In justice court misdemeanors, prosecutor’s are sometimes prepared to make a plea offer to resolve a case at the arraignment hearing. Often, however, the prosecutor has not had an opportunity to thoroughly review the case materials and is therefore not ready to make an offer. In some justice courts, prosecutors may not even be present at the arraignment. Regardless, it is best to consult with an experienced defense attorney before accepting any offer to resolve a criminal case.
- Does a prosecutor have to turn over discovery materials in possession of police? Pursuant to State v. Knight, 734 P.2d 913 (Utah 1987), constitutional principles of due process dictate that a prosecutor’s obligation to provide discovery materials extends to materials known to, in possession of, or under the control of any member of the prosecution team. Prosecutors sometimes erroneously believe that they are only responsible for providing discovery materials in their direct possession. But the prosecution team includes police officers or agencies involved in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal case.
- Can I resolve my case at the arraignment? In misdemeanor cases, you can sometimes resolve your case at the first hearing (arraignment). Generally, however, this will mean some kind of conviction will be entered on your record. More often, a better result is obtained when you begin by entering a "not guilty" plea and seeking the advice and assistance of a good attorney.
- What is the first felony court hearing in Utah? The first hearing in a misdemeanor criminal case is normally the "arraignment" hearing, where the judge will read the charges formally filed in the case and ask the defendant to enter plea of either guilty or not guilty. In Utah felony cases, the arraignment does not occur until after the case has been "bound over" for trial in the district court. The first felony court hearing is sometimes referred to simply as an "initial appearance" or "felony first hearing."
- Can a prosecutor wait to provide discovery until the defense asks for it? "Can" and "should" are two very different matters. Prior to 2021, Rule 16 of Utah's Rules of Criminal Procedure suggested that a prosecutor’s obligation to provide discovery was triggered only when the defense asked for it. The rule stated, “[T]he prosecutor shall disclose to the defense upon request the following material or information of which he has knowledge....” Utah R. Crim. Pro. 16(a) (2020). Constitutional principles of due process have long been interpreted as requiring that a prosecutor disclose certain discovery materials, even if the defense did not make a request. The 2021 amendments to Utah's Rule 16 made it…