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What Are The Differences Between Misdemeanor And Felony Charges?


The difference between a misdemeanor and felony is simply in terms of the possible maximum time that a person can be incarcerated. For a misdemeanor it is always less than a year. For a felony it is always a possible maximum sentence of more than a year.

How Does The Process Of Bail Work In The State Of Utah?

Initially, bail is most often set at the jail. From there, a defendant may work out bail through a bail bondsman, an attorney or with the court directly. A person can be released once the full amount of bail is paid upfront in cash or on a credit/debit card. The bail money is basically a way of ensuring that a person will make good on their promise to return to court. If the person doesn’t return for court, then the court can initiate processes to forfeit that money. In that case, the person may avoid prosecution for the time being, but they will have lost their money. The bail set is always subject to judicial review and a skilled attorney can achieve reductions in or alternatives to posting bail.

Utah Code 77-20-1 provides for a person’s right to bail and lists the offenses that may not be eligible for bail, which are capital offenses and felonies. The court will review the case and consider the potential threat to the community, the possibly of flight and the nature of the allegation. A person can go through a bondsman and pay 10% of the bail. For example, if it’s a $10,000 bail, then they’d pay $1,000 and the bondsmen would post the other $9,000. In that situation, the person would not be entitled to any money back, because the bondsmen would keep that $1,000. Once all of the court appearances were satisfied and the case resolved, the court would give back the $10,000 and the bondsman would keep their $9,000 along with your $1000 as their fee for the loan.

Do Most Criminal Cases Go To Trial Or Do They Plead Out?

I explain to my clients that cases resolve in one of three ways. The first is by dismissal, which is rare. If new information is brought to bear on a case in the prosecutor’s eyes that would cause them to reverse course, then the case may get dismissed. Or, if the court decides that the evidence should be suppressed, then the prosecution cannot make their case and it will be dismissed. The second way is by trial, which is also rare. People associate trials with the criminal justice system because that’s what they see on TV and in the movies.

Most cases resolve through a negotiated settlement commonly called a plea bargain. There are many reasons for that, but I think the biggest one is that it creates the most certainty in the expected outcome. Even if you have a strong belief that the law and facts are on your side, going to trial is always a potential roll of the dice. You never know who is going to be on the jury, and it’s the same for the prosecutor. With that prospect, both parties usually have a motivation to give a little and come to a settled compromise where the outcome of the case is not all-or-nothing and in the hands of an unpredictable gathering of individuals in a jury room.

How Does A Current Arrest Or Conviction Impact A Criminal Case?

There are some prior convictions that, by statute, require a more severe charge and penalty. These include DUI and retail theft, for instance. Generally speaking, if the prosecutor pauses to say, “This is not a person’s first rodeo, he’s been in the criminal justice system,” then the prosecution is less likely to grant the kinds of second chances and leniency as they might for petty and light offenders. When prior offenses start to build up, you are dealing with recidivist, seasoned offenders, and eventually looking at the possibility of prison. Prior convictions follow a person around and often reflect upon a person’s conduct and character when their history is reviewed for things like employment and housing.

For more information on Misdemeanor vs. Felony Charges, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (801) 455-1743 today.

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(801) 455-1743