CRIMINAL DEFENSE LEGAL GLOSSARY
Plea in Abeyance. See our “deep article here” on this subject. Basically, a Plea in Abeyance is for a first time offender where the criminal charges are dismissed if the offender pleads guilty and successfully completes a probationary term.
Diversion Agreement. A diversion agreement is a special, statutorily driven type of deferred criminal charges. The essense of a diversion agreement is that if you do not get in trouble for a specified time period, the charges will never be brought in the first place. A diversion agreement is different from a Plea in Abeyance because the charges are never filed. Whereas Plea in Abeyances charges are filed with the court. Both a Plea in Abeyance and a diversion agreement result in the charges being dismissed at the end of the probationary period. Diversion is not a conviction and if the case is dismissed the matter shall be treated as if the charge had never been filed. See Utah Code Ann. 77-2-7 (2017)
Plea Bargain. Plea bargains are where you plead guilty to some charges or reduced charges and in return other charges are reduced or dismissed. Without plea bargains the criminal justice system in the United States would come crashing down and would be at a complete standstill. Plea bargains are good in that you can plead guilty to a reduced charge, even though you would be found guilty of the charged offense if a trial occurred.
Plea bargains have bad aspects when innocent people plea bargain down from very severe charges in order to avoid massive prison times, even though they did not do the charged offense. The risk of trial and incarceration for the rest of their lives is too much risk to bear and therefore they plead guilty to crimes they did not commit.
Sentencing Bargain. This is where the judge agrees to a certain sentence in advance of sentencing.
Prior Convictions. All Utah criminal courts use prior convictions against you at sentencing, in filing the original criminal charges, enhancing criminal charges, setting bail or bond and at during plea negotiations. Expungements sometimes can be stilled used against you in the future.
Enhanceable Offenses. Enhanceale offenses are like DUIs, Domestic Violence, Drug Charges, driving on suspended licenses, etc. An offense has to be specifically enhancable by statute and the judge at the plea hearing generally has to put you on notice that these offenses are enhanceable in the future.
Enhanceable offenses can be being convicted three times in ten years of DUIs, or three thefts convictions in a certain time period. These combinations will take the severity or the grade of the offense and bump it up to the next severe grade.
Consecutive Sentencing. This is where one criminal sentence for one crime run after your complete the first sentenced for another crime. For example, if you were sentenced to for one count of DUI first offense, and a first offense Retail Theft, the sentencing judge could order that your first serve your mandatory two days jail on the DUI, then start your jail sentenced on the Retail Theft.
Concurrent Sentencing. Concurrent sentencing is where you are convicted of multiple crimes in a single criminal episode and each sentenced run concurrently to the other criminal sentence. For example, if you were convicted of DUI and Retail Theft, the judge could order you to serve the two days jail for the DUI at the same time as any jail sentence the judge imposes for the Retail Theft.
See the Utah Code Section here on consecutive sentencing.
Misdemeanor Sentencing Matrix
Felony Sentencing Matrix.
Criminal Restitution. See this intensive overview of Utah’s criminal restitution laws.
Pretrial Conference. See this overview article on usual procedural path of a Utah criminal case.
Motion to Supress.
Court Supervised Probation. Court supervised probation occurs in most Utah Misdemeanors, but this is not always the case. Second offense DUIs, high blood alcohol DUIs of .16 or above have mandatory supervised probation, rather than court probation. Court probation is where if you comply with the court’s sentencing terms the court will generally not bother you and your case will close upon the probationary term ending.
Often if you are compliant with your probation you can ask the court to close the case early, rather than serving the entire court ordered probationary term.
Supervised Probation. Utah Felonies are supervised by the Utah Department of Corrections, through the Adult Probation & Parole. Supervised probation can also occur in Misdemeanor cases where you have an extensive criminal record, or particular facts merit supervised probation. Sometimes in Misdemeanor cases the sentencing court will order a Presentence Investigative Report to be better informed on what type of sentence to impose.
Often if you are successful in your supervised court probation, you can ask the court to terminate your supervised probation early. Terminating supervised probation early means you can save out of pocket probation fees.
