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Criminal Defense in Utah

After a criminal accusation, it is important to seek out the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney. The attorneys at Brown, Bradshaw & Moffat, LLP, with offices in Salt Lake City and Beaver, UT, represent clients charged with a variety of misdemeanor and felony offenses prosecuted throughout the state.

Call (801) 532-5297 today to discuss your case. Our criminal defense attorney represent clients on a variety of offenses including:

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Types of Criminal Offenses in Utah

After a criminal accusation, it is important to understand both the type of criminal offense charged and the maximum and minimum mandatory penalties for that offense. In Utah, criminal offenses are classified into three categories:

  • infractions;
  • misdemeanors; and
  • felonies.

The category of the crime is described in the Utah Code or the appropriate city or county code. For the most part, the criminal statutes specify how the crime is classified.


In Utah, an infraction is a minor offense punishable by a fine only of up to $750. Examples of infractions include city traffic violations and some disorderly conduct offenses.


In Utah, a misdemeanor is an offense that is less serious than a felony. A misdemeanor can be punished by a county jail term of up to one year and/or a fine. Many city and county ordinances and some state laws are misdemeanors.  Under Utah Code §76-3-204 and §76-3-301, there are three different categories of misdemeanors including: 

  • Class C misdemeanor - Up to 90 days in jail and up to a $750 fine;
  • Class B misdemeanor - Up to six months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine; and
  • Class A misdemeanor - Up to one year in jail and up to a $2,500 fine.


Under Utah Code §76-3-203 and §76-3-301, a felony is a major crime which can be punished with imprisonment and/or a fine. Utah law provides for four different types of felonies: 

  • Third Degree - Zero to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000;
  • Second Degree - One to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000;
  • First Degree - Five years to life in prison and a fine of up to $10,000; and
  • Capital Life - Life in prison, life in prison without parole, or death.

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The Structure of Criminal Penalties in Utah

If you are charged with a crime in Utah, it is important to understand the way criminal penalties are structured. If a person is convicted of a crime in Utah, then the criminal offense has certain statutory maximum provisions.

Some crimes also have minimum mandatory provisions. Before imposing a sentence, the judge considers a number of factors. The sentence the judge imposes can include incarceration in the county jail or the state prison, probation, a fine, community service, restitution, or a combination of these penalties. 

To determine the sentence, the court uses Utah Sentence and Release Guidelines which provide for both aggravating and mitigating factors which can be considered at sentencing. The mitigating factors are findings that can make the punishment less severe, including whether the defendant: 

  • has developmental disabilities;
  • is a good candidate for treatment; or
  • was exceptionally cooperative with law enforcement. 

The aggravating factors are findings that can make the punishment more severe, including whether:

  • the victim was unusually vulnerable;
  • the defendant was in a position of authority over the victim;
  • the offense was extremely cruel or depraved; or
  • the victim suffered substantial bodily injury. 

The penalties can also be enhanced if the person: 

  • is determined to be a habitual offender;
  • is determined to have committed a hate crime;
  • committed the crime in the presence of a child;
  • used a dangerous weapon on or near a school;
  • committed the crime with two or more other people; or
  • the offense was committed while in prison.

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Sentencing Non-Capital Felony Cases

A defendant convicted of a crime has the right to be sentenced in no fewer than two and no more than 45 days after the conviction. The defendant can waive that time frame and be sentenced on the day of conviction. The alleged victims in the case have a right to speak at the sentencing hearing. Remarks by the alleged victims can be considered along with the pre-sentence report and other evidence.

In felony cases, the judge often orders the Department of Corrections' Division of Adult Probation and Parole (AP&P) to prepare a pre-sentence report. The pre-sentence report is a confidential report provided to the judge that includes: 

  • a sentencing recommendation for the judge's consideration;
  • the impact of the crime on the victim;
  • probation history;
  • family history;
  • drug and alcohol history;
  • the defendant's statement;
  • the defendant's prior adult and juvenile record; and
  • the police report.

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Collateral Consequences for Employment and Licenses

As we all know, most criminal convictions do entail adverse collateral legal consequences. If a person is convicted of particular crimes, the person might become statutorily ineligible for certain employment positions and licenses including:

  • Utah Code § 11-10-2 precludes “anyone who has been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor involving moral turpitude” from receiving a liquor license;
  • Utah Code § 17-30-7, disqualifies a person who “[h]as been convicted of a criminal offense inimical to the public service, or involving moral turpitude” from taking a deputy sheriff examination;
  • Utah Code § 26-39-404(3), prohibits those with felony or misdemeanor convictions from providing child care at a licensed child care facility;
  • Utah Code § 53-6-302 prevents anyone who has “been convicted of a crime for which [he or she] could have been punished by imprisonment in a federal penitentiary or by imprisonment in the penitentiary of [Utah] or another state” from obtaining a dispatcher certification.

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Additional Resources

Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (UACDL) - With offices located in Salt Lake City, the UACLD serves the comprehensive needs of the criminal defense bar for attorneys at the public defender's office and in private practice. The website provides its members with information about upcoming seminars and networking opportunities.

Criminal Law Section of the Utah State Bar - Members of this section represent all aspects of the criminal justice system including public defenders, private defenders, prosecutors, the judiciary, academics, juvenile justice, the military, law enforcement and corrections. The purpose of the Criminal Law Section is to make recommendations to the Bar concerning criminal justice, law enforcement, the juvenile justice, and related issues. The section also develops educational programs to promote professionalism and improve the practice of criminal defense.

Utah Courts on Criminal Penalties- Find information from the Utah Courts on criminal penalties for felonies, misdemeanors, and infractions. Find information on how a sentence is determined and the sentencing process for felony and misdemeanor cases in Utah.

Criminal Defense Attorneys in Salt Lake City, Utah - Visit Lawyer Legion, an online directory, to find the top rated criminal defense attorneys in Salt Lake City, Utah. Search by name and learn more about the attorney's involvement in the legal community and criminal defense organizations such as the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

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Finding a Criminal Defense Attorney in Utah

If you are accused of a crime in the State of Utah, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Brown, Bradshaw & Moffat, LLP. With offices conveniently located in Salt Lake City in Salt Lake County, we are here to help.

The attorneys in our firm are active in the legal community. Our attorneys are members of the Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (UACDL), the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), and National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Law (NORML). By focusing entirely on criminal defense, we can provide the best representation to our clients.

The attorneys at Brown, Bradshaw & Moffat, LLP represent clients throughout Salt Lake County including Bluffdale, Cottonwood Heights, Draper, Herriman, Holladay, Midvale, Millcreek, Murray, Riverton, Salt Lake City, Sandy, South Jordan, South Salt Lake, Taylorsville, West Jordan, West Valley City and the town of Alta.

We also represent clients in the counties surrounding Salt Lake County including Davis County, Morgan County, Summit County, Wasatch County, Utah County and Tooele County. Let us put our experience to work for you.

Call (801) 532-5297 today to discuss your pending charges.

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