Criminal courts in Davis County have jurisdiction over both misdemeanor and felony criminal charges. Justice courts have jurisdiction over class B misdemeanor or lower level criminal charges, whereas the district courts are considered courts of general jurisdiction.
Because the consequences of any criminal prosecution can be serious, it is crucial to have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. We are pleased to serve clients in Davis County and throughout Utah. Contact us today to see how the right criminal lawyer can help.
What determines if a district or justice court hears a case?
The level of the offense and the location of the alleged crime both contribute to determining whether a Davis County criminal case is heard in the district court or justice court. The court must have both subject matter jurisdiction based on the level of the offense as well as territorial or geographic jurisdiction based on location.
Davis County has three district court locations, in Farmington, Bountiful, and Layton. Although each court has general subject matter jurisdiction over both felony and misdemeanor crimes, the practice within Davis County is that felony and class A misdemeanor cases are normally filed in the Farmington Department of the Second District Court. District Court Judges from Bountiful and Layton handle some criminal court calendars in Farmington. Depending on which judge is assigned to a case, a trial on a felony charge may be heard in one of the other district court locations. Most of the proceedings in a felony case will normally occur in Farmington.
When facing criminal charges for a class B misdemeanor, a class C misdemeanor, or an infraction, your case will most often be heard in the justice court that has geographic jurisdiction over the location where the alleged offense occurred. Many cities in Davis County operate their own justice courts. But there is also a Davis County Justice Court housed alongside the Farmington District Court that hears misdemeanor cases occurring either outside of city limits or in cities that do not have their own municipal justice court.
Layton City provides an example of an exception to the general rule. Because Layton does not have its own justice court, the Layton City Prosecutors typically file cases in the Layton Department of the Second District Court.
What happens if I am convicted in Davis County?
Justice Courts – Even though justice courts in Davis County are restricted to dealing only with the lower-level offenses, the resulting penalties imposed by a justice court can still be severe. A single class B misdemeanor is punishable by up to 180 days jail; a class C misdemeanor is punishable by up to 90 days jail. The sentences for multiple charges can be run back to back (consecutively), resulting in a year or more in jail. Collateral consequences of a conviction in a justice court can also include driver license suspensions, losing the right to carry a firearm, difficulty finding a job, and more.
District Courts – Penalties for felony convictions in Davis County’s district courts can be devastating. First degree felony charges carry the potential for up to life in prison. Lower level felonies can carry prison terms of up to 30 years. Some convictions involve mandatory prison sentences, but most felony convictions carry the potential for probation. Being charged with a felony crime does not mean you will be convicted of a felony.. Many felony cases can be reduced to misdemeanor charges through plea negotiations. Some felony cases can even qualify for a plea in abeyance agreement.
Can I appeal a Davis County criminal case?
Different appeal process apply depending on whether a case was handled originally by a district court or a justice court. The following provides only a brief overview. Consultation with an experienced criminal attorney is strongly recommended, and time is critical when filing a notice of appeal.
District Court Appeals – A district court is considered a “court of record.” As a result, if you choose to appeal your case, the appeal will be heard by either the Utah Court of Appeals or the Utah Supreme Court. Appeals to the Supreme Court or Court of Appeals require complex legal analysis and a detailed review of the record from the trial court to determine appropriate issues for appeal. The briefing process for both sides, oral argument before the appellate court, and the time for the court to decide and ultimately issue a formal opinion can easily take much more than a year.
Justice Court Appeals – Since Utah justice courts are not “courts of record,” an appeal from a justice court is heard as a “de novo” proceeding in the district court. In a justice court appeal, the district court has to make a fresh determination of whatever issue that is being appealed, generally without reference to what occurred in the justice court. For example, if a person is convicted at trial in a justice court and then appeals, the district court will grant a trial “de novo” (meaning that an entirely new trial must be conducted in the case with a new jury).