Assault Charges. In general this is the unlawful touching of another, or attempted touching of another, against their will. Most often this is manifested by attacks, beating someone up or using a dangerous weapon to assault someone. See this article on Aggravated Assault for more information.
Domestic Violence Charges. See this thorough article on what Domestic Violence means and the ramifications of a Utah domestic violence conviction.
Drug Possession. See this article on what possession means under Utah law and how a jury decides a drug possession case.
DUI. See this article for a deeper look at all the ramifications of a Utah DUI.
Impaired Driving. See this Impaired Driving information.
Metabolite Violation. Read this article for more information on drugged driving.
Reckless Driving. As of 2017, Reckless Driving reads as follows in the Utah Code.
41-6a-528. Reckless driving — Penalty.
(1) A person is guilty of reckless driving who operates a vehicle:
(a) in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property; or
(b) while committing three or more moving traffic violations under Title 41, Chapter 6a, Traffic Code, in a series of acts occurring within a single continuous period of driving covering three miles or less in total distance.
(2) A person who violates Subsection (1) is guilty of a class B misdemeanor.
Utah Driving Point System. See this in-depth article on Utah Traffic Offense.
Restitution Hearing. Further reading on Utah criminal restitution can be found here.
Speeding. Utah’s Traffic Code is found at Utah Code Ann. 41-6a-101.
Commercial Driver’s License.
Interstate Compact. When you are convicted of a Utah traffic offense and you have an out-of-state driver’s license, the Interstate Compact is a mechanism where Utah shares certain traffic offenses with the majority of other states. See more about the Interstate Compact here.
Utah Sex Offense Registry. A mandatory listing of people convicted of certain sex offenses in the State of Utah. The details of this list can be found in this article.
Registrable Sex Offense Conviction.
Sentencing Protective Orders. Most crimes of violence allow the judge as part of their sentencing terms to prohibit the defendant was contacting the victim. It is a Class A Misdemeanor if you are found guilty of violating a protective order. More information about Utah protective orders can be found here.
Pretrial Protective Orders. When you are arrested for a crime of violence, often the judge will issue a pretrial protective order not allowing you to contact the complaining witness in the case. Pretrial protective orders can merge with and continue after sentencing as sentencing protective orders.
Jail Release Protective Orders. When you are arrested for Domestic Violence in Utah and booked into the county jail, you will not be allowed release until you sign a Jail Release protective order. This jail release protective order commands you not to go back to the complaining witness who you are accused of committing domestic violence against. There are specific time restrains on the Jail Release protective order and they should be read carefully.
Good Time. A judge can allow for good time while in jail, or not allow for good time to be taken off your county jail sentence. Good time in the county jail is where you mind your business and don’t get in trouble. It is an incentive to keep county jail inmates under control in return for less days in jail.
Field Sobriety Tests.
Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.
Jury Trial. A type of adjudication proceeding where the jury deteremines what is true, or not and how much money to give. The jury is made up of a litigant’s peers in the community and should reflect the community in which the jury trial is being held in. The jury trial is the greatest check against tyrannical government ever established.
Bench Trial. This is where the judge decides your guilt or innocence. There is great strategy in choosing whether you want a judge trial or a jury trial.
Direct-Examination. Direct examination of a witness is by the lawyer calling the witness, or the witness’ proponent. You cannot ask leading questions on direct examination of your witness and nor should you ask leading questions. The focus on direct examination is what that witness has to say, not the lawyer conducting the direct examination.
Expert Witnesses. Expert witnesses testify in fields beyond the normal course of a lay person. They are used to assist the jury in understanding complex matters. They are qualified as experts based on (1). Their education, or (2). Their experience.
Lay Witnesses. A lay witness is a fact witness who is not an expert any particular field and is restricted in their trial testimony to nonexpert testimony, such as what they saw, perceived or thought. They can not comment on how fast a jet plane was going, or whether the structure stability of the car was sufficient to withstand the blast.
Evidence Objections. Utah State evidence rules govern evidentiary objections. The Utah State Rules of Evidence can be found at www.utcourts.gov.
Trial Lawyer. A trial lawyer is a licensed attorney who makes their living in the courtroom. They try lawsuits to a jury or judge and are advocates for their client’s position. Trial lawyers generally do not do office transactional work.
