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Utah Criminal Sentencing Appeals

Can I appeal a sentencing decision in a Utah criminal defense case?

A defendant in a Utah criminal case has a constitutionally protected right to appeal the final order of the court - including the court's sentencing decision. However, the process for appealing a sentence and the probability of success can vary dramatically depending on whether the case began in a district court or justice court.

If you are facing an upcoming sentencing hearing or have been sentenced in a Utah criminal case, the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney can be critical. Based in Salt Lake City, criminal lawyer Stephen Howard has the experience necessary to help you achieve the results you need. Contact us now to arrange for an initial consultation.

Utah Justice Court Sentencing Appeals

Under Utah law, justice courts are not considered to be "courts of record." The appeal from a justice court sentencing decision is therefore treated as a "de novo" proceeding, with the case being transferred to the district court and a new judge. When a justice court conviction and sentence are appealed, the defendant has the option of demanding a new trial or appealing only the sentencing order from the justice court.

If only the sentencing order is appealed to the district court, the district court will hold a new sentencing hearing. The appeal from a justice court sentence provides for a "de novo" hearing - meaning that the district court will enter a new sentencing order without regard to the decision of the justice court. To avoid a chilling effect on the right to appeal, the district court is generally prohibited from imposing a sentence more harsh than what the justice court imposed.

When appealing the entire conviction and demanding a new trial, the trial in the district court will generally proceed without reference to what happened in the justice court. One exception to this general rule arises when a not guilty verdict was reached in the justice court on only some of the charged offenses. In such circumstances, jeopardy has attached to the convictions where an acquittal was obtained in the justice court; the prosecutor cannot retry those charges in the district court.

There can be advantages or disadvantages to appealing either a sentencing order or the entire conviction, depending on the specific circumstances of the case. To determine which option is most appropriate for your case, you should consult with a criminal defense lawyer.

Utah District Court Sentencing Appeals

The appeal process from the district court is much more complex, and typically has a much lower rate of success than appeals from the justice court. Whereas an appeal from the justice court gives the opportunity for a "do-over" in the form of a de novo hearing, an appeal from the district court requires that any issues be analyzed in detail and presented with citation to supporting legal authority as part of a formal legal briefing process. The prosecution will have the opportunity to respond in a formal brief, with the defendant having the final opportunity to reply in written brief form. Both parties will normally also be allowed an opportunity to present oral arguments to the Court of Appeals or Utah Supreme Court.

The fight to successfully appeal a sentence from the district court can present a significant uphill battle. Utah's appellate courts have held that district courts have wide latitude and discretion in determining an appropriate sentence.

Courts must proper procedural steps at a sentencing hearing, providing each side with an opportunity to present appropriate information and evidence. But so long as the court has complied with constitutional due process protections and followed other legally required procedures, a Utah appellate court will generally not reverse the sentencing court's decision unless the appellate court finds that the sentence imposed is "inherently unfair or clearly excessive." This is a high standard to meet, and district court sentencing decisions are rarely reversed on appeal.

Finding a Utah Criminal Appeals Attorney in Salt Lake City

Utah Criminal Defense LawyerThe decision to appeal your case can have significant consequences, whether you are appealing from a justice court or a district court order. Having the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney can be critical. As a Utah criminal lawyer based in Salt Lake City, Mr. Howard has handled appeals in cases ranging from homicide to DUI. Contact us today to schedule confidential consultation.

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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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