Utah Courts


Home Page
Previous Page

Finding Legal Help

You are not required to hire an attorney, but legal matters can be complicated. Consider talking to an attorney to go over your options. See the Finding Legal Help page for information about free and low cost ways to get legal help. 

Como encontrar ayuda legal

Usted no está obligado a contratar un abogado, pero los asuntos legales pueden ser complicados. Considere la posibilidad de hablar con un abogado para hablar de sus opciones. Para información sobre cómo obtener ayuda legal vea nuestra página Como encontrar ayuda legal.

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.


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


Possible Prison Term

Possible Fine


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


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.


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 or
compensatory service

Class C

Up to 90 days in jail

Up to $750 or
compensatory service

See Utah Code §76-3-204 and §76-3-301


An infraction is a minor offense such as a city traffic violation and some disorderly conduct offenses. An infraction is punishable by a fine up to $750, compensatory service as a way of satisfying the fine, forfeiture, disqualification, or a combination of those punishments.

Compensatory Service

In Class B & C misdemeanor and infraction cases, it may be possible to perform service or unpaid work instead of paying a criminal fine. This is called "compensatory service." Each hour of compensatory service is worth $10.00. Compensatory service can be performed for:

  • a state or local government agency;
  • a nonprofit organization; or
  • any other entity or organization if prior approval is obtained from the court.

Utah Code 76-3-301.7.

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 available on the Utah Sentencing Commission's website.

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 are 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.

The Utah State Courts mission is to provide the people an open, fair, efficient, and independent system for the advancement of justice under the law.

Page Last Modified: 5/8/2018
Return to Top

Facebook YouTube Twitter RSS Feeds

Close ×