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What is a motion to quash a bindover in Utah?

Before a felony charge (or class A misdemeanor) can be brought to trial, Utah criminal law requires that a preliminary hearing* be held where a judge must determine whether there is probable cause to believe that the charged crime occurred and that the defendant is the one who committed the crime.  If the judge finds that there is evidence to support a probable cause finding, then the judge will "bind over" the defendant for trial.  A motion to quash the bindover order is a motion challenging whether the evidence presented at the preliminary hearing is sufficient to support the finding of probable cause.  Having an experienced Utah criminal defense attorney on your side can give you the best chance of obtaining a successful outcome in your case.

The standard to support a bindover order is low.  Although both the prosecution and defense have the opportunity to present evidence at the preliminary hearing, a judge is required to view all evidence and testimony in the light most favorable to the prosecution, and to draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the prosecution.  Further, the evidence must support only a finding of "probable cause."  The probable cause standard is much lower than either a "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" standard, and even lower than a civil "preponderance of the evidence" standard.

Even so, there are cases in which a judge incorrectly binds a case over for trial.  If a motion to quash the bindover is successful, it has the same practical effect as having the entire case dismissed.

Based in Salt Lake City, criminal defense lawyer Stephen Howard offers legal services to clients throughout Utah.  Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.

*Utah law does allow a grand jury to issue an indictment for the charges without having a preliminary hearing involving the defendant.  However, grand juries are rarely used in Utah state court system.  The vast majority of Utah felony cases are filed by Information, which triggers the right to have a preliminary hearing.


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  • Criminal Defense Trial AttorneyNot Guilty - Client was charged with aggravated assault for alleged attack using broken bottle as a weapon. Despite the testimony of numerous prosecution witnesses, thorough defense investigation to support a self-defense claim resulted in acquittal by jury at trial.
  • Criminal Appeals Defense AttorneyDismissed on Appeal - DUI case was dismissed after a successful appeal where the Utah Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's denial of the defense motion to suppress. Without the suppressed evidence, the prosecutor acknowledged that they did not have sufficient evidence to proceed to trial and the case was dismissed.
  • Utah Probation Attorney Released - Client absconded for more than 10 years from felony probation with Adult Probation and Parole. At an order to show cause hearing, prosecutor argued aggressively for prison. Based on effective mitigation efforts by the defense, the judge agreed to release client without further jail.
  • Utah Burglary Attorney Dismissal - Client was charged with first-degree felony home burglary and facing potential life in prison. Defense analysis revealed flaws in prosecutor's case which led to abeyance agreement intended to lead to a full dismissal of the case.
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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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