and you will not have any sort of criminal record. If you plea to something less serious or in exchange for a lenient sentencing recommendation, there will be a sentencing hearing either right after you enter your plea or on another date in the future. At this hearing, the judge will hand down any jail sentences or other penalties, usually in line with what the prosecutor has recommended.

If the scheduling hearing does not result in a settlement of the case, there may be future scheduling hearings where the parties will be asked to try again to reach a deal. Otherwise, the matter will proceed to hearings on motions, such as a motion for suppression of evidence that was obtained as a result of an illegal search and seizure in Salt Lake City, or a motion to compel discovery that the prosecution has not handed over. In Utah, you are guaranteed a right to a jury trial unless you are charged with an infraction. However, you can also choose a bench trial if you wish. You and your attorney can discuss the pros and cons of each type up of trial and which will give you the best chance at a not guilty verdict.

Call Our Skilled Utah Criminal Defense Attorneys Today

The scheduling conference is an important part of the criminal case process that will give you and your lawyer a chance to negotiate a settlement or agree to a plea deal that is amenable to both sides. However, it is vital that you retain an experienced Utah criminal defense lawyer like those at Overson & Bugden far in advance of this conference so that we can be prepared to make a successful argument on your behalf. If you do not wish to take a deal, our skilled trail attorneys are always ready and able to fight for your innocence in the courtroom. Call us today at (801) 758-2287 for a free consultation.