Statute of Limitations for Criminal Cases in Utah

What is the statute of limitations for criminal cases in Utah and how does it differ for misdemeanors and felonies?

A quiet case doesn’t mean a closed case

Photo by: mao_lini

Sometimes when a crime has occurred, the person suspected of the crime is questioned, arrested, and soon after faces their day in court. Other times, the case can drag on as law enforcement and prosecutors gather evidence and testimonies in order to build their case against the suspect. When there has been no activity or questioning related to the case for weeks or months at a time, it may give those involved a false sense of security that they have somehow dodged an arrest and are in the clear. Imagine their surprise down the road when the investigation picks up speed and they end up facing charges after all. This may not seem fair and those facing delayed charges may wonder why so much time is able to pass while they remained in legal limbo. Surprisingly however, Utah law grants law enforcement and prosecutors a lengthy window of time to file criminal charges, with some cases being granted no limit on time.

Time limit for criminal charges

Most cases have a set amount of time that they can remain in “waiting” for prosecutors to conjure up charges. This time limit to file charges is known as the statute of limitations. According to Utahcourts.gov, “A statute of limitations is the time allowed to file a court case. Statutes of limitation apply in both civil and criminal cases. The statute of limitations for some cases is as short as six months, while some serious criminal offenses have no limit and can be files at any time, even decades after the crime occurred. Most statutes of limitation range from one to eight years.” Once the statute of limitations for that crime is over, any suspects in the case will be free any possibility of facing charges as Utah Courts declare “. . . the defendant cannot be prosecuted for that offense.”

Criminal statute of limitations

Photo by: Marcin Wichary

The waiting game is difficult, especially when one is waiting to see if their life will drastically change due to criminal charges. If someone knows what type of charge they could be facing, they may be able to have an idea of how long the case could legally sit open prior to charges being made. Some of these statutes of limitations can be found in Utah Code. Section 76-1-302 states:

• “any infraction shall be commenced within one year after it is committed”;
• “a misdemeanor other than negligent homicide shall be commenced within two years after it is committed;”
• A felony or negligent homicide shall be commenced within four years after it is committed, except that prosecution for:
o Forcible sexual abuse [or incest] shall be commenced within eight years after the offense is committed, if within four years after its commission the offense is reported to a law enforcement agency”.

No time limits for some charges

There are some offenses where “. . . prosecution . . . may be commenced at any time” according to Utah Code 76-1-301. These offenses include:

(a) “Capital felony;
(b) Aggravated murder;
(c) Murder;
(d) Manslaughter;
(e) Child abuse homicide;
(f) Aggravated kidnapping;
(g) Child kidnapping;
(h) Rape;
(i) Rape of a child;
(j) Object rape;
(k) Object rape of a child;
(l) Forcible sodomy;
(m) Forcible sodomy on a child;
(n) Sexual abuse of a child;
(o) Aggravated sexual abuse of a child;
(p) Aggravated sexual assault
(q) Any predicate offense to a murder or aggravating offense to an aggravated murder;
(r) Aggravated human trafficking or aggravated human smuggling . . . ;
(s) Aggravated exploitation of prostitution involving a child.

Section 76-1-302 adds that prosecution on some of the major offenses “. . . may be commenced at any time if the identity of the person who committed the crime is unknown but DNA evidence is collected that would identify the person at a later date. [This] does not apply if the statute of limitations on a crime has run as of May 5, 2003, and no charges have been filed.”

Legal counsel prior to charges

While the above statute of limitations can give a person an idea of how long a case will remain open, there are other factors that can change the time limit given on a case. Some statute of limitations don’t begin when the offense was committed. Others may have the timer paused along the way. When legal trouble is imminent or on the distant horizon, it is always wise to have a reputable legal defense in your corner. An experienced criminal defense attorney can aid a client in knowing exactly what charges could be faced, the statute of limitations for those charges, and when the statute of limitations clock starts and finishes for each specific case. For all criminal matters, contact a defense attorney today.

Sentencing Entrapment and Manipulation

Sentencing entrapment and manipulation are both claims of injustice that can be made by a defendant during sentencing if they feel they were encouraged to commit a serious crime by authorities or if they committed or are facing a higher sentence than necessary.

Sentencing entrapment & manipulation

Sentencing Entrapment

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According to the case of Leech v. State, “Sentencing entrapment is said to occur when the State causes a defendant initially predisposed to commit a lesser crime to commit a more serious offense.” Sentencing manipulation on the other hand is defined as “when the government engages in improper conduct that has the effect of increasing a defendant’s sentence.” (United States v Garcia). Although Sentencing entrapment and sentencing manipulation have slightly different meanings, they are often used interchangeably in court.

Drug busts

Sentencing entrapment and manipulation can occur during organized stings or through the encouragement or persuasion of an officer or informant. All too often these cases of inflating offenses involve drugs. When drugs are involved, there are several ways in which a simple drug charged could be blown up to become something more.

• An undercover agent may know a suspect is a known drug user but not a dealer. By asking the suspect to sell drugs to the undercover officer, he can then be charged with not only possession but also distribution.

• The same bloating of charges can occur if someone sells narcotics and the agent asks the suspect to sell more to have them reach a distribution amount that carries higher penalties.

• In the case of Unites States v. Walls, the undercover DEA agent asked the suspect to supply him with crack and was given powdered cocaine instead. After insisting that he wanted crack and not cocaine, the suspect then complied and had it cooked by a third party. When asked in court why the DEA agent requested crack from the suspect and not cocaine, the agent’s reply was: “Well, crack cocaine is less expensive than [powder] cocaine, and we felt like through our investigation, that it takes fifty grams of crack cocaine to get any target over the mandatory ten years.”

