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Utah Criminal Defense Terms

Below you will find information which will educate you on the legal process and the Utah court system.

Bail hearing

If you have appeared in court because you were served with a Summons, you will probably not have a bail hearing, as long as you always appear as ordered. However, if you have been arrested, this hearing is to determine what conditions will be required if you want to be released from custody while your case proceeds. You are entitled to conditions of release which are not excessive. The judge may release you simply on your promise to appear at all settings, or may require a cash bail, a property bond, or a bail bond.

Felony First Appearance

At this hearing you will be formally charged with an offense or offenses and provided with an Information (the charging document).

Waiver Hearing

Your case may involve one or more waiver hearings. These hearings are conducted primarily to determine if you and the State of Utah can reach a plea bargain. These are called Waiver Hearings because, if you reach a plea bargain with the State, a preliminary hearing and trial will not be necessary and you will waive them.

Preliminary Hearing

Before standing trial for a felony, you are entitled to make the State prove that there is probable cause to believe you have committed the crime with which you have been charged. At this hearing the State is required to produce a sufficient amount of evidence (testimony, documents, pictures, weapons, drugs, etc.) so that the judge is satisfied that a crime has probably occurred and that you probably committed it. Because the standard of proof at a preliminary hearing (probable cause) is much lower than the proof required at a trial (beyond a reasonable doubt), the State typically does not expose its entire case at this hearing. If the judge finds that the evidence establishes probable cause that you committed the crime charged, you will be required to plead to the charge at an Arraignment).


At this hearing you will be required to enter a plea to the crime charged. If you plead “not guilty”, motion hearings and a trial will be scheduled. If you plead guilty or no contest, a sentencing will be scheduled.

Pre-Trial Motion Hearings

Some cases require hearings prior to trial. These hearings are conducted because you or the State may file a motion. These motions may involve requests to limit testimony, to prevent evidence from being used by the State, to move the trial, to continue the trial, etc.

Utah Criminal Trial

This is the hearing at which the State is required to prove its case against you, beyond a reasonable doubt. The case may be heard by the judge or by a jury. Every trial is unique because of the facts and strategies involved. We will plan for the special needs of your trial.


If you plead guilty or are found guilty by a judge or jury, you will be sentenced at a hearing which is sometimes called a Sentencing Hearing and sometimes called a Judgment Hearing. This hearing will most likely be set six weeks after your trial or the date you enter a guilty or no contest plea. During this six week period you will most likely be required to cooperate with an agent of the Adult Probation & Parole who will compile background information on you and the case and make a recommendation for a sentence. A sentence may include a fine, restitution, a commitment to jail or to the custody of the Department of Corrections (prison), or probation. For a more detailed discussion of possible sentences, see Sentences.

Post-Judgment Motion Hearings

In some cases motions must be heard after trial. We will discuss these with you if one or more become necessary.


An appeal is commenced after sentencing and challenges the factual determinations or legal rulings made at your trial. We will discuss this procedure with you should it become necessary.

Orders to Show Cause

If you are placed on probation and fail to comply with all of the terms of your probation, you will likely be ordered back before the sentencing judge to show cause why your probation should not be revoked. You are entitled to the help from an attorney at these show cause hearings. If the judge determines that you have violated any of the conditions of your probation, your probation may be revoked entirely (in which case you will be committed to the Department of Corrections to serve a prison sentence) or it may be revoked and reinstated with additional sanctions such as additional jail, intensive supervision, etc. If your probation is reinstated, you will start a new probation period.


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