The Utah Legislature has implemented some rules as a protection against over-zealous (tyrannical) justice court judges, many of whom are “jail happy.” The rules can act to prevent a judge from sending a defendant to jail…in most cases.
Non DUI or Reckless Driving Cases
For every case filed in a Utah Justice Court that is not a DUI or a reckless driving charge, the court is limited on sentencing a defendant to jail by the appeal process. When a defendant appeals from a justice court, Rule 27A of the Utah Rules of Criminal Procedure states that a justice court “shall order stayed any period of incarceration.” There is an exception but it requires the justice court to find “by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant posed a danger to another person or the community” or that “the appeal does not appear to have a legal basis.”
We have never encountered a time when the court has made a finding under the above two exceptions, but obviously if a defendant is facing charges for a violent crime there is a possibility that the court could make such a finding.
DUI and Reckless Driving Cases
For terms of incarceration less than 30 days, the justice court must stay the jail sentence unless the court finds, at the time of sentencing, that the defendant “poses an identifiable risk to the safety of another or the community and that the period of incarceration, and no less restrictive alternative, is necessary to reduce or eliminate that risk” or that the “appeal has no legal basis.”
For terms of incarceration greater than 30 days, the defendant has the burden of filing a memorandum that establishes the “legal basis for the appeal and that the appeal is not being taken for purposes of delay…why the defendant is not a flight risk…and why the defendant does not pose a danger to any other person or the community.” Once the defendant has filed such a memo with the court the court must hold a hearing on the matter within 10 days and then must order the defendant released from jail unless it finds by a preponderance of the evidence that (1) the defendant is a flight risk; (2) the defendant would pose a danger to any other person or the community if released; or (3) the appeal does not appear to have a legal basis.
If you are facing a charge in a Utah justice court that could result in incarceration give our criminal defense lawyers a call at 801.618.1334