Knowledge is power. Being charged with a felony can be frightening. But knowing what to expect and what your options are will help you make the best informed decisions.
Giving up is not an option.
The experienced attorneys at Utah’s Stone River Law are prepared to defend your rights and work toward a case result that protects your future. Whether you intend to take your case to trial or are looking for a negotiated resolution, contact us today to see what the right attorneys can do.
What options do I have?
No matter what you are charged with, when you are facing jail or prison, you have a constitutional right to representation by a qualified attorney. Each case is different, and a good attorney can work with you to develop the best case strategy.
Three main areas of defense strategy in a felony case are:
- Plea Negotiations
- Pretrial Litigation
- Trial (Jury or Bench)
Jury Trial or Bench Trial
In ever felony criminal case, the person charged is guaranteed a presumption of innocence and the right of trial by jury. In rare cases, a defendant may choose to waive a jury and instead choose a bench trial in which a judge serves as the fact finder and determines the final verdict of guilty or not guilty.
Litigation in Criminal Cases
The idea of “litigation” is not strictly limited to any single phase of a criminal defense case. Instead, it involves a variety of processes that include fact discovery, motion practice, legal argument, and pretrial hearings.
Litigation sometimes leads to outright dismissal of the criminal case. Sometimes, litigation sets the stage for trial. Often, litigation serves to assist in negotiations by helping each side better understand the strengths and potential weaknesses in the case.
Negotiations and Plea Bargains
When a person is charged with a felony, they face serious consequences, including potential lengthy prison sentences, substantial fines, and a criminal record that can significantly impact their future.
In negotiations, the prosecution and defense can discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each side’s case, potential witness problems, legal issues, mitigation, and other factors that might affect a case outcome.
A negotiated resolution can reduce some of the risks associated with trial and give guaranteed benefits that may include dismissal of selected charges, a reduction in severity to the misdemeanor level, sentencing recommendations, a diversion program or abeyance agreement, or other concessions.
As you consider possible legal strategies, look carefully at how the likely outcomes may affect future plans and options. Reducing conviction levels and clearing the way for future expungement should be considered in identifying the best case strategy.
For example, a negotiated resolution can include an agreement for a 402 reduction following successful completion of probation. Reduction to the misdemeanor level can be a tool used to restore eligibility for expungement of what would otherwise be considered a “violent felony” under Utah’s Expungement Act.
Penalties and Classification of Felony Charges
Under Utah law, there are three main classifications of felonies, each with its own range of penalties and consequences.
- First Degree Felonies are the highest class of felonies that can result from some of the most serious crimes. Punishable with the possibility of life in prison, some of these offenses carry mandatory prison sentences with minimums ranging from 5 years 25 years or more. The fine for a single conviction can be up to $10,000. First degree felonies can include aggravated burglary, robbery or arson, sex-related offenses, murder, and more.
- Second Degree Felonies are a step removed from first degree felonies and can be punishable by 1 to 15 years in prison as well as a fine of up to $10,000. Examples of a second degree felony include burglary and robbery (not aggravated), aggravated assault (with serious injury), certain theft offenses, and more.
- Third Degree Felonies are the lowest tier of felonies and are punishable by 0 to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. Crimes of this severity include forgery, some financial fraud offenses, prescription fraud, firearms offenses, some drug offenses, and more.
If you are facing felony charges, it is important to have an attorney you can trust, who will have the necessary experience, time, and resources to properly defend your case.
Finding Your Attorney
The attorneys at Stone River Law understand that every case is unique and requires individual consideration of all your goals and needs. When facing any sort of criminal charges, a top priority is to get good advice from an experienced defense attorney. Before talking to police, before going to court, and before doing anything else related to criminal charges, make sure that your rights are protected.
Learn more about our criminal defense team online, or contact Stone River Law and see what the right criminal defense attorney can do for you