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Domestic Violence - Forfeiture by Wrongdoing

This page presents a brief overview of the doctrine of forfeiture by wrongdoing as it applies in domestic violence and other Utah criminal defense cases. The doctrine of forfeiture by wrongdoing can dramatically affect the strength of a prosecutor's case when there is a witness who may be reluctant to testify or who is persuaded by another not to testify. If you are facing criminal charges in Utah, contact us today to see what the right attorney can do for you.

Utah Criminal Defense Issues - Doctrine of Forfeiture by Wrongdoing

The doctrine of forfeiture by wrongdoing has been applied by Utah courts in cases where a defendant (or someone acting at the direction of or on behalf of the defendant) has engaged in wrongful conduct that has resulted in the unavailability of a prosecution witness. Courts have applied this doctrine in situations ranging in severity from the actual murder of a witness to the a subtle threat that results in a witness refusing to testify in court. In addition to evidence that the defendant's wrongful conduct has resulted in the unavailability of a witness, the doctrine generally requires evidence that the defendant acted with the intent to make the witness unavailable.

The legal doctrine of "forfeiture by wrongdoing" can serve as an exception to the evidentiary rules generally applicable to hearsay and can function as a waiver of a defendant's Sixth Amendment right to confront and cross-examine witnesses against him/her. The theory underlying the doctrine is based on the idea that by engaging in wrongdoing that results in the unavailability of a witness/declarant, the defendant has forfeited the right to confront that witness/declarant at trial. The result often is that prior statements of the unavailable witness/declarant may be admitted at trial even though the statements would otherwise constitute inadmissible hearsay.

The determination as to whether the doctrine of forfeiture by wrongdoing should apply in any particular case is a determination that should be made by the court outside the presence of the jury. Evidence that a witness was killed by the defendant and evidence that a witness is afraid to testify or is choosing to invoke a spousal or other privilege based on threats made by the defendant may be very relevant to the issue of whether the doctrine applies. But that same evidence will often be irrelevant and extremely prejudicial to the defendant in context of the charges that are filed in the main case.

Finding the Right Criminal Defense Attorney

Salt Lake Criminal Defense LawyerIf you are facing prosecution in Utah for a domestic violence offense or other criminal charges, the consequences of a conviction can be serious. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side can be vital. Contact us now to see what the right attorney can do for you.


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  • Criminal Defense Trial AttorneyNot Guilty - Client was charged with aggravated assault for allegedly pointing handgun at and threatening another driver during a road rage incident. Defense investigation and analysis, combined with effective cross-examination at trial indicated the alleged victim was the initial aggressor and suported client's self-defense claim. Jury acquitted client at trial.
  • Minor Possession Alcohol - MIP AttorneyDismissed - Minor in possession charge (MIP) was dismissed by prosecutor when defense analysis demonstrated that the police had failed to obtain necessary evidence against client. Police had raided a large party involving underage drinking. Several individuals were charged, but police did not obtain evidence showing that client had personally consumed or possessed alcohol. Case was dismissed.
  • 402 Reduction Lawyer Utah 2-Step Reduction - Client needed a two-step reduction to bring a prior conviction to the misdemeanor level. Collection of substantial evidence of reform and rehabilitation convinced a normally reluctant prosecutor to stipulate to the defense 402 reduction motion.
  • Violent Crimes Assalt Defense UtahDismissed at Preliminary Hearing - Client charged with aggravated robbery and facing life in prison. Full case analysis and consultation with client allowed the development of a strong defense strategy. Effective cross-examination of the alleged victim at the preliminary hearing resulted in an outright dismissal of all charges by the judge.
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  • Utah Misdemeanor Attorney Salt Lake Can I handle a Utah misdemeanor from out-of-state? - Even if you do not intend to take your case to trial, a misdemeanor criminal offense in Utah can require multiple court appearances to reach a resolution. If you have been charged with a crime in Utah, but are not a Utah resident, an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to help you resolve the case without returning to the state. . . .
Best Utah Criminal Defense Strategy

Successfully defending against criminal prosecution requires more than just an 'aggressive' defense. The best defense attorneys understand that a sophisticated defense requires a thorough understanding of a variety of nuanced legal issues, real experience in the courtroom, good negotiation skills, and much more. Fighting hard is good. Fighting smart is better....

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Salt Lake Criminal Defense Attorney Profile Utah

Finding the right criminal defense lawyer for you Utah criminal case will be one of the most important decision you make. Before hiring any lawyer, there are a number of important factors to consider. The person you select as your criminal defense attorney will be responsible to defend your case and protect your rights....

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Conviction Consequences - Utah Criminal Defense

A Utah criminal prosecution can result in a lifetime of consequences. Beyond jail and prison, a conviction can affect many areas of life, including employment, housing, finances, family, and much more. Never plead guilty without first consulting with an experienced criminal attorney. Understanding what is at stake is the first step....

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Utah Criminal Attorney - Reasons to Hope

An arrest is not a conviction. If you are facing criminal prosecution in Utah, it can feel like your world is collapsing. But there are things you can do right now that can increase your chances of a good outcome. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help you evaluate the various options available to you and help develop a strategy for success....

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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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