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Misdemeanor Jail Time in Utah

Can a person be ordered to serve more than a year in jail on a misdemeanor?

Utah Code 76-3-204 establishes that the maximum period of incarceration (jail time) that a court can impose as a sentence on a misdemeanor charge is one year. If you are facing new charges or a claim that you violated probation, having the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney is critical. Contact us today to see how we can help.

Can extra time be added for a probation violation?

Under Utah law, jail time should not be imposed as an independent punishment for a misdemeanor probation violation; instead it should be credited as time served toward the maximum sentence for the original conviction. Felony probation violations are treated differently than those involving only a misdemeanor case, and can involve up to a year jail as a condition of probation. But in misdemeanor cases, Utah Code 76-3-204 establishes the maximum term of incarceration - "[i]n the case of a class A misdemeanor, for a term not exceeding one year." The maximum punishment that a court may impose for violating probation is the imposition of the suspended portion of the sentence that was originally ordered (assuming that probation is revoked and not just modified).

What about contempt?

"Contempt" involves some principles similar to those involved in a probation order to show cause, but it is different than a criminal probation violation. Some justice courts are still known to add "contempt" as an additional "charge" in the case when the defendant's conduct really should be treated as a probation violation. Utah law does allow in some circumstances for a criminal charge of contempt to be filed. But in most cases, a violation of the terms of probation should lead instead to an order to show cause.

Why do some prosecutors argue for more jail time?

Confusion sometimes arises under Utah Code 77-18-1(11)(a)(ii), which states "Any time served in confinement awaiting a hearing or decision concerning revocation of probation does not constitute service of time toward the total probation term unless the probationer is exonerated at the hearing." But the key language in this statute is "time toward the total probation term." This subsection refers to the running of the total probation term, and provides that a defendant is not entitled to credit toward the probation term for time they spend in jail waiting for an order to show cause. In other words, if you get locked up on a probation violation and the probation period would have expired while you were waiting for the OSC hearing, the court does not lose jurisdiction because that time doesn't count against the probation term unless the court finds that you did not violate probation.

The above-noted interpretation is further supported by the following subsection (iii), which states "Any time served in confinement awaiting a hearing or decision concerning revocation of probation constitutes service of time toward a term of incarceration imposed as a result of the revocation of probation. . . ." In other words, time spent in jail waiting for your OSC does count toward the maximum jail term.

If further support for this interpretation is needed, subsection (12)(e)(iv) states "If the defendant had, prior to the imposition of a term of incarceration or the execution of the previously imposed sentence under this Subsection (12), served time in jail as a condition of probation or due to a violation of probation under Subsection(12)(e)(iii), the time the probationer served in jail constitutes service of time toward the sentence previously imposed." In other words, jail time served on OSC's gets credited toward the sentence that was originally imposed.

What if there are multiple misdemeanor charges in the case?

In cases involving multiple misdemeanor charges, a judge may impose consecutive jail terms that could result in more than a year in jail. But for a single misdemeanor conviction, the maximum jail time is still one year.

What about felonies?

As noted above, felonies are different. In a felony case, a sentencing judge has the option of sending a person directly to prison ("forthwith") or suspending the prison term and placing the person on probation. If prison time is suspended, then subsection (8)(a)(iii) provides that a person "on probation for a felony offense [can be ordered as a condition of probation] to serve a period of time, not to exceed one year." But that applies felony cases where prison time has been suspended - not a misdemeanor case. The maximum jail term for a single misdemeanor is still one year - including time spent in jail for a probation violation.

Choosing a Utah Criminal Defense Attorney

Utah Criminal Defense LawyerIf you are facing criminal prosecution for a felony or a misdemeanor offense in Utah, choosing the right criminal attorney to handle your case is one of the most important decisions you will have to make. With experience defending cases ranging from capital murder to DUI, and virtually everything in between, we have the skill, knowledge, and tenacity needed to help you get the results you need.

The consequences of a criminal conviction can be serious. Contact us today to see how the right criminal defense attorney 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

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