Criminal Penalties

This page provides general information about criminal penalties. After a person has been convicted of a crime, a judge considers a number of factors before imposing a sentence. A judge can impose a sentence that may include a jail or prison term, probation, fine, community service, restitution, or a combination of all penalties, as allowed by Utah law.


Classification of Criminal Offenses

Crimes are classified into three categories: felonies, misdemeanors and infractions. To determine what category a crime falls into, you'll need to look at the law in the Utah Code (if state law), or the appropriate city or county code. Most criminal statutes specify how the crime is classified.


Felonies

A felony is a major crime which can be punished with imprisonment and/or a fine. There are four categories of felonies.

  • Capital Offense: Aggravated murder.
  • First Degree: Murder, rape, child kidnapping, aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery or arson, and possession with intent to distribute controlled substances near a school.
  • Second Degree: Manslaughter, robbery, residential burglary, kidnapping, perjury, auto theft, forgery of checks $5,000 or more, theft of property $5,000 or more, forcible sexual abuse, and intentional child abuse.
  • Third Degree: Burglary of non-dwelling, theft more than $1,000 but less than $5,000, aggravated assault, forgery of checks more than $1,000 but under $5,000, third DUI in 10 years, joyriding (for more than 24 hours), possession with intent to distribute marijuana, and possession of other controlled substances, and false or forged prescriptions.
Degree Possible Prison Term Possible Fine
Capital Life in prison, life in prison without parole, or death  
First Degree Five years to life in prison Up to $10,000
Second Degree One to 15 years in prison Up to $10,000
Third Degree Zero to five years in prison Up to $5,000

See Utah Code §76-3-203 and §76-3-301


Misdemeanors

A misdemeanor is an offense lower than a felony which can be punished with a county jail term of up to one year and/or a fine. Many city and county ordinances and some state laws are misdemeanors. There are three categories of misdemeanors.

  • Class A: Negligent homicide, DUI with injury, theft, assault on a police officer, criminal mischief, and possession of marijuana (more than one ounce, less than 16 ounces).
  • Class B: Assault, resisting arrest, DUI, reckless driving, possession of marijuana under one ounce, possession of drug paraphernalia, shoplifting (under $300), trespass of a dwelling, public nuisance, concealed weapon, and many traffic offenses.
  • Class C: Public intoxication, no valid license, and driving on a suspended license.
Class Possible Jail Term Possible Fine
Class A Up to one year in jail Up to $2,500
Class B Up to six months in jail Up to $1,000
Class C Up to 90 days in jail Up to $750

See Utah Code §76-3-204 and §76-3-301


Infractions

An infraction is a minor offense punishable by a fine only, up to $750. Examples include city traffic violations and some disorderly conduct offenses.


How a Sentence is Determined

The judge determines the sentence of a person convicted of a crime using the Utah Sentence and Release Guidelines. These are published as Appendix D of the Utah Court Rules Annotated and available on the Utah Sentencing Commission's website (sentencing.state.ut.us).

The Guidelines also provide aggravating and mitigating factors which can be considered in sentencing:

Aggravating factors

Things that can make the punishment more severe, including:

  • whether the victim suffered substantial bodily injury;
  • whether the offense was extremely cruel or depraved;
  • whether the offender was in a position of authority over the victim;
  • whether the victim was unusually vulnerable.

A penalty can also be enhanced if:

  • the person committed the crime with two or more other people;
  • the person used a dangerous weapon on or near a school;
  • the person committed the crime in the presence of a child;
  • the person is determined to have committed a hate crime;
  • the person is determined to be a habitual offender;
  • the offense was committed while in prison.

Mitigating factors

Things that can make the punishment less severe, including:

  • whether the offender was exceptionally cooperative with law enforcement;
  • is a good candidate for treatment;
  • has developmental disabilities.

The Sentencing Process


Non-Capital Cases

A person convicted of a crime has the right to be sentenced in no fewer than two and no more than 45 days after conviction. The defendant can waive that time frame and be sentenced on the day of conviction.

In felony cases, the judge often orders the Department of Corrections' Division of Adult Probation and Parole (AP&P) to prepare a pre-sentence report. This confidential report for the judge includes:

  • the police report;
  • the defendant's prior adult and juvenile record;
  • the defendant's statement;
  • drug and alcohol history;
  • family history;
  • probation history;
  • impact of the crime on the victim;
  • a sentencing recommendation for the judge's consideration.

Victims have the right to speak at the sentencing hearing. Their remarks considered along with the pre-sentence report and other evidence.

Capital Cases

A sentencing hearing is held at which defense counsel introduces evidence to show mitigating circumstances, and the state may introduce evidence to show aggravating circumstances. The jury or judge then deliberates to determine whether the person should be given the death penalty or a life sentence.


Page Last Modified: 8/11/2011
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