General Information on Criminal / Traffic Matters

  1. Criminal Matters
  2. Traffic Matters

General information of criminal matters

Arraignment

The first step in the judicial process for criminal matters is an arraignment. At the arraignment, you will be notified of the charge(s) brought against you, the location at which they are alleged to have occurred, and the date and time at which the crimes are alleged to have occurred. You may enter a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest at this time. You are not required to enter a plea at this time.

You may request appointment of an attorney to represent you. An attorney will only be appointed to assist you if you cannot afford one and if you can be jailed if you are convicted of the crime(s) charged. If an attorney is not appointed, you must hire your own attorney or represent yourself.

If an attorney is appointed, you may be required to repay some or all of the cost of the attorney at the conclusion of your case. If you believe you will qualify for a court appointed attorney and would like to ask the Court to appoint one to you, you must ask the Judge to determine if you qualify for the services of the public defender, this will be done at arraignment.

If you plead not guilty, your case will be set for a pretrial conference. If you plead guilty or no contest, you may be sentenced immediately or you can ask the court to delay sentencing for at least two days. If you plead guilty or no contest, you will be giving up important Constitutional rights.

Pretrial Conference
At a pretrial conference, you will have a chance to meet with the prosecution to see if you can reach a resolution of the case.

If you reach a resolution, that will be presented to the court. If you do not reach a resolution, the case will be set for a bench or jury trial.

Trial Procedures
In a bench trial, the Court will hear the evidence presented by both sides, then decide whether you are guilty or not guilty. In a jury trial, a panel of four jurors will hear the case, then they will decide if you are guilty or not guilty. You only have a right to a jury trial if you can be jailed if found guilty. Usually, traffic offenses are not eligible to be heard by juries. Non-lawyers who desire a jury trial are encouraged to 1) get an attorney or 2) study the applicable rules, laws and codes governing jury trials. You can jeopardize your rights or liberty if you do not follow the rules.

Since the prosecution has the burden of proof to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, they have the first opportunity to speak to the court. This is called an opening statement. After the prosecution has made its opening statement, the defense has the option to make their opening statement or wait until the beginning of their turn to present evidence & witnesses.

The opening statement is an opportunity to briefly describe the types of evidence and what you hope the evidence will mean to the Court or the jury. Neither side is required to make an opening statement.

After the opening statements, the prosecution presents its "case-in-chief." The prosecutor will offer evidence to prove that a crime was committed and that you committed the crime. After the prosecution is done, you will have the opportunity to present your side of the story. Either side may present testimony by witnesses or submit documents, subject to the Utah Rules of Evidence and the Utah Rules of Criminal Procedure.

After you finish presenting your side of the story, then both sides will have the opportunity to rebut the other side. This is done be presenting additional testimony or evidence. Again, the prosecutor goes first, then you will have a chance to speak. After each side is done, closing arguments are made.

During closing arguments, each side will have the opportunity to tell the Court why they are right. The prosecution gets to speak first, then you will get to argue your case, followed by a final argument by the prosecution. The case is then submitted to the Court or jury for a determination as to guilt. If you are found not guilty, then you are free to go and the proceedings will end.

If you are found guilty, then you can ask the court to delay your sentencing for at least two days but not longer than 45 days. In most cases, you may waive this right and hear your sentence immediately. The Court may order that you report for a pre-sentence evaluation. If the Court so orders, then you will be instructed to report to an agency. It is important that you follow the instructions given to you as your failure to comply with the Court's order may result in a warrant being issued for your arrest.