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Criminal Defense In Utah

Criminal Defense In Utah

Criminal law essentially deals with crime. If you have been arrested by the police, the first thing you need to do is call an experienced Utah criminal defense attorney. As a person charged with a crime, you have the right to an attorney. Exercise your right. This right is guaranteed by the constitution of the United States of America to protect you.


Just about anyone can be arrested. There is no law preventing the police from arresting you. Under Utah criminal law, an arrest is an action in which a police officer takes away a person’s freedom in some significant way. A person can be arrested when an officer has a good reason to believe the person has committed a crime or is in the process of committing one. A police officer doesn’t have to say “you’re under arrest” for an arrest to occur – a command such as “Stand still” or “Come along” usually is enough. A good test for an arrest is whether the suspect realizes or should realize that he or she isn’t free to walk away. If a person isn’t sure whether he or she has been arrested, it is always appropriate to ask the officer, “Am I under arrest?” Even minors can be arrested. Although strictly speaking, minors aren’t “arrested.” They are “taken into custody.” This distinction in the law emphasizes the fact that the juvenile court system exists to protect and rehabilitate minors rather than punish them.

Individuals can be arrested if they commit or are suspected of committing “felonies” or “misdemeanors,” the two broad categories of crimes. Felonies are more serious than misdemeanors. Joyriding, for example, is a misdemeanor, but stealing a car without any intent to return it is a felony. Under Utah law, the maximum jail term for a misdemeanor is 1 year. Felony is the more serious and the jail terms are longer. Some felony offenses are punishable under Utah law with death penalty or life in prison without parole. If you or anyone you know is charged with a felony offense in Utah, speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Minors can also be arrested for almost all the same reasons as adults. In addition, minors who need supervision, special care, or medical treatment or who are runaways can also be arrested.

Role of Police

The Police represent the state or a political subdivision within a state, such as a city or county. States grant authority to their political subdivisions to enforce state laws and pass laws of their own. Police officers have the job of enforcing the law, and one of their most important enforcement tools is the power to arrest. But not all arrests are legal. The Police have to follow certain procedures when the make an arrest for the arrest to be legal. An experienced Utah Criminal Defense attorney can review the circumstances of your arrest and can challenge your arrest in a court of law.


An act is a crime only if a public law says it is. If an act isn’t prohibited by a federal, state, or local law, the police can’t arrest for it, and the prosecuting attorney can’t bring criminal charges against a person suspected of committing it. To arrest an adult, a police officer only needs to have “probable cause” to believe that a crime was committed and that a particular individual committed it. This is a requirement based on the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.

Arrest warrant

A warrant is a court order authorizing an arrest or a police search. Without a warrant, an arrest or search would be a violation of a citizen’s privacy rights under the Fourth Amendment. “Warrantless” arrests and searches are legal only if they fall under one of the few exceptions to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant rule.

To obtain a search warrant from the court, a police officer must be able to detail, in writing, the person, place, or things to be searched. The officer’s request to a judge – usually a signed “affidavit” – must be based on probable cause that the item to be searched for is where the officer says it is.

However, an arrest warrant isn’t needed if the officer believes he or she must detain the suspect on the spot. This exception to the warrant rule makes sense and is considered fair: if the officer needed to make a trip for a warrant, the suspect would undoubtedly vanish in the meantime.

Innocent people may also get arrested at times. When the police need to think fast, they sometimes make both reasonable and unreasonable mistakes.

If an arrest wasn’t required, the officer may release the “arrestee” on the spot. Otherwise, the subject may be released at the station or upon his or her initial appearance in court.

Detaining short of an arrest

The police can make three kinds of “stops.” The first is a basic type of police-citizen contact. It takes the form of a request for information or identification and allows a police officer to sniff out a potential problem. No force can be used, and the officer doesn’t legally restrict the subject’s personal freedom in any major way. The second type is a brief stop to investigate a suspicious situation and ask probing questions. Such a stop is called a “Terry stop,” after the landmark Supreme Court case of Terry v. Ohio. For a Terry stop to be legal, the police officer must have “reasonable suspicion” to believe that a crime has been committed or is about to be committed. Reasonable suspicion requires less suspicion than probable cause. The third type of stop is a full-scale arrest requiring probable cause and also the Miranda warnings. The difference between a Terry stop and an arrest is important.

