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Trial by Fire - Trial by Jury

Trying to determine guilt or innocence in the criminal justice system is not always an easy (or accurate) process. Trial by jury is right guaranteed under both the Utah State Constitution and the Constitution of the United States. But juries have not always been used to determine guilt or innocence. If you are facing prosecution in Utah, contact us today to see what defense options may be appropriate for your case and to see how our criminal defense team can help you.

Trial by Ordeal - How it Worked

Today the phrase “trial by fire” refers to a situation in which one’s ability and resolve to function under pressure is tested. Originally, however, “trial by fire” was a not merely a figure of speech - it was meant literally. In the Middle Ages, trial by fire was just one example of the judicial process known as "trial by ordeal."

Utah Criminal Defense Trial LawyerDuring a trial by ordeal the defendant would be put to an unpleasant and usually very dangerous test.  Examples include walking certain number of paces holding a red-hot iron or dipping a hand into a kettle of boiling water or oil to retrieve a stone.  The idea behind a trial by ordeal was that a higher god would intervene to prove the defendant’s guilt or innocence.

Clearly, this judicial process had its faults. But many scholars have suggested that the method was not entirely without merit.

Trial or Confession - It's Your Choice

Trial by ordeal may have been a very effective method of extracting confessions. In a society where people firmly believed that a priest could call on god to reveal the truth by miraculously protecting only the innocent person from harm, a person who was in fact guilty would be much more likely to choose to confess his guilt rather than choose to undergo the ordeal.

The punishment for pleading guilty was generally more lenient than the penalties that would be imposed on one who was found guilty through trial by ordeal. Trial by ordeal therefore also provided strong motivation for an innocent person to falsely confess.

In order to voluntarily choose to undergo the ordeal, a person who was actually innocent must have believed and expected god to perform a miracle during the trial by ordeal and prove them innocent by protecting them from harm. Historical records suggest that the process was not always 100% accurate.

Criminal Defense Lawyers in Utah

DUI Attorney in Davis and Weber CountyOur criminal justice system has evolved significantly since the Middle Ages. But our system today is still not perfect. Having the assistance of an experienced criminal defense lawyer can be critical to achieving the right outcome.

If you have been charged with a felony or misdemeanor crime in Utah, contact us today to see how we can help you.

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  • Selected Victories
  • Criminal Defense AttorneyDismissed - Contractor was charged with theft by deception for allegedly misusing customer funds and failing to complete work that had been agreed upon. A successful motion to quash on legal grounds following the bindover order at preliminary hearing resulted in a complete dismissal of all charges.
  • Drug Crimes Defense Attorney Utah Dismissed - Client facing first-degree felony drug distribution charge and potential life in prison. Charges were based on allegations that client had sold drugs to an undercover police officer, then made a full confession. Successful mitigation work resulted in negotiated offer of misdemeanor plea-in-abeyance and ultimate dismissal of case.
  • Utah 402 Reduction Attorney Felony Reduced - Client with prior felony conviction was granted a 402 reduction to the misdemeanor level over the objection of the prosecutor. Based on information provided to the court in support of the defense motion, the judge ruled in favor of the defense.
  • Utah Burglary Attorney Not Guilty - Client was charged with residential felony burglary and theft charges. Effective cross-examination of alleged victim at preliminary hearing resulted in an admission by the alleged victim that the charges were based on a false report to police, made for the purpose of getting revenge against the defendant. Case was dismissed outright.
Best Criminal Defense Strategy

The best outcome is more likely when the right strategy is employed. Developing the best strategy can require real courtroom experience, a thorough understanding of procedural and substantive legal issues, and a determination to ensure that important constitutional and other legal rights are protected. Choosing the right attorney....

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Salt Lake Criminal Defense Attorney Profile Utah

Defending against a criminal prosecution in Utah is a job that has to be done right the first time. Choosing the right attorney to defend you can be the most important decision you make. Our attorneys have extensive experience handling some of the most serious felony and misdemeanor charges on the books in Utah. No matter what charges you are facing, we can help....

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Conviction Consequences in Utah Criminal Prosecutions

Jail time, prison time, thousands of dollars in fines, and the lifetime collateral consequences of having a criminal conviction on your record - all of these and more are at stake when you are facing criminal prosecution in Utah. Understanding what is at risk is critical. Even so-called "minor" misdemeanor cases can have serious consequences....

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Utah Criminal Defense Attorney - Hope

Facing criminal prosecution in Utah can feel like your world is collapsing. But there are reasons to remain hopeful, and there are things you can do right now that can help increase the odds of a successful outcome. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you evaluate the various options you have, and can help you....

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Serving Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Utah, Cache, Tooele, Summit, Box Elder, and Wasatch Counties, and all of Utah.

Attorney Stephen Howard practices as part of the Canyons Law Group, LLC and Stephen W. Howard, PC.

Offices in Salt Lake and Davis Counties
560 South 300 East, Suite 200, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
952 S. Main St., Suite A, Layton, UT 84041

Call now to arrange for a confidential initial consultation with an experienced and effective Utah criminal defense lawyer.

In Salt Lake City, call 801-449-1409.
In Davis County, call 801-923-4345.

Stephen W. Howard, PC

The materials in this website are intended for informational purposes only, and are not legal advice. Viewing or responding to materials in this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. Read Full Disclaimer.