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Front Page » October 5, 2004 » Local News » State office explains justice court process
Published 3,484 days ago

State office explains justice court process


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By MELANIE STEELE
Sun Advocate reporter

Being issued a traffic ticket can be a frustrating experience for Carbon County motorists.

In addition to the cost of the citation, insurance rates or the status of the drivers license can be affected if the infraction is serious.

The situation can become more frustrating when a driver feels an error has been made. But, by understanding the local court systems and procedure, Carbon County citizens can assure that they will take the proper steps to address traffic tickets or to be prepared if they choose to take citations to trial.

In the case of a traffic violation, justice courts have been established throughout the state by counties and municipalities to deal with class B and C misdemeanors, violations of ordinances, small claims and infractions committed within territorialjurisdiction.

According to the Utah state courts office, the jurisdictions are determined by the boundaries of local government entities such as cities or counties, which hire the judges.

There are two types of justice court judges.

County judges are initially appointed by commissioners and stand for retention election every four years.

Municipal judges are appointed by city officials for a four-year term, indicated the state office.

Some justice court appointees are both county and municipal judges.

Justice court judges do not have to be attorneys, but must attend 30 hours of continuing judicial education annually for certification.

Fine amounts for traffic violations are determined by the uniform fine/bail schedule to minimize the disparity of fines imposed by courts for similar offenses, as well as determine whether or not a court appearance is necessary, pointed out the state office.

For citizens wishing to plead guilty to charges, posting and forfeiting bail is sufficient for the majority of offenses for which citations are issued. However, more serious offenses, such as reckless driving or those involving alcohol or drugs, require amandatory appearance before a judge.

All citations must be addressed, regardless of the driver's plea, though. Failure to contact the court will lead to further consequences for the driver, including the issuance of a warrant. "If a Utah licensed driver fails to appear in court or pay a fine on certain violations, the Utah Driver's License Division may be asked to suspend the violator's license," states Utah Courts. "The license will then be suspended until the person complies with the citation or court order. For example, speeding violations are all classified as offenses that may result in suspension of a license. However, failure tosecure a parked vehicle, as well as other mechanical condition violations, may not result in suspension of a license."

Drivers should also be aware that all written correspondence from the court will be sent to the address the driver currently has listed with the Utah Driver's License Division. Responsibility to update a change in address with the court lies with the driver. For Carbon County residents who wish to dispute their citation, they must appear in court and enter a plea of not guilty, according to the Utah State Courts' informational guide on dealing with traffic matters. After the plea is entered, drivers can try to negotiate with the prosecuting attorney, the guide indicates. "If negotiations are unsuccessful, a trial will be held, at which you will tell your side of the story, as will the police officer. The court's decision will be based on factors such as your testimony, the officer's testimony and the testimony of available witnesses," the guide states.

As part of a 50 state compact, the state of Utah shares information involving convictions for traffic violations. If a resident either pleads or is found guilty, a record of conviction will be sent to the Utah Drivers License Division within ten days, according to Utah Courts. Lack of registration and some other non-moving violations will not be reported.

The violation will be factored into a point system established under Title 53-3-221 of the Utah Code. The points are based upon relationships between types of traffic violations and motor vehicle traffic accidents, pointed out Utah Courts.

Often times, local governments or courts have established traffic safety schools. By attending, local residents can often get fines reduced or points deducted. Establishment of traffic safety schools are at the discretion of the individual government or court. For more information, contact the issuing city's justice court.

Carbon County residents will Internet access can also learn more about the judicial process by visiting the Utah State Courts' website at www.utcourts.gov.


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