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Should I represent myself if I am charged with a crime?

Do I need to hire a defense lawyer for a Utah criminal case?

Hiring an attorney to handle your criminal defense case in Utah can be one of the most important decisions you make. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can make the difference between success and disaster. If you are questioning whether you need an attorney, consider the following issues.

Do you have legal training and experience needed to go up against a seasoned prosecutor?

Utah's criminal courts use an adversarial system - prosecution v. defense. A defendant who chooses self-representation will be going up against a prosecutor who likely has handled hundreds or thousands of cases, who has spent thousands of hours in court, and has spent years studying the rules of evidence, criminal procedure, and substantive criminal law. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help even the playing field.

The criminal law, rules of evidence, and procedural rules that govern a criminal case are not always straightforwardly written. Each of these rules and statutes has to be interpreted in light of a lengthy history of case law and opinions from Utah's appellate courts as well as the federal court system and United States Supreme Court. It can take years of study and experience to develop the knowledge and skill necessary to successfully defend a criminal case in court.

You have the right to represent yourself and to present your own defense in court. But in most cases, you will be far better off if you hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to handle your case.

Can you handle a worst-case scenario in your criminal case?

In a perfect world, car accidents would never happen, no one would get sick, and justice would always prevail in our criminal courts. But still, we buy car insurance and health insurance. And most people hire a criminal defense attorney to ensure that their interests and rights are protected when they are charged with a crime.

An insurance agent once explained his theory on what things you should insure, and what things you should not insure. He said, "If you can afford to absorb the cost of a worst case scenario, then don't buy the insurance. If you can't absorb that cost, then buy insurance." Small things like a broken toaster will probably not drive you into bankruptcy, so comprehensive and extended warranties may not be necessary. But major problems like long-term illnesses or an automobile accident with serious injuries can mean financial disaster. Insurance for these possibilities can be vital.

In a legal case, if you can accept the worst case scenario, then you may not need to worry about hiring an attorney. If you are facing a minor speeding ticket with just a small fine, then the money you would spend on an attorney is probably more than the conviction would cost you. On the other hand, in Utah even a "minor" misdemeanor conviction carries a real risk of jail time.

Any criminal conviction carries the potential for jail time. Felony convictions may result in extended prison sentences. Even a short jail sentence could mean losing your job, foreclosure or eviction from your home, not being able to take care of your family, and more. A felony conviction can make it much more difficult to get a job or even just to rent an apartment. Many Utah criminal convictions can also affect your driver's license, the right to possess a gun or hunt, professional licensing, employment, and more.

If you can accept the worst case scenario for a conviction in your case, maybe you don't need an attorney. But when the consequences of a Utah criminal conviction can have a devastating impact on your life and family, hiring an experienced Utah criminal defense attorney can give you the best chances of getting a positive outcome in your case.

Finding a Criminal Defense Attorney in Salt Lake City, Utah

Criminal Defense Lawyer UtahSalt Lake criminal defense lawyer Stephen Howard has handled more serious criminal cases than most Utah attorneys will see in their entire careers. His track record includes not guilty verdicts or dismissals in cases including aggravated robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, forgery, drug possession and distribution, DUI, and many more.

If you are facing a criminal charge in Utah, contact us now to schedule your initial consultation. See the difference an experienced criminal defense attorney can make for your case.


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  • Criminal Defense AttorneyDismissed - Charges of insurance fraud were brought when investigators found reason to believe that client's claim of injury was fraudulent. Client was seen kicking a soccer ball, and investigators concluded that the injury claim was false. By obtaining medical records and other administrative records, and by pointing out to the prosecutor that the alleged injury interferred with the client's ability to lift - not his ability to kick a ball - the prosecutor agreed to dismiss the case.
  • 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 Expungement Lawyer Expunged - Client with prior conviction for violent felony was ineligible for expungement through the courts. A successful 2-step reduction restored expungement eligibility and ultimately led to the court's decision to grant the requested expungement.
  • Felony Attorney Utah Dismissed - Client facing first-degree felony charge and possible life in prison for child kidnapping. Full defense analysis of the case revealed critical legal flaws in the prosecution's case. When confronted with the defense legal analysis, the prosecutor agreed to dismiss the case outright without trial.
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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

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