In Utah, a felony is any offense in which the defendant could serve more than a year in jail. Misdemeanors result in less than a year in jail and infractions do not carrying the possibility of jail time.
Felonies are the most egregious of criminal charges and involve prison (more than 1 year, unlike misdemeanors). There are four categories of felonies: Capital, First Degree, Second Degree, and Third Degree:
- Capital Felonies: Sentences are life in prison, life in prison without parole, and the death penalty. (Crime: Aggravated Murder)
- 1st Degree Felony: A range of 5 years to life in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. (Crimes include murder, child kidnapping, robbery, burglary, sex crimes, aggravated robbery and arson.)
- 2nd Degree Felony: 1 to 5 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. (Crimes include manslaughter, robbery, burglary, possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, theft of property at $5,000 or more, and intentional child abuse).
- 3rd Degree Felony: 0 to 5 years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine. (Crimes include burglary of a non-dwelling building, theft or forgery of checks between $1,000 and $5,000, possession with intent to distribute marijuana and false or forged prescriptions).
How Judges Determine Felony Sentences
During a felony criminal case, a judge will sentence a defendant based upon the Utah Sentence and Release Guidelines. There are several factors that go into the sentencing process. The prosecutor can ask a judge for a more severe sentence if the:
- Victim suffered severe bodily injury.
- Multiple charges or victims
- Defendant held a position of authority or trust over the victim.
- Victim was excessively vulnerable to the crime (such as a disabled individual or a child).
- Offender’s attitude is not conducive to supervision
- Financial or theft crime which involved equity in a person’s home or a person’s retirement fund.
These are known as “aggravating factors” when a judge determines a sentence.
A felony sentence can also be reduced if:
- Offender neither caused or threatened serious harm.
- Offender is young.
- Offender assisted law enforcement in the resolution of other crimes
- Offender was less active participant in the crime
- Offender has paid restitution.
- Offender has good employment or family relationships
Having a good criminal defense attorney can introduce mitigating factors that reduce the length of a jail or prison sentence.
The Felony Sentencing Process in Utah
In Utah, when a defendant is convicted, they have two options for when a judge sentences on a felony conviction:
- The defendant can be sentenced within 2 to 45 days after their conviction.
- The defendant can waive the 2- to 45-day and be sentenced immediately on the day of conviction.
The judge will ask Adult Probation and Parole for a pre-sentence report. This report includes the original police repot, the defendant’s criminal record and statement, the defendant’s personal and criminal, background, and a summary of the impact of the crime on the victim. The report also recommends a sentence for the judge. In Utah, judges generally follow Adult Probation and Parole’s recommendation and Utah’s sentencing guidelines.
How Salt Lake Criminal Defense Attorneys Reduce a Felony to a Misdemeanor
In certain circumstances, a felony conviction can be reduced to a misdemeanor. This occurs after the successful completion of probation. For example “Attempted Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Distribute: Cocaine” is a 3rd Degree Felony in Utah, but with a 402 reduction, Attempted Possession with Intent to Distribute can be reduced to a Class A Misdemeanor.
However, 402 reductions are a little bit tricky, and are not automatically approved. At the court’s discretion, a degree of a conviction can be reduced by one degree if:
- The defendant has successfully completed probation.
- The defendant has paid all fines and restitution and the offense is not a sex crime.
- The court determines that it is in the interest of justice to reduce a defendant’s conviction.
Additionally, if the prosecutor agrees, the court has the discretion of reducing a charge by two degrees if it serves justice. Salt Lake criminal defense attorney Clayton Simms can help process all the required paperwork, including:
- Completing the motion paperwork for the court.
- Serving your motion on the prosecutor that handled your case.
- Working with the prosecution’s office to grant the motion and overseeing any stipulations, like drug counseling or probation.
Not only is a 402 motion incredibly important for a defendant’s post-conviction life, but also this motion is entirely at the discretion of the court. A 402 motion in Utah requires the talents of an experienced criminal defense attorney.