What to Do if You Get Arrested at the Sundance Film Festival

Salt Lake City criminal lawyer

The Sundance Film Festival began in Salt Lake City in 1978.  In the decades which have passed since its debut, Sundance has grown into one of America’s biggest and best-known film festivals, drawing tens of thousands of curious visitors to Utah every year.

With so many people joining together, you can be sure that police officers will be paying close attention to the crowds, looking for criminal offenses like drug possession, drug distribution, public intoxication, disorderly conduct, assault, sexual assault, and theft.  While a trip to Sundance should be cause for celebration, it can also end in an arrest.

If you or one of your family members is arrested at the Sundance Film Festival, which runs from January 21 to January 31 in Park City, it’s critically important to make sure your Constitutional rights are protected by a tough and aggressive criminal defense attorney, like Darwin Overson.  Darwin has more than 16 years of experience handling a wide range of felonies and misdemeanors on behalf of Utah residents and out-of-state visitors, and is prepared to make emergency visits to jails and holding centers on short notice.  If you’ve been charged with a crime in Park City, call Darwin at (801) 758-2287 for a free and confidential legal consultation today.

sundance film festival arrests

Were You Charged with a Crime While Attending the Sundance Film Festival in Park City?

Like most states, Utah divides criminal offenses into two categories: felonies and misdemeanors, with some common examples of each listed below.

Felonies – Felonies are serious crimes which can carry incredibly harsh penalties, including years in prison and thousands of dollars in criminal fines.  Examples of felonies in Utah include:

  • Possession of Schedule I, Schedule II, Schedule III, or Schedule IV drugs, such as LSD (acid), ecstasy, psilocybin mushrooms, cocaine, or heroin.
  • Possession of marijuana in amounts of one pound or more.
  • Drug sales or drug possession with intent to distribute, including intent to distribute marijuana.
  • Aggravated assault, or assault which results in serious injuries.
  • Theft equal to or exceeding $1,500.
  • Most sex offenses, including rape and aggravated sexual assault.

Misdemeanors – While less serious than felonies, misdemeanors still have the potential to result in jail time and costly fines, among other penalties.  Like a felony, a misdemeanor will also result in the creation of a criminal record, which can cause problems when a person tries to apply for a job or get approved for certain types of loans, including federal student loans.  Some examples of misdemeanors in Utah include:

  • Possession of marijuana in amounts up to one pound.
  • Simple assault, or assault which results in minor injuries.
  • Theft under $1,500.
  • Disorderly conduct, if the offender continues after being asked to stop.
  • Public intoxication by alcohol or drugs.  Drug possession or distribution can result in additional charges.
  • Sexual battery, which involves deliberately touching another person despite knowing (or having reason to know) the touching is unwanted.

As long as a person is within Utah state boundaries, he or she is subject to Utah’s laws, regardless of what state the visitor calls home.

UT Criminal Penalties: Fines and Sentencing

“Misdemeanor” or “felony” isn’t the only classification an alleged criminal act will receive.  Utah divides both misdemeanors and felonies into subcategories, which determine the maximum penalties a convicted offender can face.  Misdemeanors are graded by alphabetical “class,” while felonies are assigned a numbered “degree.”  Criminal penalties for felonies and misdemeanors are listed below by class and degree:

Class C Misdemeanor 

  • Fine – Up to $750
  • Sentencing – Up to 90 days in jail

Class B Misdemeanor 

  • Fine – Up to $1,000
  • Sentencing – Up to 6 months in jail

Class A Misdemeanor 

  • Fine – Up to $2,500
  • Sentencing – Up to 1 year in jail

Any offense above a Class A misdemeanor is a felony.

Third Degree Felony 

  • Fine – Up to $5,000
  • Sentencing – Ranges from 0 to 5 years in prison

Second Degree Felony 

  • Fine – Up to $10,000
  • Sentencing – Ranges from 1 to 15 years in prison

First Degree Felony  

  • Fine – Up to $10,000
  • Sentencing – Ranges from 5 years to life in prison

The way a crime is graded – and the penalties a defendant could face if he or she is convicted – depends on the exact details of the offense, such as the quantity or type of drugs, the extent to which an assault victim is injured, or the value of an item which is stolen.  For example, theft is a third degree felony if the value of the stolen item is at least $1,500 but less than $5,000, while theft equal to or exceeding $5,000 is a second degree felony.

