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Should I represent myself if I am charged with a crime?

Do I need to hire a defense lawyer for a Utah criminal case?

Hiring an attorney to handle your criminal defense case in Utah can be one of the most important decisions you make. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can make the difference between success and disaster. If you are questioning whether you need an attorney, consider the following issues.

Do you have legal training and experience needed to go up against a seasoned prosecutor?

Utah's criminal courts use an adversarial system - prosecution v. defense. A defendant who chooses self-representation will be going up against a prosecutor who likely has handled hundreds or thousands of cases, who has spent thousands of hours in court, and has spent years studying the rules of evidence, criminal procedure, and substantive criminal law. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help even the playing field.

The criminal law, rules of evidence, and procedural rules that govern a criminal case are not always straightforwardly written. Each of these rules and statutes has to be interpreted in light of a lengthy history of case law and opinions from Utah's appellate courts as well as the federal court system and United States Supreme Court. It can take years of study and experience to develop the knowledge and skill necessary to successfully defend a criminal case in court.

You have the right to represent yourself and to present your own defense in court. But in most cases, you will be far better off if you hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to handle your case.

Can you handle a worst-case scenario in your criminal case?

In a perfect world, car accidents would never happen, no one would get sick, and justice would always prevail in our criminal courts. But still, we buy car insurance and health insurance. And most people hire a criminal defense attorney to ensure that their interests and rights are protected when they are charged with a crime.

An insurance agent once explained his theory on what things you should insure, and what things you should not insure. He said, "If you can afford to absorb the cost of a worst case scenario, then don't buy the insurance. If you can't absorb that cost, then buy insurance." Small things like a broken toaster will probably not drive you into bankruptcy, so comprehensive and extended warranties may not be necessary. But major problems like long-term illnesses or an automobile accident with serious injuries can mean financial disaster. Insurance for these possibilities can be vital.

In a legal case, if you can accept the worst case scenario, then you may not need to worry about hiring an attorney. If you are facing a minor speeding ticket with just a small fine, then the money you would spend on an attorney is probably more than the conviction would cost you. On the other hand, in Utah even a "minor" misdemeanor conviction carries a real risk of jail time.

Any criminal conviction carries the potential for jail time. Felony convictions may result in extended prison sentences. Even a short jail sentence could mean losing your job, foreclosure or eviction from your home, not being able to take care of your family, and more. A felony conviction can make it much more difficult to get a job or even just to rent an apartment. Many Utah criminal convictions can also affect your driver's license, the right to possess a gun or hunt, professional licensing, employment, and more.

If you can accept the worst case scenario for a conviction in your case, maybe you don't need an attorney. But when the consequences of a Utah criminal conviction can have a devastating impact on your life and family, hiring an experienced Utah criminal defense attorney can give you the best chances of getting a positive outcome in your case.

Finding a Criminal Defense Attorney in Salt Lake City, Utah

Criminal Defense Lawyer UtahSalt Lake criminal defense lawyer Stephen Howard has handled more serious criminal cases than most Utah attorneys will see in their entire careers. His track record includes not guilty verdicts or dismissals in cases including aggravated robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, forgery, drug possession and distribution, DUI, and many more.

If you are facing a criminal charge in Utah, contact us now to schedule your initial consultation. See the difference an experienced criminal defense attorney can make for your case.

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  • Selected Victories
  • Criminal Defense AttorneyDismissed - Contractor was charged with theft by deception for allegedly misusing customer funds and failing to complete work that had been agreed upon. A successful motion to quash on legal grounds following the bindover order at preliminary hearing resulted in a complete dismissal of all charges.
  • Criminal Appeals Defense AttorneyDismissed on Appeal - DUI case was dismissed after a successful appeal where the Utah Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's denial of the defense motion to suppress. Without the suppressed evidence, the prosecutor acknowledged that they did not have sufficient evidence to proceed to trial and the case was dismissed.
  • Utah Probation Attorney Released - Client absconded for more than 10 years from felony probation with Adult Probation and Parole. At an order to show cause hearing, prosecutor argued aggressively for prison. Based on effective mitigation efforts by the defense, the judge agreed to release client without further jail.
  • Utah Burglary Attorney Not Guilty - Client was charged with residential felony burglary and theft charges. Effective cross-examination of alleged victim at preliminary hearing resulted in an admission by the alleged victim that the charges were based on a false report to police, made for the purpose of getting revenge against the defendant. Case was dismissed outright.
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Serving Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Utah, Cache, Tooele, Summit, Box Elder, and Wasatch Counties, and all of Utah.

Attorney Stephen Howard practices as part of the Canyons Law Group, LLC and Stephen W. Howard, PC.

Offices in Salt Lake and Davis Counties
560 South 300 East, Suite 200, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
952 S. Main St., Suite A, Layton, UT 84041

Call now to arrange for a confidential initial consultation with an experienced and effective Utah criminal defense lawyer.

In Salt Lake City, call 801-449-1409.
In Davis County, call 801-923-4345.

Stephen W. Howard, PC

The materials in this website are intended for informational purposes only, and are not legal advice. Viewing or responding to materials in this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. Read Full Disclaimer.