Is Sentencing fair in Utah DUI cases?

I went to a sentencing hearing today.  My client was found Not Guilty of felony DUI at trial.  He was found guilty of interfering with an arrest.  At sentencing, the state jumps up and down "WE WANT JAIL!"  The  interfering with arrest charge was a minor issue in the case.  Most people get that charge mainly because they were uncooperative.  Most people get a small fine and a slap on the wrist without much noise from the prosecutor.  It felt like when my client was acquitted, the State was incensed.  So on a minor charge, the State jumps up and down crying for jail time on something no one ever goes to jail without some extraneous circumstances.

I have no complaints about the judge in this particular case.  He bent over backwards to ensure that my client was handed a fair trial.  The judge made very sound decisions in ruling on objections and matters of evidence.  That does not mean that the judge ruled in my favor all of the time, but he always made sure I understood why he ruled against me.  The judge was fair on sentencing.  He certainly did not go easy on my client, but he gave my client a chance.  My client’s future rests in his own hands.

I have some concerns about the sentencing process.  The judge sends a person that is to be sentenced to get a pre-sentence report.  The person goes to a probation agency.  The agency is supposed to be independent of the prosecution.  However, it seems far too often that the input comes from the prosecution.  In fact, in Weber County, the probation person sits in Court on the right hand side of the prosecutor.  They are one being in purpose.  I often see at sentencing a prosecutor whispering in the probation agent’s ear.  Why have the probation person there?  If the judge wants to know what the prosecutor recommends, just ask the prosecutor.  My feeling is that this is an area that needs to be fixed. 

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Posted in Utah DUI Sentencings

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