Month: January 2015

Is Drug Court an Option for You?

Is Drug Court an Option for You?

The Utah state judiciary reports that arrests for drug crimes have increased.  In an effort to curb repeat offenses, rehabilitate offenders with substance addictions, and relieve the heavy burdened for other types of cases to be heard in traditional criminal courts, Utah utilizes an alternative drug court system specifically designed to address — you guessed it — drug charges.  The drug court system is very different from the traditional court system, because it offers participants the rare opportunity to have their charges dismissed in exchange for successful program completion.  Are you qualified to participate?  Our criminal defense lawyers break the rules down for you.


What’s the Difference Between Drug Court and Traditional Court?

Imagine you’ve been convicted of felony meth possession in a traditional criminal court.  Your prison sentence could last for years, and once you’re finally released, you’ll have to contend with the challenges of having a felony conviction on your record for years to come.  In addition to facing a difficult social stigma, you may also find yourself struggling to apply for jobs, obtain special licenses, and even be approved for loans.  If you could somehow avoid all of those issues, wouldn’t you be interested?  If so, you’re in luck — Utah’s drug courts may offer a solution.

The drug court system’s ultimate goal is to help offenders access the treatment and social services they need to beat the cycle of addiction and poverty, so they can avoid falling into a pattern of repeated arrests.  Rather than taking a punitive approach, the drug courts place an emphasis on long-termrecovery by tackling the issues which contribute to recidivism, such as lack of education, poor self-esteem, and abusive family relationships.

In contrast to the traditional process, a guilty plea which is entered in drug court (referred to as a plea of abeyance) will be placed on hold while the defendant participates in the drug court system. Once the defendant graduates from the program, the plea is withdrawn, and the original charges are dismissed.  In other words, no conviction is entered against you, and you don’t have to go to prison.

Eligibility Requirements for Utah Drug Court Programs

While drug court presents a tremendous opportunity to criminal defendants, there is one catch: not everyone is eligible to participate.  If you’re able to meet the following eligibility criteria, you may be a good candidate:

  • You must be a non-violent offender who has been charged with a drug crime.
  • You must be a legal resident of the United States.
  • You must have at least one drug conviction which resulted in a sentence.

However, those aren’t the only requirements: there are also criteria which will automatically exclude you from participating.  For example:

  • Is your drug of choice alcohol or marijuana?
  • Have you ever been convicted of a violent crime, such as robbery or aggravated?
  • Are there any charges currently pending against you for distributing a controlled substance, or for operating a factory or lab which produces illegal drugs?

If you answered yes to any of those three questions, unfortunately you will not be considered for enrollment.


What Are the Rules for Drug Court Participants?

You should be aware that the drug court program does not run its course in a matter of days, weeks, or even months.  Be advised that this is a long-term program with a minimum duration of one year.  The program’s 52-week timeline is broken down into seven broad components:

  • Detox, which is overseen by trained medical professionals to help keep the process as safe and comfortable as possible.
  • Inpatient treatment followed by outpatient treatment.
  • Attending substance abuse support groups.
  • Attending drug education courses.
  • Periodic urine testing.
  • Attending drug court.
  • Performing community service as assigned.

Some participants may not be able to comply with this demanding program from start to finish, and as the state judiciary’s website cautions, offenders who “lack the ability to manage the structure of the program such as those with disruptive behavior problems” will be ejected or disqualified from enrollment.  You will also be removed from the system if you miss three of your scheduled court appearances.  Know that if you are expelled from the program, you will have to face the same sentencing and conviction issues you were originally trying to avoid.

Fortunately, Utah’s drug courts have been statistically proven to yield positive results: drug court graduates have a recidivism rate of only 7%, compared with 45% for defendants who are processed through the traditional court system.  Meanwhile, urinalysis yields a negative result in an outstanding 90% of drug court participants — and for parents who struggle with addiction issues, drug court can be the difference between losing their child to protective services, and being allowed to stay united with their families.

Contact us today for additional questions 801-436-5757 or 801-641-2933 to set up a free consultation with one of our attorney to discuss your case further.

What are Child Custody Laws in Utah?

What are Child Custody Laws in Utah?

According to Utah Code 30-3-10, the court may award any form of child custody determined to be in the best interest of the child.

Utah child custody laws aim to protect the best interest of the child.

The courts encourage divorcing parents to cooperate about the plans concerning child rearing after divorce. Divorcing parents are strongly encouraged to come to an agreement outside court outlining how they plan to raise their child after divorce. When parents are unable to come to terms and a dispute arises, the court settles issues on child custody, support, and visitation rights.

Physical Custody and Legal Custody

Under Utah custody laws, physical custody means the child stays at that parent’s house for 30 percent or more of the year. This provision makes joint physical custody possible. Under Utah law, legal custody refers to the parent’s duties, privileges, rights and powers of authority over the minor children. A Utah court has the authority to award joint legal custody or joint physical custody, or the court may allocate these rights to each parent.

What are Child Custody Laws in Utah?

When deciding custody the court considers:

  • the child’s wishes or preferences as to custody, provided that he or she is mature enough to make such claims, which is considered at 12 or older;
  • the child’s emotional, physical, and psychological needs;
  • the parents’ wishes or preferences as to custody;
  • the parents’ geographical proximity as it affects future availability;
  • the parents’ ability to cooperate, past or present, with each other in making decisions for their child;
  • the parents’ willingness and ability to foster and encourage a constructive relationship between the child and the other parent.
  • the parents’ past conduct as well as moral standards;
  • which parent is likely to respond to the best interests of the child;
  • which parent is likely to permit regular and continuing contact between the child and the other parent;
  • the parents who participated in child rearing before filing for custody;
  • any history of domestic violence, child abuse, negligence, or substance abuse; and
  • Any other factors that the court finds relevant and directly affects the child’s best interests such as the nature of the parent-child relationship.

Joint Child Custody in Utah

Utah courts prefer to award divorced parents joint custody of their child. The courts evaluate whether the child will have his emotional and physical needs met in a joint arrangement. Both parents must demonstrate that they can make the child’s well being their top priority, and that they will work together to make decisions that serve the child’s best interest. It is also likely that joint child custody will be awarded in Utah if both parents were actively involved in raising the child before the divorce.

The court in Utah will always consider joint physical or legal custody if both parties have completed a parenting plan and if joint custody serves the best interests of the child. In deciding for joint custody, the court considers:

  • the geographical proximity between the parents;
  • each parent’s ability to place the needs of the child first in reaching appropriate decisions;
  • whether both parents have always participated in the child’s upbringing
  • the child’s wishes, if the child is of an age to express a reasonable preference (generally age 12 or older);
  • any history of child abuse, spousal abuse or kidnapping;
  • each parent’s maturity and ability to avoid conflict for the sake of the child;
  • the parents’ ability to cooperate with one another; and
  • any other factors deemed relevant by the court.

Parental Conduct

In addition to finding a parent unfit because of substance abuse or abuse or neglect towards a child, the courts also consider the conduct of both parents during the course of the marriage, and the impact of parental behavior on the child.

For help with your custody battle contact our attorneys today for a free consultation.

What are Child Custody Laws in Utah?