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.

Traveling Internationally with a DUI Conviction

Having a DUI conviction can result in jail time, hefty fines and a suspended or revoked driver’s license, but in can also affect plans for traveling internationally.

Traveling internationally

Photo by: James Brooks

Those with felonies on their record tend to hesitate before traveling internationally as they likely understand their record can follow them wherever they go. Some countries have stricter policies regarding certain crimes and may not be welcoming to those who have been convicted of driving under the influence, even if the charge is a misdemeanor. Most international travel from U.S. citizens happens across borders, which includes the countries of Mexico and Canada. Being close by and sharing a continent may cause people to assume they can travel there freely with a passport, but that isn’t always the case.


Canadians are known as being overly friendly but this is not the case to those with a DUI conviction. While a DUI in the U.S. may be a misdemeanor, it could be a felony in Canada. If this is the case, sources note there is could be a 10 year limit that a U.S. travelers with DUI convictions are barred from crossing the Canadian border. For those that wish to visit Canada before that long 10 year limit, according to the Canada Border Services Agency, “Depending on the crime, how long ago it was committed, and how you have behaved since the conviction, you may still be allowed to come to Canada, if you:

• convince an immigration officer that you meet the legal terms to be deemed rehabilitated, or
• applied for rehabilitation and were approved, or
• were granted a record suspension, or
• have a temporary resident permit.”


Photo by: jrsnchzhrs

It is a misconception that Mexico is more lax in its policies toward DUI convictions. While Mexico’s policies seem to change frequently, Mexican officials have access to the U.S. criminal database (Interpol). If it will show up on someone’s record in the U.S., it can show up when they try to enter Mexico. While traveling following a misdemeanor DUI conviction usually won’t end in trouble, there have been several people who have been denied entrance to Mexico for a felony DUI conviction on their record. If a felony DUI doesn’t stop someone from entering Mexico, it has the potential to create a hassle for them upon return to the States.

Know before you go

Anyone with a criminal record including a misdemeanor DUI conviction, planning on traveling internationally is encouraged to inquire carefully with the countries they plan to visit before setting off on their travels to ensure they will not face problems during travel. Even if travelers aren’t denied entrance, being held up with immigration officer could be embarrassing and time consuming. For more information, contact U.S. Passports and International Travel.

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

Photo by: Matt Lord

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.”


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

Photo by: Martin Fisch

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.