The Miranda Warnings

Here’s how it all starts. A police officer confronts an individual and asks some questions about a particular incident. Then the officer will request the person’s name and address and ask to see some identification. It is always best to cooperate on these preliminary matters. If the officer has probable cause to believe the person being questioned has committed a crime, he or she will state that the suspect is under arrest and then recite the suspect’s “Miranda rights.” That is, the officer will advise the suspect of the following:

  • That the suspect may legally refuse to answer any police questions
  • That the suspect may call a lawyer or be assigned one at public expense
  • That the suspect may stop answering police questions at any time or wait until a lawyer arrives before answering any additional questions and
  • That anything the suspect says may be used by the state prosecuting attorney to establish the suspect’s guilt.

Miranda v. Arizona, a famous Supreme Court case, established that every criminal suspect has these rights – hence the term “Miranda rights.” A police officer’s recitation of a suspect’s Miranda rights is referred to all over the country as the “Miranda warnings.”

In the absence of the Miranda warnings, the law treats any statements made by the suspect as having been made in violation of his or her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. The statements are deemed involuntary and are therefore illegal, even though the suspect may actually have made them willingly. When statements such as these are illegal under the law, they may not be used as evidence to convict a suspect of a crime. This rule of evidence is known as the “exclusionary rule.”

A confession given after the Miranda warnings can be used to convict. The suspect is presumed to have knowingly given up, or “waived,” the right to remain silent.

Once a person waives the right to remain silent, he or she can at any point subsequently withdraw the waiver and refuse to answer any more questions and may at that point also request a lawyer.

If a person receives the Miranda warnings and later confesses to a crime, the confession will not always be treated as voluntary. A court can also declare a confession illegal if it was given when the suspect was under too much pressure from the police during questioning, even if the Miranda warnings were recited.

A police officer required to recite the Miranda warnings in connection with casual questioning. Neither probable cause nor reasonable suspicion is required for an officer to ask questions about a particular event, and the officer needn’t recite the Miranda warnings before asking them. But if probable cause develops during the questioning, the officer must recite the Miranda warnings before continuing.

Search warrant

A search warrant is a court order authorizing a search of a person, place (such as a bedroom or locker), or object (such as a purse or backpack). A request to the court for a search warrant must be based upon “probable cause” that specific items actually will turn up and must clearly describe the person, place, or object to be searched.

Under the Constitution, every search requires a warrant. Warrantless searches are legal only if they fall under one of the few legal exceptions to the warrant requirement.

A search incident to an arrest can also be conducted without a warrant. Another type of warrantless search is one required in an emergency, such as a car search.

A search warrant isn’t required for a search incident to an arrest. If an officer needs a search warrant before making an on-the-spot search of a suspect or his or her surroundings, evidence of a crime could be hidden or disposed of while the officer was in court obtaining the warrant.

Not all police searches are illegal. If a personal search, including a search incident to an arrest, is made without full probable cause, the search is illegal. It is again important to note that the “fruits” of an illegal search can’t be used to convict a suspect in court.

If a car is involved in an incident for which an arrest is made, certain areas of the car can be searched immediately and without a warrant. The police can search any bags and containers within the suspect’s reach inside the car, and also the glove compartment. The trunk usually can’t be searched until the police obtain a warrant, although to prevent the contents of the trunk from being removed, they may seize or “impound” the car until a warrant is obtained.

Police Station

Once the police take the suspect to the police station, unless the suspect has exercised his or her right to remain silent, the police will ask more questions. Their purpose will usually be to obtain a confession and discover the names of any accomplices. If you have been taken to the police station ask that you be permitted to speak to an experienced Utah criminal defense attorney immediately. This is important to protect your legal rights.

The police have the power to detain a suspect even if they don’t yet have enough evidence for criminal charges. When they do have sufficient evidence, they will “book” the suspect.

Statute of Limitation

The State of Utah has a criminal statute of limitation. Once the statute of limitation for an offense has passed, you can no longer be prosecuted. For most misdemeanors, the statute of limitation is two years. For felony offenses it can range from 4 to 8 years and even more. However, for serious felonies like murder, there is no statute of limitation.  

Seek legal counsel

If you have been charged with a crime in Utah seek the assistance of an experienced Utah criminal defense lawyer. Your liberty is at stake. Remain silent and ask that you be allowed to speak to your attorney. If convicted you can be sent to jail or ordered to pay a hefty fine. A conviction can remain on your records and you will find it difficult to rent a house or get a job because of your conviction. If you are subsequently charged for another offense, the judge will consider your previous conviction when sentencing you and you are likely to receive a harsher sentence.  

Utah Criminal Defense Lawyer Free Consultation

When you need to fight against criminal charges in Utah, whether it is a felony or misdemeanor crime, please call Ascent Law for your Free Consultation at (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506