Prosecutor. Prosecutors are endowed the authority from the government to prosecute public criminal offenses. No other entity is endowed with the authority to prosecute public offenses on behalf of the public. There can be federal prosecutor, city prosecutors, state assistant attorney general prosecutors, county prosecutors and special prosecutors. Each type of prosecutor brings court criminal charges within their respective jurisdiction.
State Crimes. Utah state crimes are all statutorily based in the Utah Criminal Code, found at Utah Code Ann. 76.
Justice Court. Justice Courts handle all Class B Misdemeanors and below. Class Bs, Class Cs, and Infractions. They do not have handle Class A Misdemeanors or felonies.
District Court. The Utah District Court handles all felonies, and any misdemeanors attached to felony charges. District Court judges are elected, appointed, or retained in public elections. District Courts hear murder cases, sex cases to common felony drug charges.
Federal Court. To be in federal court you must be charged with a federal crime. Federal crimes are established by the United State Congress. Many federal crimes are also State crimes, but just charged in federal court. Federal criminal charges are generally must more significant and carry much harsher prison sentences. For example, there are federal misdemeanor charges, but far, far less than the vast bulk of misdemeanor charges that you commonly see in the Utah State courts.
Appellate Courts. Utah’s appellate courts are (1). The Utah Court of Appeals. (2). The Utah Supreme Court. The Court of Appeals is an error correcting court whose main mission to ensure that the litigants at the trial court (lower level) courts got a fair trial. The Utah Supreme Court does handles way less cases and creates law, interprets laws and generally handles legal issues of first impression in Utah.
Judges. Judges in Utah can be initially appointed, or they can run for election. Either running for an open seat, or running against an incumbent judge who the judicial retention commission decided not to recommend retention. Federal judges are appointed for life.
Evidence. Evidence can be written evidence, real evidence, such as the gun used in the crime. Evidence can be testimonial from the complaining witness on the stand. Letters, pictures, videos, mock demonstrations, witnesses, etc.
Right to Counsel.
Search and Seizure.
4th Amendment. The Fourth Amendment to the United State Constitution governs when and how the police or the government can search you and your stuff. The Utah Constitution also has a mighty Fourth Amendment and offers very similar protections as does the federal constitution.
Spousal Privilege Against Testifying Against Spouse.
Federal Constitution. United State Constitution sets the bedrock principles for criminal laws in the United State of America, applicable to all states. State are free to give more protections under their state constitutions, but cannot give less protections to their citizens.
Utah State Code. See https://le.utah.gov for a free and updated Utah Code. Find all the criminal statutes and criminal defenses and procedure there.
Utah Traffic Code. Utah’s traffic code is codified and found at Utah Code Ann. 41-6a-101 et seq. It is about 20 chapter and details how cars, pedestrians and bicycles interact with each other on Utah’s roadways.
Utah Criminal Code.
Utah Code of Criminal Procedure. Utah’s criminal procedure is found in the following areas:
(1). Utah criminal case law. See www.utcourts.gov for free appellate decisions.
(2). The Utah Rules of Criminal Procedure. See www.utcourts.gov for a free copy of these rules.
(3). Utah Code Ann, Title 76 and 77. These code titles set out provisions for asserting insanity, entrapment, guilty pleas, required criminal mind sets (mens rea) and much more.
Unanimous Jury. In Utah, in every state in the Union, and in the Federal criminal courts, all criminal jury verdicts must be unanimous beyond a reasonable doubt. Every single jury, whether a Utah misdemeanor jury of three, or a felony jury, all criminal jury verdict must be unanimous. The unanimity requirement is found in the Utah Constitution and the United States Constitution.
Private Investigator. Utah criminal defense attorneys will hire and use private investigators to interview witnesses, document retrieval, lie detector testing, surveillance among other taskings. As a general rule, a Utah criminal defendant is grossly out numbers by the prosecutor’s investigative powers. The prosecutor will have full time investigators at their disposal, not to mention an entire police force in each town helping them prove their legal cases.
Private investigators for the defense are extremely helpful.