Utah Grand Jury Bill Threatens the Integrity of the Criminal Defense Process

Utah Preliminary Hearings

In Utah criminal law proceedings a preliminary hearing is issued before a trial as an opportunity for opposing parties to present evidence to a judge. The judge will decide whether to continue the case to trial based off the presented evidence. The prosecutor and defense attorney are given equal opportunity to present evidence, call witnesses to the stand and cross-examine evidence that has been presented. The goal within a preliminary hearing for the defendant is to have the case dismissed before continuing on to a trial. A preliminary hearing is public and gives the defendant a fair opportunity to plead his case.

Utah Grand Jury Proceedings

In some cases a grand jury can be summoned instead of the usual preliminary hearing. A grand jury is a private hearing where the prosecutor presents evidence to the jury. The defense attorney is unable to present evidence and cross examine evidence because the defense attorney is not allowed to be present. Utah law holds that a prosecutor seeking a grand jury must justify it before a five-judge panel. The panel will call a grand jury depending if good cause exists.

Bill Proposes to Make it Easier to Call a Grand Jury

A Utah legislative bill has been proposed at the beginning of this year that could amend the need for good cause to call a grand jury. This bill would allow the panel to call for grand jury under any circumstance unless it finds that good cause does not exist to have one. The need for existing good cause would be unnecessary; this would give the prosecution more of an advantage. If any case is able to call a grand jury without good cause, the defendants will be unable to cross-examine witnesses before trial, making it much more difficult for criminal defense attorneys to protect the rights of the accused.

At the law firm of Salcido Law Firm our attorneys have experience that you can trust and feel confident in to help you reach the best result within your criminal defense case. Call 801.618.1334 today to schedule a free consultation.