Do Most Criminal Cases Go To Trial Or Are They Settled?
It is my opinion that most criminal cases settle. In just one court alone, there might be one hundred new cases filed every week. The prosecutor is not obligated, there is no constitutional article that says a prosecutor has to offer negotiations, but if every single case went to trial, one-hundred new cases would appear. Our system would shut down, and not function. There is no possible way that they could try all of those cases. About ten percent of the cases go to trial, the rest settle, through what I like to call creative negotiation. Negotiations keeps someone out of jail, reduces charges. It helps them to keep their driver’s license as well.
It seems like most of the prosecutors are willing to bend, and be flexible to a certain extent, unless it is something heinous, such as a violent type of crime against children or something like that. In most cases these are creative negotiations.
How Does A Prior Arrest Or Conviction Impact A Criminal Case In Utah?
If someone does have a prior arrest or conviction, it is mainly a conviction that would definitely come into play in most cases. If their current charge is similar to their prior, then the prosecutor or a judge is going to think that there is a real problem here. Maybe the sanctions need to be a little bit stiffer the second time around, because they did not get it the first time around. Many of the offenses such as DUIs, domestic violence, theft, and possession of drugs are what they call enhance able offenses, only if there is a prior similar offense that could be enhanced. It means the penalties could double, and much more significant.
If there are many other types, of criminal behavior that the court might think this person is just running amuck causing problems and here we are again. Maybe I should give him a stiffer sentence, or harsher fines, maybe more severe sanctions. Prior convictions definitely do come into play, and they play a big factor. I had a judge tell me last week about my client who was on her sixth conviction, that he was not happy about it. It seemed that her conduct at that time was intentional, and it made a difference in her case. The judge took that into consideration. That leads us onto another road which is expungement.
I always tell my clients that if you qualify to get your case or your charges expunged, then do it. Do not hesitate, or think about it, do it, because it definitely does matter.
Are Any Alternative Programs Available To First Time Criminal Offenders?
Yes, there are diversion programs. We see them a lot with drug, and DUI court programs. I was a participant in the auto, and drug court team for a few years in our local jurisdictions. They work in different phases, and if someone completes all the phases successfully, then the charge may be dismissed. They would have to pay the fines though, complete counseling, and go through treatment classes. If they graduated from the program, then the charges would be dismissed. It would not show as a conviction on their record.
This comes into play also if you have prior conviction offenses. They will not allow you to do a diversion program, and that is called a plea in abeyance. That is where the client accepts some kind of criminal responsibility, or pleads guilty, the court will hold that guilty plea, and the conviction will not enter. Then the court will order them to pay a fine or community service. They must get treatment, and a review will be set in twelve to eighteen months. At the end of that time, the court clerk reviews the file, and if the client has done everything, then the charge will be dismissed. The second version is the drug court program, but it is not so intense or time consuming. It assists the negotiation that can be made between the defense counsel, the prosecution, and the client. We can negotiate terms, charges, fines, and other sanctions.
However, a lot of prosecutors will not offer those if the client has a prior conviction. We really like to see that plea in abeyances on drug cases, because here in Utah, if you have any kind of drug charge, whether you are driving or not, it will suspend your driver’s license for six months. If we can use that plea in abeyance to prevent that conviction from being reported to the driver’s license division, then they can keep their license. On the domestic violence cases, if you have a Class B misdemeanor domestic violence conviction, you cannot carry weapons or ammunition. We have witnessed many people, who will lose their security clearance, which would cause them to lose their jobs, but if we have a plea in abeyance, we can avoid that conviction which is usually a good outcome. Most work for the Federal government at the Air Force Base here in town.
When my clients ask me if I would do it or not, I reply if you do a plea in abeyance, you are controlling the outcome of your case. You can help me negotiate the terms, once those terms are negotiated. If you follow through and do everything, you know that is how your case is going to be dismissed. However, if you go to trial, you are letting a judge or a jury determine whether you are guilty or not. It is up to the judge to sentence you. The diversion agreements or the pleas in abeyances are very useful tools, many times they are not offered due to prior convictions.
What Sets Your Firm Apart In Handling Criminal Cases?
In my firm it is just me, every client hires me. I am going to be in court with them for the duration. I am not going to send anyone else unless there is an emergency. My clients get to know me, and trust me. They know that I am the only one that is going to be working on their case. I only practice DUI and criminal defense. If you look at my advertisement material, you will not see me advertising for any other types of law practices. Some of the other firms and attorneys are trying to do it all. I like to maintain my focus, so I can stay current on the laws and changes. I have a vast knowledge of experience.
The experience I have gained working with the courts, the prosecutors, and things like that, I think, translates into a benefit for my clients. If you look at my marketing or advertising material, I am, the only lawyer in Utah that has been designated a lawyer scientist by the American Chemical Society. It means that in prosecuting people for crimes, there is a lot of science involved. For example, on a drug case the police get a small bag of a white powdery substance, they send it down to the lab to be analyzed, and it might come back as who knows what. In my training to become a lawyer scientist, I have gone through the specific lab, attended the same training, and used the machines at our state lab. I stay current on all that.
I think that translates into a benefit for my clients as well.
For more information on Settling Criminal Cases In Utah, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (801) 477-5009 today.