How to Make Sense of the Sentencing Matrix in Utah

The Utah sentencing matrix.
The sentencing matrix is a guide for judges to help them sentence individuals convicted of crimes.

The Utah Sentencing Matrix

The following guide explains vital information on Utah’s criminal sentencing matrix, including prison and prison terms for felonies and misdemeanors, how sentencing is impacted by aggravating and mitigating factors and mandatory minimum sentencing. When you or a loved has been sentenced with a criminal charge in Utah, the consequences can include being locked up for years or decades. It is crucial that you or your loved one’s Constitutional rights are preserved with a knowledgeable and aggressive defense attorney.

How does the Sentencing Matrix Work in Utah?

Criminal convictions can mean jail or prison time. In addition to federal offenses — which are influenced by federal sentencing rules — each state will requires a different sentence for separate crimes. Criminal sentencing in Utah is managed by the Utah Sentencing Commission. This organization’s objective is to formulate consistent sentencing guidelines for application in the state. Such guidelines direct judges to think about factors such as:

• Risk factors for reoffending (referred to as “recidivism”).
• The defendant’s criminal past.
• The safety of the overall public.
• The effect of sentencing on the offender’s employment outlook.
• Restitution to the victims.
• If different sentencing arrangements, like Drug Court, would be more effective than jail or prison — when reviewing the offender’s criminal record, odds of reoffending and living conditions.

Although the guidelines will set the foundational framework, judges will still have a bit of discretion and flexibility over sentencing case-by-case instances. Sentencing can also be influenced by mitigating factors, aggravating factors, and the characteristics of the charge. People who have been classified as “habitual and repeat” sex offenders, for example, are subjected to more penalties.

What Are Mitigating and Aggravating Factors?

Aggravating factors increase sentences and mitigating factors lower them. Numerous details, facts and sequence of events can be judged as aggravating or mitigating factors — in accordance with the characteristics of the underlying criminal charges.

The guidelines used for sentencing include directions to “only utilize aggravating conditions when they’re not [already] a factor of the transgression.” Here are situations where mitigating factors are used (which can lighten criminal charges):

• If you are a juvenile.
• If you’ve committed the crime through means that did not “create or threaten severe harm.”
• Displaying an attitude pointing to the fact that you’re “amenable to supervision” (i.e. you’re open to adhering to probationary terms).
• Having a compelling and extensive (“substantial”) basis for the charge of the offense — though not to the degree that such grounds would be more of a defense against the crime.
• Acting as more of a passive player as opposed to others who may have been involved in the offense.
• Perpetrating simple possession in Utah — which is possession of a drug only for personal usage (i.e. no trafficking-, distribution-, manufacturing- or sales-related crimes).
• Possessing “expressly good family relationships and/or employment” — which is thought to lower the chance of recidivism.

The lower an offender’s risk of reoffending, in general, the greater the chance he or she will receive lighter sentencing or probation.

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