The criminal procedure of Utah is no different from that of other states. It follows a strict step by step system in which the offender is processed from the point of arrest to sentencing and incarceration. Here is a look at the various sub processes that are encountered along the way:
The formal or informal investigation: When a criminal matter is brought to light by a complainant, the police launch an investigation into the case. Misdemeanor offenses are typically handled by troopers or street officers while felonies call for the involvement of detectives or special investigators. The suspect may or may not be arrested at this point depending on the evidence available.
Screening by the police or the public prosecutor:Once a sizeable amount of proof is gathered against the accused, depending on the nature of the crime, the police will either issue a citation which is an order to appear before a said judicial entity or send the matter to the prosecutor for screening. It should be stated here that arrests can be made immediately if a crime is commissioned in view of a police officer or if cops have probable cause to believe that a person was involved in committing a felony.
Matters that are sent to the district attorney’s office for screening are closely studied by the state prosecutor who tries to weigh the evidence available. If this is found to be enough to show a reasonable likelihood of culpability, he will file charges against the suspect or the case will be dismissed or the sheriff’s department will be asked to launch further investigation into the matter.
The issue of an active warrant in UT: A criminal case formally starts when a charge is filed against the defendant and the prosecution requests the magistrate to issue an arrest warrant. The court will once again study the evidence gathered to ensure that there is probable cause against the suspect before commanding his arrest. It should be noted at this point that citations are only allowed in case of Class B and C misdemeanors. If a summons or a citation is disobeyed, an arrest warrant will be released to call for the detention of the accused.
Initial appearance: As the name suggests, this is the first court session of the defendant. The court notifies the arrestee of the charges against him and may decide on bonded release; a date for a waiver hearing is also set at this stage.
Waiver hearing or scheduling conference: Once both the defense and the prosecution have had a chance to review the evidence, they may work out a deal which is then set forth before the judge who has the authority to refuse the settlement. However, this is rarely done as plea bargains help to save judicial resources. If the case is settled, the matter goes to sentencing directly depending on the arrangement worked out. However, if the negotiations don’t work, the case is set for a further session.
Preliminary hearing: These are only held for felonies and Class A misdemeanors. This is the point at which the judge will reexamine the evidence before the case is bounded over to the trial court. If there is probable cause to hold the accused guilty as charged, the case will go to trial.
Pre-trial conferences and motions: This is a second chance given to the prosecutor and the defense attorney to work out an agreement. As far as motions are concerned, these are formal requests for the presiding judge to issue an order that will have a bearing on the case.
The trial and sentencing: Throughout the trial, the defense and the prosecution are allowed to place their evidence, witnesses and arguments before the court. The fate of the defendant lies in the hands of the jurors in jury trials and the judge in bench trials. If the accused is found not guilty, the case is closed and the person is acquitted. If he is found guilty, the matter is set for sentencing which is carried out by the judge.