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.

An Utah felony sex offense is any crime that has a potential jail sentence greater than one year. An Utah misdemeanor sex offense is any crime that has a potential jail sentence of one year or less.

There are four classes of Felonies in the State of Utah: Capital Felonies, First Degree Felonies, Second Degree Felonies and Third Degree Felonies.

The maximum penalties for conviction of Felony crimes in the State of Utah are as follows:

  • A Capital Crime carries the maximum sentence of death.
  • A First Degree Felony carries the sentence of 5 years to life in prison; and a fine of $10,000.
  • A Second Degree Felony carries the sentence of 1 year to 15 years in prison; and a fine of $10,000.
  • A Third Degree Felony carries the sentence of 0 to 5 years in prison; and a fine of $5,000.

Certain enhancements to sentences may apply that could increase a sentence.  In addition, many Utah Sex offenses require mandatory prison sentencing, which for example an First degree Aggravated Sexual Abuse of a Child carries a mandatory 6, 10 or 15 years to Life.

Plea bargaining in sex offense can be complicated by mandatory sentencing, please make sure you contact an experienced Utah Criminal Defense Attorney to guide you through the criminal court system.

If you have been accused of rape, your case may be criminal or civil or both.  An alleged rape victim (through a criminal prosecutor) may press criminal charges or they may chose not to press criminal charges and just sue; however, an alleged rape victim may both press criminal charges and sue for monetary damages.

The criminal and civil justice systems are two separate and distinct systems. In the criminal system the Government, through the prosecuting attorney, is always the plaintiff or the party who is bringing the action to court. It is not the alleged victim, but the prosecutor who pursues the case. A criminal case is brought with the purpose of serving the public’s interest in reducing the incidence of criminal conduct in society by means of punishment, rehabilitation and applying principles of justice. In the criminal system, a defendant, if found guilty, may be ordered to serve jail or prison time, pay fines and restitution if any, complete community service, take classes with a counseling agency or comply with other conditions that are appropriate for the individual case.

The civil system, by contrast, generally deals with matters like divorce, adoption, employment discrimination, personal injury, contract disputes, and bankruptcy, as well as many other types of cases. The primary focus of the civil system is to adjudicate or resolve conflicts that arise between individuals. The civil system in many instances can operate to reduce criminal conduct in society by offering individuals a viable means to resolve their differences in a civil manner rather than resorting to illegal self help measures that may escalate to violence. The civil court system resolves conflict between individuals by awarding one or more of the parties to a lawsuit a remedy which may include monetary damages caused by the wrongful conduct of the person being sued. Other types of remedies requested in the civil system are declarations of a individual rights pursuant to a specific law, injunctive relief in which the court orders one of the parties to perform a legal obligation or even orders them to stop some action they are not legally entitled to engage in. Unlike the criminal system, private parties bring cases in the civil system.

photo: Orin Zebest
photo: Orin Zebest

Cassandra was a princess of Troy during the epic Trojan War. She was so beautiful that she attracted the eye of the God Apollo who promised her the gift of prophecy in return for sexual favors. Cassandra agreed, received the gift of prophecy, and then refused to have any sexual relations with Apollo. Apollo cursed her for this. Cassandra retained the ability to perfectly predict the future, but no one ever believed her or even listened to her warnings. Everyone deemed Cassandra a raving lunatic.

Accusations of rape and sexual assault are often met with the same skepticism as Cassandra’s predictions were. Many sexual assaults remain unreported because of the skepticism they attract; accusers are often, immediately thought to be lying. In such cases, the only repercussions are for the victims: ruined credibility, and perhaps additional violence. These feelings about rape may be due to the very personal aspects of the crime. It is both an intimate and absurdly violent act. There are rarely eyewitnesses which can reduce the facts to a he says/she says situation of credibility. No matter the reason for reporting/not reporting the rape, the way in which the law deals with the crime must be improved. If you find yourself in a matter of false rape accusations or involved with charges of sexual assault where little to no facts are present, the most important thing is having a confident criminal defense attorney.