What is the Difference Between Being Indicted and Convicted in Utah?

Salt Lake City criminal lawyer

The criminal justice process is a complex system of rules and procedures designed to determine truth. Evidence is presented to and considered by a jury or judge, and a defendant is found guilty or not guilty of an alleged crime. Certain aspects of the criminal justice process are so widely known that they have become part of the average citizen’s common knowledge base. However, other aspects are more niche and may only be familiar to legal professionals or people who have already gone through the criminal justice process. One particularly confusing element of criminal trials is the difference between an indictment and a conviction.

In criminal procedure, the indictment must always come before a conviction. The indictment is like the formal charges against the defendant. We often describe criminal defendants as being “charged” with certain crimes. However, charges do not become official until the defendant is formally indicted. The conviction comes at the end of a defendant’s trial if they are found guilty or after they plead guilty. While indictments are necessary to kick off a criminal trial, not every criminal trial will end with a conviction.

If you or someone you know has been arrested for an alleged criminal offense, you will need an attorney’s help right away. Be warned; trials do not happen as they do on television or in movies. The criminal justice process is both long and complicated. Schedule a free, private legal consultation with the Utah criminal defense lawyers at Overson Law today. Call (801) 758-2287.

Indictments vs. Convictions in Utah

After an indictment, a defendant is considered formally charged. A defendant may be accused of multiple crimes, but that does not mean all those crimes will stick in the indictment. For example, you could be accused of robbery, arson, and burglary, but if there is only enough evidence to support an indictment for the arson charges, the rest will fall off. In that case, you would be indicted for arson and proceed only on those charges. Any other allegations would be dismissed early on.

A conviction is different than an indictment because it happens near the end of your criminal proceedings. A conviction happens when a defendant is found guilty of the charges for which they were indicted. Without an indictment, there can be no criminal trial. However, without a conviction, there can be no sentence and punishment.

Both indictments and convictions require some proof to back them up. Indictments do not require a lot of proof. The indictment is a written document that spells out why prosecutors believe a defendant has committed a crime and should be arrested. Once the document is filed, the defendant is considered indicted. Prosecutors have a lot of power and discretion when it comes to indictments, but they legally must have “probable cause” to allow the indictment to go through.

Convictions require far more evidence and are decided by a jury of the defendant’s peers or a judge. Criminal trials require prosecutors to prove their case “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is an extremely high burden to meet. While the prosecutor may try to convince a jury of the defendant’s guilt, only the jury may make the final decision (except in bench trials where the judge acts as the jury).

If you have been indicted, call our Park City criminal defense attorneys right away. An indictment will kick off criminal proceedings against you, and time is of the essence.

What Happens After You Are Indicted in Utah?

While an indictment is a formal document that must contain specific information, being indicted is not always a formal process. To be indicted, a prosecutor must file a written document containing the alleged evidence and facts of your case, along with reasons why prosecutors believe they have probable cause.

After being indicted, you may be arrested. For many, the arrest is where defendants find out they have been indicted in the first place. Following the arrest, defendants may be put through numerous stages of the criminal justice process before ever reaching a trial.

The information provided by the prosecutor is sometimes enough to warrant an indictment, but not enough to warrant a trial. Many cases go through preliminary hearings where prosecutors must prove that enough evidence exists to support the charges against you and a trial. If prosecutors cannot meet this burden, the charges against you may be dropped. The indictment will have been for nothing.

On the other hand, you could be held over for trial, and evidence will be presented to a jury of your peers. You will be found either guilty or not guilty based on this evidence. Essentially, the indictment could lead to nothing, or it could lead to a conviction. For help with your criminal trial, call our Ogden criminal defense lawyers.

What Happens After a Conviction in Utah?

A conviction is perhaps the worst-case scenario for a criminal defendant. A conviction occurs when you have gone to trial, presented and argued evidence, and a judge or jury has found you guilty. The conviction is the final word on your trial, although it might be overturned on an appeal. While no trial can begin without an indictment, not every trial will end in a conviction. Prosecutors must meet a very high burden of proof to secure a conviction, and it is not uncommon for prosecutors to fail to meet that burden.

After a conviction, your trial is complete, and you will move on to the sentencing phase. Depending on the nature of the charges against you, your sentencing may occur at a separate hearing, or it may happen the day you are convicted. While a conviction feels like the end of the line, there may still be hope for your case. Our St. George criminal defense lawyers could help you file an appeal and work to help you overturn your conviction and get another shot at a new trial.

Call Our Utah Criminal Defense Lawyers

If you are in legal trouble, you may be facing an indictment and a possible conviction. Every criminal trial is unique and deserves careful attention from an experienced legal professional. Our Riverton criminal defense lawyers will be with you every step of the way. Schedule a free legal consultation at Overson Law, PLLC by calling (801) 758-2287.