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District Courts - Utah Criminal Defense Lawyer

The Utah district court system has jurisdiction over all levels of criminal offenses, both felony and misdemeanor. Utah justice courts are limited in their jurisdiction to class B misdemeanor and lower level offenses. If you are facing criminal prosecution in a Utah district court, it is vital that you have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Stephen Howard has achieved positive results for clients facing charges in district court for charges including murder, aggravated robbery, aggravated assault, kidnapping, burglary, drug charges, and many more. Based in Salt Lake City, Mr. Howard offers legal services to clients throughout Utah. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.

Criminal Jurisdiction for Utah District Courts

A district court in Utah has jurisdiction over both felony and misdemeanor criminal offenses. The court's jurisdiction is typically limited to cases that occur within the geographical boundaries of the county within which the court is located. If there is a justice court that has concurrent geographical jurisdiction with the district court, class B misdemeanor and lower level offenses will initially be filed in that justice court. But all class A misdemeanor and felony charges must be heard in the district court.

Some larger counties in Utah (notably Salt Lake, Davis, and Utah counties) have a criminal case load sufficient to justify multiple district court locations within the county. Case assignments are typically made based on the location within the county where the offense occurs. For example, charges occuring in Salt Lake and West Valley are normally filed in the Salt Lake Department of the Third District Court; whereas cases arising in Sandy, South Jordan, or Draper are normally heard in the West Jordan Department of the Third District Court.

Consequences for Criminal Conviction in a Utah District Court

Because the jurisdiction of Utah's district courts includes both misdemeanors and felonies, the potential penalties for a conviction in a district court criminal case can vary widely. While there are a few criminal offenses under Utah law that carry mandatory prison terms, in most cases a district court judge has the option of granting probation. Depending on the nature and level of the underlying criminal charge, a district court may order a defendant's probation to be supervised by either Utah's Adult Probation and Parole ("AP&P") or by a private probation provider. In Salt Lake County, the court has the option of assigning Salt Lake County Probation Services to supervise probation in class A misdemeanor and lower level charges.

In Utah felony cases, if a district court judge denies a request for probation and instead orders a prison term to be served, the court enters an "indeterminate" sentencing order. Under Utah law, a district court judge cannot determine the exact length of a defendant's prison sentence. Instead, a district court judge can only order a range of time to be served (e.g. 0-5 years, 1-15 years, 5 years to life). Utah law permits the death penalty to be imposed only by a jury in an aggravated murder case.

In Utah misdemeanor cases, a court may impose jail time or probation, or a combination of the two. The maximum amount of jail time depends on the level of the misdemeanor. Class A misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in jail; class B misdemeanors have a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail; class C misdemeanors carry a potential of 90 days in jail.

In addition to jail or prison time, a district court in Utah can impose fines and surchages that can range into the thousands of dollars. With just a few exceptions, most offenses allow a district to impose a lower fine amount if the judge believes doing so is appropriate.

Finding a Utah Criminal Defense Lawyer in Salt Lake City

If you are facing criminal charges in one of Utah's district courts, an experienced criminal defense lawyer can ensure that your rights are protected. Based in Salt Lake City, Stephen Howard has achieved not guilty verdicts, dismissals, and appellate reversals in some of the most serious criminal charges on the books in Utah.

Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation and case analysis.


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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.
  • Drug Crimes Defense Attorney Utah Dismissed - Client facing first-degree felony drug distribution charge and potential life in prison. Charges were based on allegations that client had sold drugs to an undercover police officer, then made a full confession. Successful mitigation work resulted in negotiated offer of misdemeanor plea-in-abeyance and ultimate dismissal of case.
  • 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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Salt Lake Criminal Defense Attorney Profile Utah

Defending against a criminal prosecution in Utah is a job that has to be done right the first time. Choosing the right attorney to defend you can be the most important decision you make. Our attorneys have extensive experience handling some of the most serious felony and misdemeanor charges on the books in Utah. No matter what charges you are facing, we can help....

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Conviction Consequences - Utah Criminal Defense

In Utah, even a "minor" misdemeanor conviction carries the potential for jail time and significant fines. A felony conviction carries the potential of lengthy prison terms and the various consequences that come with being labeled as a convicted felon. Never plead guilty without first finding out....

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Utah Criminal Defense Attorney - Reasons to Hope

Never give up hope. Being charged with a crime is not the same as being convicted. And it is usually not the end of the world. While the consequences of a criminal charge can be serious, there are often several options and strategies for handling your case. Understanding your options and how an experienced criminal lawyer can help....

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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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