The first step in the judicial process for a criminal matter will be an arraignment. When you appear for an arraignment you will be show a short video on your rights. After the video, you will be advised of the charge(s) brought against you. You may enter a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest at this time.
You may request that an attorney be appointed to represent you. An attorney will only be appointed if you cannot afford one, and there is a substantial likelihood that you will be incarcerated if convicted. If you believe you will qualify for a court appointed attorney, you must ask the clerk for an Affidavit of Indigency. Fill the affidavit out and have it ready for when your case is called.
If you plead not guilty, your case will be set for a pretrial conference or a trial. If you plead guilty or no contest, you have the right to be sentenced in not less than two days and not more than 45 days. You may waive your waiting period and request to be sentenced at the time of the arraignment.
At a pretrial conference, you will have the opportunity to discuss your case with the prosecutor. The prosecutor may offer to reduce a charge in exchange for your guilty or no contest plea. The prosecutor is not obligated to offer a reduced charge. If you and the prosecutor are unable to resolve your case at pretrial, your case will be set for a trial.
In a trial, the Court will hear the evidence presented by both sides, then decide whether you are guilty or not guilty. Since the prosecution has the burden of proof to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, they have the first opportunity to speak to the court. This is called an opening statement. After the prosecution has made its opening statement, the defense has the option to make their opening statement or wait until the beginning of their turn to present evidence and witnesses.
The opening statement is an opportunity to briefly describe the types of evidence and what you hope the evidence will mean to the Court. Neither side is required to make an opening statement.
After the opening statements, the prosecution presents its case. The prosecutor will offer evidence to prove that a crime was committed and that you committed the crime. After the prosecution is done you will have the opportunity to present your side of the story. Either side may present testimony by witnesses or submit documents, subject to the Utah Rules of Evidence and the Utah Rules of Criminal Procedure.
After you finish presenting your side of the story, then both sides will have the opportunity to rebut the other side. This is done by presenting additional testimony or evidence. Again, the prosecutor goes first, then you will have a change to speak. After each side is done, closing arguments are made.
During closing arguments, each side will have the opportunity to tell the Court why they are right. The prosecution gets to speak first, then you will get to argue your case, followed by a final argument by the prosecution. The case is then submitted to the Court for determination as to guilt. If you are found not guilty, then you are free to go and proceedings will end.
If you are found guilty, then you have the right to be sentenced in not less than two days and not more than forty-five days. In most cases, you may waive this right and be sentenced immediately. The Court may order that you report for a pre-sentence evaluation. If the Court so orders, then you will be instructed to report to an agency. It is important that you follow the instructions given to you as your failure to comply with the Court’s order may result in a warrant being issued for your arrest.