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Motion to Quash Bindover - Utah Criminal Defense Attorney

A bindover order is made by a Utah state court magistrate following a preliminary hearing in felony and class A misdemeanor cases,when the magistrate has found probable cause to support a belief that a crime has been committed, and that the defendant is the person who committed that crime. When the magistrate has made the required findings, the magistrate will order that the defendant be bound over to the district court* to answer the charges.

In mounting an effective defense, a motion to quash the bindover order can be used to challenge the district court's jurisdiction. In many instances, a successful motion to quash bindover will result in the complete dismissal of the criminal case.

If you are facing criminal charges in Utah, it is vital to have the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Contact us today to arrange for an initial confidential consultation.

Can a motion to quash be used to challenge a magistrate's bindover order following a criminal preliminary hearing?

Under the legal principle sometimes referred to as "the law of the case," a court will consider itself to be bound by its own prior legal rulings or factual findings made at an earlier stage of the case. An argument might therefore be made that once the court has made a determination that probable cause does in fact exist, that such determination becomes "the law of the case" and cannot be challenged again. This argument, however, is incorrect in the context of a motion to quash a bindover order made following a preliminary hearing..

A motion to quash the bindover is in some sense a challenge to the district court's jurisdiction. The motion to quash challenges the legal and factual basis for the magistrate's bindover order which allowed the district court to take original jurisdiction over the matter. Utah courts have made it clear that the principle of "the law of the case" does not prevent a review by the district court judge of the magistrate's bindover decision.

The Utah Supreme Court's opinion in State v. Humphrey sheds important light on the issue:

"At that point [when the magistrate has ordered the defendant bound over to answer the charges in the district court], the district court has the inherent authority and the obligation to determine whether its original jurisdiction has been properly invoked. In doing so, the district court need show no deference to the magistrate's legal conclusion, implicit in the bindover order, that the matter may proceed to trial in district court, but may conduct its own review of the order." State v. Humphrey, 823 P.2d 464 (Utah 1991) (emphasis added).

Not only does the district court have the authority to review the bindover decision, but has "the obligation" to determine whether bindover was proper. A district court will not normally review the bindover decision sua sponte. Instead, the court will make the review upon the filing of a proper motion to quash the bindover.

Rule 12 of the Utah Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that motions challenging jurisdiction should normally be brought at least seven days before trial. Because a motion to quash bindover is in some respects a challenge to the district court's jurisdiction, it should at a minimum be brought seven days before trial. In practice, the motion to quash bindover is usually brought as soon as the necessary transcripts are available to support the motion. It is the better general practice to file the motion to quash bindover as soon as possible.

Proceeding to trial without filing a motion to quash bindover is viewed by appellate courts of a waiver of any defect in the bindover order. Because quantum of evidence necessary to support a sufficiency challenge on appeal is greater than what is required to support a bindover decision, some courts have reasoned that any defect in the bindover decision is cured by the presentation of greater evidence at trial.

*Note that under Utah's current court structure, the "magistrate" at a preliminary hearing is actually a district court judge acting in the role of magistrate. Under the previous system that involved both circuit courts and district courts, the magistrate acted only in the circuit courts and had jurisdiction that was limited to misdemeanors, and felony charges only through the preliminary hearing stage. Following a bindover order, the defendant's case was moved to the district court. Under the current system, both the preliminary hearing and jury trial in a felony case will be handled in the district court.

Choosing a Utah Criminal Defense Attorney

Utah Criminal Defense LawyerIf you are facing prosecution for criminal charges in Utah, it is vital to have the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Utah criminal lawyer Stephen Howard has successfully defended clients facing charges ranging from homicide to DUI, and virtually everything in between.

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

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