Criminal law can cover small items like your grass is too long or a parking ticket all the way up to serious crimes like rape and murder. The less serious crimes like speeding, shoplifting, public intoxication, minor drug offenses, and some DUIs are heard in the Justice Courts. More serious crimes like repeated drug cases, DUIs, thefts, domestic violence can be heard in the District Court. While a first or second offense for drugs, DUIs, theft, domestic violence, and others may start off in Justice Courts, with repeated offenses the possible penalties increase and so the jurisdiction may move to the District Courts. Violent crimes, sex crimes, drug distribution, high-value thefts, using a gun in a crime, crimes that involve planning tend to be felonies and are also handled in the District Courts. We also have Federal Courts that hear certain types of crimes or crimes that happen in a certain jurisdiction or on Federal Lands.
Whether you believe the crime is serious or not, the type of court it is in, whether you think you are guilty or not, you should talk to a lawyer before going to court and always before entering a guilty plea. Many criminal law attorneys offer a free consultation to help get you started. An attorney’s job is not limited to just getting people off for crimes they have or have not committed but much more. Attorneys guide you through the system so you understand what is happening. Attorneys review the evidence to make sure the government has enough evidence to actually prove the case against you. Attorneys negotiate charges, various terms, sentences and penalties with the prosecutors. Attorneys argue your side to the prosecutor, judge or jury. The law has rules set about how to handle each of these situations. You hire an attorney because they know these rules and how to get the best result for you based on the facts of your case. Your attorney should spend as much time as needed to make sure
you understand what is happening, what you are charged with and what is continuing to happen throughout your case.
Public Defenders are available for some people. Find out all of your options. When searching for an attorney, you might have a case that multiple criminal defense attorneys have the skills necessary to handle the case. Do some research on your own. Does the attorney you are hiring do the work themselves or do they hire it out to someone else? Do they do motions to try and get the evidence kicked out? Are they skilled and experienced enough to go to trial for you? (many attorneys take the case with the intent to take whatever plea deal the prosecutor offers you.) What are you hiring the attorney for? Does the fee include motions, court, trials, appeals, negotiating, reviewing evidence, hiring experts, coming to court after you’ve been sentenced and more. Most attorneys exclude certain items upfront (I do) because they may not be expecting to handle that issue. A lot of attorneys will charge extra for a bench trial or a jury trial. Most don’t handle appeals. (There are attorneys that do nothing but appeals.) Many charge more for going to court after you’ve been sentenced. That’s all fine but you need to know that upfront to properly compare prices. The attorney says they will go to trial but how often do they really do a trial and talk about the results. (No attorney should be guaranteeing a result. How could they since the decision rests with the judge or jury.) In my opinion, once you’ve found a qualified attorney, one of the most important issues is being able to communicate with your attorney. Do they take your phone calls or call you back within a reasonable time? Do you talk to the real attorney or are you just dealing with a receptionist or a sales representative? Do you feel like you can open up and have a good conversation with your attorney?
If an attorney is priced much higher or lower than the others then find out why. Price should not be your deciding factor. A 1st DUI on your record comes with mandatory jail, fines, suspended driver’s license, evaluations usually classes or maybe even treatment, Maybe extra court dates, ignition interlock (like a breathalyzer) on your car. Your insurance will probably go up but you might also have to obtain special insurance that costs much more. Will you lose your job over a DUI? Depends on the company and what you do. Will it impact your licensing for work, what about security clearance? Do you travel outside of the US? Some countries won’t let you in if you have a DUI on your record. (check Canada) Are you in the US legally? Are you a citizen? Most criminal defense attorneys are not very knowledgeable about immigration issues. If you have any potential immigration issues you will also need to talk to an immigration attorney so both of your attorneys can try to work together and protect you. Never hide anything from your attorney. Remember you have a right to an attorney and the attorney-client privilege. What you tell your attorney is confidential and they need all of the facts to give you the correct advice.
Being involved in the criminal court system can be the most serious issues you face. The criminal courts have the ability to restrict your rights, take away money by fines or forfeiture, take away property in some cases, restrict your freedoms, make you do stuff you normally wouldn’t choose to do, lock you up in prison (which depending on the crime could be for life) and a court system that can even order the death penalty. When dealing with a system that can cost you everything including your freedom and even your life you always need an attorney, and you need to find the right attorney for you and your situation. Don’t ever feel bad about shopping around. You owe it to yourself to get the best attorney for you.
Our offices in Salt Lake City, UT provides legal services to the following counties: Davis, Weber, Cache, Morgan, Tooele, Summit, Iron and Washington Counties.
299 So. Main Street # 1300
Salt Lake City, UT 84111
Cell Phone / Text Messaging — 801-712-8990