Effective April 1, 2012, the Utah Rules of Criminal Procedure will be amended to conform with the requirements of the Utah Supreme Court’s decision in the case of State of Utah v. Hernandez, 2011 UT 70. In Hernandez, the Utah Supreme Court held that the Utah State Constitution provides for the right to a preliminary hearing for both felony charges and class A misdemeanors (in cases where the charges are not filed based on a grand jury indictment).
Historically, preliminary hearings had been held in class A misdemeanors. But as certain procedural changes were made in the way criminal cases were handled in the Utah court system, preliminary hearings for class A misdemeanors came to an end. The Utah Supreme Court in Hernandez essentially held that, while the procedural rules had changed, the state’s constitution had not changed. Thus, although the Utah Rules of Criminal Procedure no longer required preliminary hearings for class A misdemeanors, the state constitution still did.
Upon the issuance of the Utah Supreme Court’s opinion, Utah criminal defense attorneys immediately began demanding that preliminary hearings be held for class A misdemeanor cases. The Utah court rules will now conform to the constitutional requirement of a preliminary hearing for class A misdemeanor charges.