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What Happens if I Get Arrested While Visiting from Out-of-State?

According to festival organizers, most visitors to the Sundance Film Festival – about two thirds of its total attendees – come from other states.  So what happens if an out-of-state visitor is charged with a crime while visiting Utah?

Utah’s courts have jurisdiction over criminal matters within state boundaries.  In other words, if you are charged with a crime while visiting Utah, the state of Utah has the legal authority to prosecute you.  If you return to your home state while criminal charges are pending, police officers in your state can bring you back to Utah to be tried.  If an officer in your state ever runs a check on your license plate, he or she will see the warrant for your arrest, at which point the officer will have no choice but to bring you into custody so that you can be returned to Utah for prosecution.  This holds true no matter which state you reside in, in accordance with federal laws codified at 18 U.S. Code § 3182.

Moreover, there is no chance of simply waiting out the warrant for your arrest, because no statute of limitations is applicable.  This is established by Utah Code § 76-1-304(1), which provides that “the period of limitation does not run against any defendant during any period of time in which the defendant is out of the state following the commission of an offense.”

With all of this information in mind, it is sometimes possible to avoid traveling to Utah for court appearances, which can be incredibly disruptive to your daily work schedule if you happen to live far away.  If you were charged with a misdemeanor, Utah’s laws give you the option to enter a plea (e.g. “guilty,” “not guilty”) by submitting a signed, sworn document called an affidavit to the appropriate court.  Your attorney will take care of preparing and submitting the affidavit on your behalf.  If you are able to obtain approval from the judge, you will not have to make a physical court appearance.

If you were charged with a felony, the rules regarding court appearances are a little different.  Under Utah Code § 77-13-4, “All pleas in felony cases shall be entered by the defendant in open court and the proceedings recorded,” which means you generally must appear in person.  However, if your attorney is able to have the felony charges against you reduced to misdemeanor charges, which is contingent on approval from the prosecutor, it may be possible to submit an affidavit rather than traveling all the way to Utah for court proceedings.

If I Get Convicted, Can I Seal or Expunge My Record?

Fines and sentencing aren’t the only consequences of a criminal conviction.  You will also receive a criminal record, which can be a heavy burden to bear when it comes to seeking employment, qualifying for loans, or earning the professional licenses you need to advance in your career field.

A criminal record can easily be accessed by virtually anyone, including prospective employers, for many years after you are convicted.  While employers cannot ask you about prior arrests, Utah Labor Division Anti-Discrimination Rules, Rule R606-2 permits questions about prior convictions, provided the question is relevant to the tasks and duties required by the job.  Thus, a prior conviction has the potential to derail your efforts to find a job.

These consequences can take a heavy toll on your personal and professional life.  However, in some cases, it is possible to seal the record of an arrest or conviction by obtaining something called an expungement.  Once your record has been expunged, or sealed, you may legally respond to job interview questions as if the conviction never took place.

Female judge with brown gavel and law books

However, not all offenses are eligible for expungement in Utah, and strict criteria apply to those offenses which do qualify.  There is a waiting period of three to 10 years depending on the severity of the offense, and furthermore, you must have paid all fines and restitution.

Convictions of the following offenses cannot be expunged in Utah:

  • Any first degree felony (e.g. aggravated robbery)
  • Any violent felony, regardless of degree (e.g. stalking)
  • Any sex crime requiring registration as a sex offender
  • Automobile homicide
  • Felony DUI (Driving Under the Influence)

Hopefully, your visit to the Sundance Film Festival will be free of incident – but if the worst does occur, and you or one of your friends is placed under arrest, know that you can turn to criminal attorney Darwin Overson for dedicated, around-the-clock legal support, no matter how serious the charges against you may be.

However, it’s crucial that you act quickly.  The prosecutor won’t waste any time building a case against you, so don’t delay taking action to defend yourself.  If you were charged with a crime at Sundance Film Festival, call criminal lawyer Darwin Overson at (801) 758-2287 to set up a free, completely confidential case evaluation.  Darwin is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including holidays.

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