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Utah Expungement Appeals

Can I appeal an expungement denial entered by a justice court judge?

Posted by Utah Criminal Lawyer Stephen Howard - June 29, 2016

It seems like a simple question, that should have a simple answer. But up until earlier this year (2016), there was significant dispute over the question of whether a petitioner who was denied expungement by a justice court judge could have that decision reviewed on appeal in Utah. Thankfully, the Utah legislature has clarified this issue.

The right of appellate review is one of the foundational elements of our criminal justice system. It is commonly understood and almost universally assumed that if a party to a case disagrees with a judge's final decision, then an appeal can be filed. The most notable exception to this rule is that a prosecutor cannot appeal a jury's not-guilty verdict. Under both state and federal constitutions, once the jury reaches a not-guilty verdict, the case is over. (This is not the case in all criminal court systems throughout the world - in some countries, the government has the right to appellate review of a not-guilty verdict.)

It was generally clear that a district court's denial of an expungement originally filed in the district court was subject to appellate review by the Court of Appeals or Supreme Court. However, the statute governing appeals de novo from the justice court did not provide specifically for an appeal right from a justice court's denial of an expungement order.

This left unanswered the question of whether a justice court's denial of an expungement petition could be appealed. But the legislature's 2016 amendment to Utah Code 78A-7-118 (governing justice court appeals) now specifically provides jurisdiction to the district court to conduct a hearing de novo on an expungement petition originally filed in a justice court.

Finding a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Utah

Utah Criminal Defense LawyerWhether you are trying to clear your past criminal record with an expungement or facing new criminal charges, having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side can give you the best chance of obtaining a successful outcome. Contact us today to see what the right attorney can do for you.


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

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560 South 300 East, Suite 200, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
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