No crime has ever been committed that wasn’t, in reality two crimes. The first crime is the attempt to commit the crime, and the second crime is the crime itself. Prosecutors must choose which of the two crimes they will prosecute. Typically, prosecutors charge the crime, not the attempt.
HB300 seeks to reduce district court caseloads and increase offender oversight. Please consider the following scenario: A case is presented to a county attorney for screening on a Class A Misdemeanor in a county that has both municipal and county justice courts. As noted, there are two crimes already committed: the attempt (which is a Class B) and the actual crime (which is a Class A).
The case normally would be filed as a Class A in the District Court and most likely pled down to a Class B misdemeanor, but not until there have been multiple delays for waiver hearings and possibly a preliminary hearing. By the time the case is resolved with a plea, the case has occupied 3-6 months of the district court, county attorney, and public defender’s time. Because the case is pled as a Class B Misdemeanor, it receives less attention from the district court because it is the lowest crime with which the district court generally hears.
HB300 seeks to reduce district court caseloads and also provide more attention and services to offenders who plead to Class B Misdemeanors. HB300 would allow the county attorney to prosecute the attempt (Class B) in the justice court, rather than filing Class A in the district court.) In the Justice Court, there will be no plea bargain because the plea bargain was to file the case in Justice Court rather than the District Court.
Purpose and Benefits:
The reason we want to have the bill passed is to allow us to file a case in the Utah County Justice Court, rather than the Class A in the District Court or overwhelming individual Municipal Justice courts. Filing Class B misdemeanors in the justice court will provide more oversight to the offender than a pled down Class B misdemeanor in the district court.
As the statute stands now, we could file the case in the individual municipal justice courts, but we simply don’t have the capacity to file the cases in multiple Municipal Justice Courts.
This statute does not take away any cases from the Municipal Justice Courts nor does it shift burdens to city attorneys. This case does remove cases from the District Court, but we view that as something that will benefit both the district courts and the offenders who are on probation in those courts.
This change would not affect law enforcement’s efforts in investigating, arresting, or presenting criminal activity to our office. It only allows us to utilize an additional tool to resolve cases and relieve pressure on overloaded courts.
Impact on Municipal Justice Courts:
No impact anticipated. Impact would be in utilizing the County’s Justice Court to clear case backlogs and help the District Courts be more efficient on crimes that can be managed in the Justice Court.
Impact on Law Enforcement:
No impact anticipated. Cases would continue to be investigated and sent for screening as they are currently doing.
Date: February 24, 2020
Re: Reversal of State v. Grunwald by the Utah Supreme Court
Late Friday, we learned of the decision by the Utah Supreme Court, after hearing oral arguments a year ago, to overturn the conviction in Meagan Grunwald’s trial of aggravated murder. We respect the Supreme Court to mediate the facts of the case and assure the principles of the Constitution are applied equally and fairly to all. That includes adherence to procedural matters of the case as well.
Now, this matter comes back to the Utah County Attorney’s office and me specifically as the elected Utah County Attorney. This case was tried before my election to this office, and I want to assure all that I feel keenly the responsibility to review the facts and balance the rights of the accused and the victims as we determine appropriate action.
First of all, I want to acknowledge the renewed pain to Nanette Wride-Zeeman, the widow of the victim. I want to assure her, we take this responsibility seriously. I also want to recognize the heightened emotions for the brotherhood that exists in law enforcement. We understand their reaction to the loss of Sgt. Cory Wride and to the Supreme Court’s decision.
Now it is time for me to fulfill my responsibility in response to the Utah Supreme Court decision and to help the public understand the process I will take.
We are reviewing the opinion of the Utah Supreme Court. We will delve into the facts of the case. A group of our seasoned attorneys will screen this case, looking at the investigation and the evidence provided by law enforcement. They will review the trial and make a recommendation. I will review the screening division’s findings and make a final determination.
My decision will not be reactive. It will not be pressured, or bullied, or based on emotion. We will do our part in this process to address fairness, and balance the rights for the victims and the accused. I believe that’s what residents of Utah County expect. Each of us should expect equal treatment, if we were in any of these positions.
Protecting the community is a duty that sometimes involves punishment—and sometimes, by only focusing on punishment we actually diminish the ability to protect society. There is little to be gained by swift, strong statements, one way or the other. I intend to carry out this decision and every other duty with deliberate thoughtfulness, sound judgment, and a reasoned approach. The clarity in this matter can come no other way.
David O. Leavitt
Utah County Attorney
For more information or for interview requests, please contact the Utah County PIO.