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.

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 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 available on the Utah Sentencing Commission's website (sentencing.utah.gov).

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: 4/19/2016
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