In Utah, a misdemeanor can be a serious conviction with lasting consequences. A single misdemeanor charge can carry penalties of up to a year in jail as well as fines and surcharges totaling a maximum of $4,750. Collateral consequences of a misdemeanor conviction can also include loss of your job, driver license suspension, professional licensing problems, firearm restrictions, and more.
The consequences of any conviction can be severe. Choosing the right attorney to defend your misdemeanor case can make all the difference.
What is a Misdemeanor?
A misdemeanor is a classification of criminal charges, with a severity less than that of a felony. Under Utah law, there are three classifications of misdemeanors, each with their own penalties and consequences.
- Class A Misdemeanors are the most serious type, punishable by up to a year in jail and fines and surcharges up to $2,500. Crimes that can classify as a class A misdemeanor include drug possession (Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substances), theft, assault, criminal mischief, violation of a protective order, stalking, and more. Crimes at the class A misdemeanor level or higher cannot be tried in a Justice Court but must instead be handled by a district court.
- Class B Misdemeanors are one step removed from class A misdemeanors, and may be result in up to six months of jail and a fine of $1,000. Examples of class B misdemeanors include DUI and driving with measurable metabolite, retail theft, criminal trespass, possession of less than one ounce of marijuana, possession of alcohol by a minor (minor in possession), domestic violence assault, criminal mischief, and more. Charges of class B misdemeanors and lower may be tried at either a District Court or a Justice Court, depending on the geographic jurisdiction of the courts.
- Class C Misdemeanors are the lowest level of misdemeanor and just one step above minor infractions such as speeding. The maximum punishments for crimes of this level include 90 days of jail time and a fine of up to $750. Crimes that may result in a class C misdemeanor include public intoxication, disorderly conduct, and other lower-level offenses. Charges at this level may also be tried at either a District or Justice Court.
What are My Options?
No matter what level of crime you are charged with, when you are facing potential jail time you have important constitutional right that provide for trial by jury, representation by a qualified attorney, the opportunity to confront and cross-examine witnesses against you, to call witnesses on your own behalf, and to receive copies of and view the evidence against you.
In addition to protecting these important rights, our attorneys work with clients to identify strategies that will best accomplish each client’s specific goals in their case.
Take the Case to Trial
All felony and class A misdemeanor cases in Utah carry a Constitutional right to trial by jury. Class B and class C misdemeanors also require trial by jury if you have filed a timely written jury demand with the court.
Taking a case to trial with a full jury is not a decision to be taken lightly. There is always some level of risk involved when the question of guilty or innocence is turned over to a jury.
Your attorney can work with you to identify potential trial strategies, to understand the risks and potential consequences of possible trial outcomes, and to understand the odds of winning at trial and other alternatives that may be available to you. Only then should you make a final decision to take your case to trial.
The majority of criminal cases in Utah ultimately resolve without a full jury trial. Before finalizing any negotiations, you should be able to review and assess evidence with your attorney to ensure that the negotiated resolution is your best option.
Fundamental due process principles and specific rules of criminal procedure require prosecutors to turn over both inculpatory and exculpatory evidence to defense counsel prior to the point at which a defendant is required to choose between trial and a negotiated resolution.
The Best Option
The best option in each case will be the option that most completely accomplishes the goals that matter most to you. That can mean staying out of jail, avoiding a felony conviction, protecting your employment options, standing up for your rights, or whatever else is most important to you.
Neither a negotiated resolution nor a full jury trial are the ultimate goal in a case. Instead, they are both tools that can be used to help accomplish what it is that really matters to you.
Getting Help from a Qualified Attorney
Our attorneys have handled the most serious charges on the books in Utah, including trials for aggravated murder, sexual abuse, and much more. Our attorneys also understand that misdemeanor charges are significant, and that every case and client is unique, requiring individual consideration of your goals and needs.
When facing any level or kind of criminal charge, it is essential to have advice from an experienced defense attorney before proceeding further in your case. Even if the case is still in the investigations stage, consultation with an attorney can be critical before you even decide whether you will talk to police or not.
Make sure that your rights are protected. Learn more about our criminal defense team online, or contact us directly and see what the right criminal defense attorney can do for you.