Prostitution

Photo by: Nils Hamerlinck

Prostitution is another common area where sentencing entrapment and manipulation arise frequently; such was the case of Taylor Hummel of southern Utah. Hummel was actively soliciting sex from adults, but through his internet ad and other communication he never stated he wanted children involved. The undercover agent offered prostitution services to which Hummel agreed. The agent then offered a 13 year old girl to be involved with the sexual exploits as well. Hummel was hesitant but did not decline. When the time for the exchange took place, Hummel mentioned he had reservations about a minor being involved and did not pay for sexual services from her. Although he only sought and paid for adult prostitution (Class B misdemeanor) he was still charged with conspiracy to commit child rape (a first degree felony). Had the offer not been made by an undercover agent, Hummel may never have even thought of including minors in his sexual addictions.

The Big Fish story

For whatever reason or hidden agenda, sometimes the crime that a suspect is recognized as being guilty of is not sufficient. It is then that sentencing entrapment and manipulation occurs by officers who wish to create a more serious offense to snare the suspect with. There are several theories as to why police officers would want to be involved in sentencing entrapment.

• Acknowledgement or a pat on the back from their department and the public if the officer helps bring in a serious offender, or “the big fish”;

• The not-talked-about “quotas” that they are unofficially expected to meet;

• Increased chance of promotions or even incentives such as bonuses for making a certain type of arrest; or possibly

• Overtime pay. Many precincts give their officers overtime pay if they are forced to work past their shift in order to complete the arrest and the paperwork that follows. Additionally, overtime pay is often given to law enforcement to be present or even on-call during a court hearing that results from an arrest.

Outrageous official conduct

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Sentencing entrapment and manipulation has been referred to as “outrageous official conduct [that] overcomes the will of an individual” (United States v Jacobsen). In many cases, if officers would have refrained from getting involved to expand a crime or not created a major illegal opportunity to entrap someone in, that person may have gone on to never committing that crime in their lifetime. Instead, many victims of sentencing entrapment and manipulation will spend a lifetime in jail for the inflated offenses.

Legal counsel

Anyone who is facing charges where they feel law enforcement used entrapment or manipulation to increase their possible sentencing is encouraged to seek legal counsel. If someone has committed a crime, they should only have to face those crimes in court, not the top sentencing, inflated version of it.

Restoring Civil Rights for Convicted Felons

Convicted felons lose more than their freedom; they lose many civil rights as well. Serving time in prison for a felony is not the only punishment for those convicted. Rights that are granted to each U.S. citizen may be withheld from convicted felons while they serve prison time or for the rest of their lives.

Photo by: Kelley Minars

Photo by: Kelley Minars

Right to Vote

The right to vote is something that every U.S. citizen is granted as soon as they turn 18 years of age. Being convicted of a felony will suspend this right temporarily in most states. According the Title 20A Chapter 2 Section 101.5 of the Utah State Code, “Each convicted felon’s right to register to vote and to vote in an election is restored when:
(a) the felon is sentenced to probation;
(b) the felon is granted parole; or
(c) the felon has successfully completed the term of incarceration to which the felon was sentenced. “

Hence, as long as you’ve served your time or been released, your right to vote will be restored.

Right to Hold Office

Watch yourself Mr. Mayor, cross your “t’s” and dot your “i’s” city council members. Getting a felony charge loses the convicted person’s right to hold office. In order for someone to hold office again, they not only have to serve the time given them for their crimes, they either have to have their record expunged or wait a decade to run for office again. This doesn’t apply in every case however. According to Utah State Code, “ an individual who has been convicted of a grievous sexual offence,[…] against a child, may not hold the office of State Board of Education member or local school board member.”

Right to Serve on a Jury

While many U.S. citizens detest getting a jury summons in the mail, a convicted felon that has been at the mercy of a jury before may wish to have that right later in life. Maybe they were displeased with the way the jury handled the case and evidence and wish to be a better juror for someone else if given the chance. Perhaps they were satisfied with the jury system and wish to be a part of it themselves someday. Unfortunately, the majority of states exclude convicted felons for life from participating in a jury. Fortunately, in the state of Utah, convicted felons are restored their right to serve on a jury if they’ve had their record expunged.

Photo by: Richard Loyal French

Photo by: Richard Loyal French

Right to Bear Arms

In 18 U.S. Code § 922 it states “It shall be unlawful for any person […] who has been convicted in any court of, a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year; […] to possess […] any firearm or ammunition; or to receive any firearm or ammunition […]
If a convicted felon disobeys this law by being in possession of a firearm is looking at an additional 10 years behind bars. Although this law sounds absolute, there are ways for convicts to restore their gun rights. The only way for a convicted felon to go about this is to have their record expunged. Unfortunately, as gun laws tighten, restoring gun rights to convicted felons tighten as well. For instance, there are times when records can be expunged for those wishing to vote, hold office, or serve on a jury, but there is will be an exception with restoring the right to bear arms. This is most common with violent crimes. Capital crimes, sex crimes against children, first and second degree forcible felonies, as well as repeat felons or those who have already had their records expunged before.

Seek Legal Counsel

If you or are a convicted felon who has finished serving the required time for your crimes and has waited to allotted amount of time for “cleansing”, speak with an attorney about restoring your civil rights and returning to society with the equal rights given to all U.S. citizens.