The stages of a Utah criminal Sex offense case follow a general pattern, and it is never too early to contact and hire an attorney for guidance through the criminal justice system. It is best to hire an attorney during the investigation phase because an attorney 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. It is advised to speak with an attorney before talking to a law enforcement officer.
In a misdemeanor case an arraignment occurs where the defendant either pleads guilty or not guilty. If a defendant pleads not guilty, then 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 a felony case, a judge will generally not accept a plea of guilty but rather will simply enter a plea of not guilty and allow time to consult with an attorney. This is the first opportunity for defendants who cannot afford to hire their own attorney to request that a public defender be appointed to represent them. In addition to this process, 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.
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.
The preceding information is a general overview of the criminal justice system but for specifics about criminal cases, an attorney must be contacted.