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Does Utah Criminal Law Have a Three-Strikes Rule?

Some states have notoriously harsh three-strikes laws. While not formally referred to as "three-strikes" law, the Utah criminal code does have provisions that can substantially increase the penalties for a third offense in certain felony and misdemeanor cases.

Even a first offense can have serious consequences in Utah. Whether you are facing criminal prosecution for the first time or you have been through the system before, having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side can help give you the best chance at successfully defending your case. Contact us today to arrange for a confidential consultation with Utah criminal lawyer Stephen Howard.

Three-Strikes DUI Laws in Utah

Even first-time DUI convictions in Utah can carry serious consequences, including jail time, substantial fines, driver license suspension, and more. But with repeat offenses, the penalties become more severe.

A third DUI conviction within a 10-year period can be charged as a third-degree felony. The maximum punishment for a third-degree felony DUI in Utah is up to five years in prison and a fine of $9,500 in fine (including surcharge).

While probation is possible on a felony DUI case, judges often impose prison sentences for third-strike DUI convictions. If a sentencing judge suspends the prison term and instead grants probation on a felony DUI conviction based on enhancements for prior convictions, the judge is required to impose certain mandatory sentencing provisions. These include 62.5 days (1500 hours) of jail time (or electronically monitored home confinement) and a minimum fine of $2,850 (including surcharge). Probation must also include certain conditions including formal supervision, substance abuse screening and assessment, and a minimum of 240 hours of  intensive outpatient or inpatient substance abuse treatment.

Three Strikes Theft Laws in Utah

The level of offense for most theft charges in Utah is based on the value of the property stolen. But in cases where the defendant has been twice before convicted of a theft-related offense within a 10-year period, a prosecutor can enhance even a petty theft offense to the third-degree felony level. To have this enhancement apply, at least one of the prior convictions must have been for a class A misdemeanor or higher level conviction. This three-strike rule means that even a petty theft charge can be filed as a third-degree felony if the defendant's criminal record contains at least two relevant convictions within the 10-year period.

The offenses that count as "strikes" in the context of a theft case include any theft, any robbery, burglary with the intent to commit theft, fraud, or an attempt to commit any of those offenses.  By using the term "any" in relation to theft and robbery, the legislature has included all of the theft varieties (theft of services, theft by deception, theft from a person, theft of a motor vehicle, theft by receiving stolen property, etc.) as well as both ordinary and aggravated robbery.

Enhanced Penalties for Domestic Violence Convictions

Domestic violence laws do not follow a "three-strikes" pattern. Instead, a domestic violence offense can be enhanced by one level based on even a single prior domestic violence conviction within a five-year period of time. For example, an offense that would normally be a class A misdemeanor can be enhanced to a third-degree felony if the defendant has been convicted of a qualifying domestic violence offense within a five-year period.

The list of domestic violence laws in Utah is extensive, and generally includes any offense that involves violence, physical harm, or threats of harm or violence against any cohabitant. Utah Code 77-36-1 also provides a list of specific offenses that are classified as domestic violence offenses when committed against a cohabitant. . If a listed offense is committed against a cohabitant, the charge can be classified as a domestic violence offense.

Habitual Violent Offender Enhancements

Utah Code 76-3-203.5 provides one of the most severe enhancements for prior offenses. In order to be subject to the habitual violent offender enhancement, a defendant facing prosecution for a violent felony must be proven to have been twice before convicted of a violent felony and previously committed to prison for the offense.

If a person is found to be a habitual violent offender, the penalty for either a third- or second-degree felony is increased to the first-degree level. If the original offense is a first-degree felony, then defendant cannot be placed on probation, and the Board of Pardons and Parole is required to consider the defendant's status as a habitual violent offender as an aggravating factor in determining a release date from prison.

Unlike some three-strikes laws, Utah's habitual violent offender does not require mandatory life prison sentences. And in cases involving what would have otherwise been a second- or third-degree felony, probation may still be a sentencing option.

Finding a Utah Criminal Defense Attorney in Salt Lake

Utah Criminal Defense AttorneyIf you are facing the possibility of an enhanced criminal charge in Utah, having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side can be vital to presenting a successful defense. Based in Salt Lake city, criminal lawyer Stephen Howard offers legal services to clients throughout Utah. He has successfully protected his clients rights in cases ranging from homicide to DUI, and virtually everything in between.

Contact us today to arrange for an initial confidential consultation with Stephen Howard.

RELATED QUESTIONS:
What are the mandatory sentencing requirements for a DUI case in Utah?
Can enhanceable crimes be expunged in Utah?


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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

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