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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 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 Expungement Attorney Salt Lake Davis Expunged - Client with prior conviction for violent felony was ineligible for expungement through the courts. A successful 2-step reduction restored expungement eligibility and ultimately led to the court's decision to grant the requested expungement.
  • Felony Attorney Utah Dismissed - Client facing first-degree felony charge and possible life in prison for child kidnapping. Full defense analysis of the case revealed critical legal flaws in the prosecution's case. When confronted with the defense legal analysis, the prosecutor agreed to dismiss the case outright without trial.
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Best Criminal Defense Strategy

Aggressive is good. Effective is better. The best defense strategy in any given criminal case can require in-depth analysis of the facts and a thorough understanding of applicable statutes, case law, and complex procedural and evidentiary rules. Having an experienced attorney on your side....

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Salt Lake Criminal Defense Attorney Profile Utah

Defending against a criminal prosecution in Utah is a job that has to be done right the first time. Choosing the right attorney to defend you can be the most important decision you make. Our attorneys have extensive experience handling some of the most serious felony and misdemeanor charges on the books in Utah. No matter what charges you are facing, we can help....

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Conviction Consequences in Utah Criminal Prosecutions

Jail time, prison time, thousands of dollars in fines, and the lifetime collateral consequences of having a criminal conviction on your record - all of these and more are at stake when you are facing criminal prosecution in Utah. Understanding what is at risk is critical. Even so-called "minor" misdemeanor cases can have serious consequences....

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Criminal Defense Attorney in Utah - Reasons to Hope

Clients sometimes ask what the "worst case scenario" is for their charges. We prefer to take a more positive approach. Facing criminal prosecution in Utah can have serious consequences. But you can take steps and make choices right now that will improve your chances of a positive outcome. Let us 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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