Last Updated: June 29, 2023

Criminal Defense in Utah District Courts

Utah’s district court system handles all cases involving felony crimes or class A misdemeanor charges. In cases involving both felony or class A charges as well as class B or class C misdemeanors, the district court should normally handle of the charges arising from a single criminal episode in one consolidated case. Any criminal…

Utah’s district court system handles all cases involving felony crimes or class A misdemeanor charges. In cases involving both felony or class A charges as well as class B or class C misdemeanors, the district court should normally handle of the charges arising from a single criminal episode in one consolidated case.

Any criminal charge can be serious, but felony and class A misdemeanor charges can have significant lasting consequences, even after the court case is resolved. Choosing the right attorney to defend your rights is important.

Experience, knowledge, and skill are all important. With over 40 years combined experience, the attorneys at Stone River Law have defended clients facing the most serious charges on the books in Utah. We work hard to protect your rights. Contact us today to see how we can help you get the results you need.

District or Justice Court

A justice court is established at the county or municipality (city or town) level, and has the power to rule on small claims civil cases and on criminal cases involving charges at the class B misdemeanor level or lower. Though a justice court judge is limited to hearing only such cases, Utah code 78A-7-105(5) states that they have “the same authority regarding matters within their jurisdiction” that district court judges have. This includes the authority to sign search warrants or arrest warrants for matters within their geographical jurisdiction.

A district court has general jurisdiction to hear matters in Utah and is also considered to be a “court of record” for purposes of review and appeal. Historically, the proceedings in a “court of record” were captured in writing by a reporter, stenographer, or shorthand reporter. Today, the record of proceedings is captured by audio and video recording systems.

Although most justice courts in Utah now create audio or video recordings of their proceedings, the recordings are not considered to be “official” records of the proceedings. Appeal or review of justice court proceedings therefore are usually in the form of a “de novo” trial or hearing, held in the district court.

In criminal cases, the most significant differences between a justice court and a district court relate to the level of charge involved and the nature of an appeal from a decision or verdict. Because there is no “de novo” right to appeal from a district court, it is especially important to get things right the first time when facing serious criminal charges. Having the right attorney can be critical.

Originally Published: June 29, 2023

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