Perhaps one of the most common questions when discussing criminal charges with someone is, “It’s just a misdemeanor, do I need an attorney?”

What is a Misdemeanor?

A misdemeanor is an offense which is punishable by up to one year in a county jail, and/or a fine of up to $2,500.00.  There are also some misdemeanor offenses that carry special additional penalties that can be temporary or permanent.  There are 3 levels of misdemeanor in Utah and each carry different penalties.  The levels are, from most to least serious, A, B, and C.   Misdemeanor offenses cover things ranging from things like public intoxication (C) up to negligent homicide (A).  While class B & C misdemeanors are tried in the Justice Court, class A misdemeanors are tried in District Court.

Do I Need An Attorney?

We have all heard the old saying “if you have to ask how much it costs then you probably can’t afford it.”  A similar train of thought should also be used whenever a person is charged with a crime.  If you have to ask if you need an attorney, then you probably do.  Although a misdemeanor may not seem like a big deal to some, even the simplest case can have a major impact on your life.  If you are trying to decide on whether to hire an attorney to represent you in a criminal case, please take a moment to consider the following:

  1. The criminal process is complex but may move faster than a civil process ever could. There can be lots of red tape, traps, and tricks played that can ruin your chances of a favorable outcome.  Your case may involve motions, orders, hearings, evaluations, and even a jury trial.  It is important to have someone in your corner who knows the rules and process as well as the prosecution.  Even if you only plan on entering a guilty plea and moving on with your life there are sometimes serious decisions that need to be made, and an attorney can help you make sure you are fully informed of your options.  The prosecutor is under no obligation to do so.
  2. The penalties mentioned above may not seem serious to some, but to most of us the potential loss of freedom is terrifying. In addition to fines and jail time, there may also be greater expenses for everyday things, therapy and counseling, and costs.  Some misdemeanor convictions can even lead to enhanced charges in the future and the revocation of hunting privileges or the right to possess a firearm.
  3. While the thought of a trial may strike fear in the hearts of many, sometimes it can be in your favor to demand your trial. Many people accused of a crime are bullied into pleading guilty under the threat of much higher fines, or the request for jail time.  In reality, a person is not supposed to be punished for exercising their right to trial.  With an experienced attorney in your corner you will be fully informed of the possible defenses you have, potential penalties, and if you are intent on just pleading to the charge an attorney may be able to help better manage the outcome.
  4. Most people hesitate in obtaining representation in misdemeanor cases due to the perceived cost. It may not be as expensive as you think.   Defending misdemeanor charges does not require as many hearings, the volumes of evidence, experts, or as much time as defending felony charges.  In addition, by hiring an experienced and knowledgeable attorney to represent you it is likely that your case can be resolved in less time, which equates to less money spent.

Whatever you are accused of, no matter the evidence that might be out there, do not be afraid to contact Hepworth, Murray & Associates and take advantage of our 30-minute consultation regarding your case.  The criminal defense attorneys at Hepworth, Murray & Associates have experience at all levels of the criminal justice system, from serving as a police officer up to and including jury trials in State and Federal District Courts.