Sentencing Guidelines in Utah

Once someone has pleaded guilty or been found guilty of a crime, sentencing will soon follow which depends on many factors specific to the case as well as Utah law and the sentencing guidelines stated by the Utah Sentencing Commission.

Lesser offenses

Photo by: wp paarz

When someone breaks the law, the crime committed could be a minor offense such as an infraction, a more significant offense like a misdemeanor, or even a serious felony offense. What each crime is classified as along with the possible punishment for breaking that specific law can be found in the Utah State Code. Infractions such as most traffic violations do not result time behind bars, just a monetary fine no greater than $750. Misdemeanors are offenses that are considered worse than infractions, but not as severe as a felony and can result in fines and jail time. According to Utah Courts, a misdemeanor offense is broken down into three categories that include:

• Class C misdemeanors such as driving without registration or negligent cruelty to animals, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine up to $750;
• Class B misdemeanors including prostitution and harassment, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a fine up to $1,000;
• Class A misdemeanors such as stalking and reckless endangerment, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine up to $2,500;

Major offenses

A felony is the most severe of crimes and could result in a fine and prison. Felonies are categorized into four groups:

• Third-degree felonies including habitual wanton destruction of protected wildlife and felony discharge of a firearm with no injuries, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of no more than $5,000;
• Second-degree felonies such as burglary of a dwelling and possession of child pornography which carry possible prison terms of 1 to 15 years in prison and a possible fine of $10,000;
• First-degree felonies for example rape and sodomy on a child, punishable by 5 years to life in prison and a fine no greater than $10,000;
• Capital felonies such as murder can result in either life in prison with or without parole and even the death penalty.

Sentencing guidelines and matrix

Photo by: winnifredxoxo

Although many crimes have already been categorized along with appropriate punishment decided by the Utah Legislature, there are many other factors that are taken into account before a judge will decide on a sentence. The Utah Sentencing Commission has issued a manual complete with guidelines and a matrix that can be followed to ensure that sentencing is fair for each specific case. According to the Utah Sentencing Commission Philosophy Statement, “The Sentencing Commission promotes evidence-based sentencing policies that effectively address the three separate goals of criminal sentencing:

• Risk Management [imposing a punishment or penalty that is proportionate to the gravity of the offense and the culpability of the offender.]
• Risk Reduction [appropriate identification and reduction of an offender’s individual criminal risk factors.]
• Restitution [repayment of damages to the community or to victims resulting from an offense]”

According to Utah Courts, the guidelines and matrix designed by the Sentencing Commission takes into account things such as:

• “Aggravating factors” such as significance of injuries and the relationship between the offender and victim;
• Enhanced penalties such as if a deadly weapon is used or if the offender is a repeat offender; and
• “Mitigating factors” that can include the offender’s behavior since the crime or a clinical evaluation on their mental health during the crime.

According to the Utah Sentencing Commission, “Utah law provides the basis for the sentencing and release of criminal offenders. ( . . . ) The guidelines are an attempt to further structure decision-making relative to sentencing and release, yet still retain the flexibility to deal with individual cases.” Use of these guidelines along with the Utah statutes should ensure anyone facing criminal charges is treated fairly and individually. To ensure this, it is best to have legal representation before and during sentencing hearings.

Rules for Watching TV in the Car

Watching TV in the car is easier than ever with the use of portable devices or built-in DVD players, yet there are rules regarding who is allowed to be entertained by a movie while driving.

Progression of watching TV in the car

Watching TV in the Car

Photo by: rick

Before DVD players became the standard for all family type vehicles, parents had to endure hours on the road with grumpy kids who were tired of playing the license plate game. Some families as early as the 1980’s discovered they could strap a small TV and VCR inside the car and plug it into the cigarette lighter with a power converter. In the late 1990’s the first portable DVD player was invented, allowing parents an easier and lighter way to bring movies on the road with them. Nowadays with built-in DVD players and smartphones capable of playing full length movies, every passenger in the vehicle is able to watch the show of their choice during boring road trips.

Passengers only

Watching TV in the car is not allowed for everyone however. Obviously for safety reasons, the driver is not allowed this same luxury. Not only are drivers prohibited from watching TV in the car, they aren’t even allowed to be able to see the screen that someone else is watching. Utah Code 41-6a-1641 states: “A motor vehicle may not be operated on a highway if the motor vehicle is equipped with a video display located so that the display is visible to the operator of the vehicle.” The only exceptions to this rule are for law enforcement, navigation purposes, or for viewing vehicle systems such as rear facing cameras.

Out of driver’s view

Some DVD players are attached to the vehicle’s audio system making them easily viewable to everyone in the car. Additionally, DVD players located in the back seat may be seen by the driver if a mirror to watch rear facing children is installed, making the screen viewable in the mirror. Regardless of where the screen is located, drivers who are caught watching TV in the car or having a screen in view may end up with a $40 ticket.