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Recent Changes to Utah’s Right to Bail Statute

The right to bail is not absolute.

Who has a Right to Bail in Utah?

The Utah Legislature has passed a new statute addressing criminal defendants’ right to bail. One of the most important changes addresses who has a right to bail and who does not. Those who do not have a right to bail include the following:

  • Capital crimes – Individuals charged with capital felonies (i.e., first degree murder) so long as there is substantial evidence supporting the charge;
  • Felony while on probation or parole with substantial evidence that the felony was committed;
  • Felony on felony – if someone is already out on bail awaiting trial on a felony charge and then is charged with another felony, he will not have the right to bail on the subsequence felony charge so long as there is substantial evidence for the subsequent felony charge;
  • Flight risk – If charged with a felony and the court finds that the defendant is likely to flee Utah’s jurisdiction;
  • Danger to others –  If charged with a felony and the court finds that the defendant present a substantial danger to the community or another;
  • Violating the terms of bail – If charged with a felony, out on bail, and the defendant violates the terms of his bail he can be held without bail for the duration of pretrial;
  • Domestic violence – any charge of domestic violence, misdemeanor or felony, and the court finds that the defendant constitutes a substantial danger to the alleged victim and there is substantial evidence to support the charge.

If a prosecutor believes the defendant is not entitled to bail, he must file a motion to detain the defendant. The court will then schedule a detention hearing where the defendant can argue against detention.

What Happens When Bail is Granted?

When a defendant is allowed bail, the court must impose the “least restrictive reasonably available conditions of release” to ensure that the defendant will show up to his court hearings, alleged victims, witnesses, and community are safe, and that the defendant will not obstruct the proceedings.

“Least restrictive” can take many forms depending on the allegations. For example, in any felony crime where there is an alleged victim of physical or sexual abuse, the defendant may be ordered to wear a GPS ankle bracelet, ordered to not go within 1000 feet of the alleged victim, ordered to have no contact with the alleged victim, etc. Defendants charged with DUIs will likely be ordered to not consume alcohol or drugs.

The court may rely on a number of factors in determining what constitutes the least restrictive means including:

  • Whether there is a pretrial services provider that can monitor the defendant;
  • Whether the charge is violent;
  • The individual’s family life, employment status, mental health, etc.;
  • The potential danger the defendant imposes on others;
  • Whether the defendant was already on probation or parole;
  • Whether the defendant has others who are willing to help him make his court dates;
  • Whether the defendant is willing to attend treatment programs;
  • The likelihood of fleeing;

The court can then impose a number of restrictions if it finds it necessary for allowing the defendant to be released pretrial.

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