2018 Bills

SB 58: Lowering Penalties for Failure to Appear

This bill passed the Senate and House unanimously.

Libertas Institute supports this bill

Staff review of this legislation finds that it is aligned with our principles and merits support.

If an individual fails to appear in court for their infraction or misdemeanor, they are guilty of a class B misdemeanor under Utah law. This charge can in many cases be harsher than the individual’s original charge.

The intent of a strict criminal charge for failure to appear was to incentivize defendants to appear at their court date. However, there is no evidence that this law has been effective in its goal.

Senate Bill 58, sponsored by Senator Daniel Thatcher, would repeal this law, leaving the problem of failure to appear to the courts to manage.

Judges should have the discretion to review each case and the reason for failure to appear and handle it accordingly. Issuing a warrant or raising fines are both tools that courts can already utilize in case of an inexcusable failure to appear. SB 58 would still allow judges to utilize these tools.

  • Jacob Zonts

    I was wrongfully pulled over for speeding. I had the needed evidence to show that I was in fact not speeding. For unforeseen reasons, I missed my court date. The Failure to Appear charge was going to have a harsher punishment than the speeding ticket. Instead of fighting both the speeding ticket and the Failure to Appear, I asked the judge to remind their police officers to be more careful when pulling people over for minor traffic violations (I was accused of going 9 miles over the speed limit). I had to pay the fine for speeding. If this bill passes, the judge would be able to hear my reasons for missing the court date and then judge based on that. I fully support this bill.

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