The stages of an Utah Felony criminal sex offense case follow a general pattern, and remember it is never too early to contact and hire an experienced criminal lawyer to help guide you through the system. Indeed, it is best to hire a lawyer during the investigation phase because a talented and savvy criminal lawyer may help prevent charges from being filed or possibly work out a resolution to the case very early on.
During the investigation phase a 911 call may have been made and a police officer or detective responds to the scene to investigate whether a crime has occurred and if so who committed the crime. An investigation is about collecting evidence that can be used in a criminal prosecution. If you are the target of an investigation, it is almost never in your best interest to speak with law enforcement officers without first consulting with an attorney.
The information gathered during the police investigation is forwarded to a prosecutor who then decides what charges, if any, to file. A document called an information is filed with the Court and a criminal proceeding is started. The information formally charges a defendant with a crime and gives the defendant an idea of what crime he or she is accused of.
In a Utah Felony Sex Case (Rape, Aggravated Sexual Abuse, Rape of a Child, Possession of Child Porn or Enticing a Minor Over the Internet), a judge reads the information to the defendant and generally will not accept a plea of guilty but rather will simply enter a plea of not guilty and give you time to consult with a lawyer.
This is the defendant’s first court appearance and is often referred to as an initial appearance. This is the first opportunity for defendants who cannot afford to hire their own Lawyer to request that a public defender be appointed to represent them. In addition to pleading guilty or not guilty and determing whether a defendant is entitled to have an public defender appointed, other issues may be addressed such as a request that the amount of bail required for release be reduced or that the defendant be released either on his or her own recognizance or to pretrial services. Pretrial services is a division of the court system that monitors defendants outside of jail during the pendency of their case. Pretrial release is in lieu of either incarceration or the posting of bail.
If a defendant pleads not guilty, then in misdemeanor cases a pre-trial conference is set. A pre-trial conference allows a prosecutor and a criminal defense attorney an opportunity to talk about resolving the case. If the case cannot be resolved, then a motion such as a motion to suppress may be filed and/or the matter may be set for trial. In felony sex cases, after the initial appearance, a roll call hearing is set which is functionally very similar to a pretrial conference.
In felony cases only, a defendant has the right to a preliminary hearing. The purpose of the preliminary hearing is to determine whether there is sufficient evidence for the prosecutor to proceed with the case to trial.
After a preliminary hearing or a motion, then the case may go to trial. At trial the prosecutor will present evidence through witnesses, and the defendant may or may not testify or present evidence through witnesses. The preceding information is a general overview of the criminal justice system and you should immediately contact an Utah criminal lawyer for the specifics about how your Felony sex case should be handled.