Pursuant to Section 63M-7-216, the following policies and standards will guide the use of prosecutorial discretion within the Tooele County Attorney’s Office and provide a framework for interactions with courts, victims, defendants, defense attorneys, law enforcement agencies, witnesses, and other stakeholders in the criminal justice system.
The Tooele County Attorney’s Office is dedicated to providing our community with a safe place to live, work, and play by holding the guilty accountable, protecting the innocent, and preserving the dignity of victims. The members of this office serve to minimize the impact of the criminal justice system upon the lives of victims and witnesses by supporting them to overcome the effects of crime and guiding them as they participate in the criminal justice system.
A. Screening and Filing Criminal Charges
Criminal cases are referred to our office by various law enforcement agencies within the County. Our office handles all felony cases which occur in the County as well as misdemeanor cases occurring in the unincorporated areas of the County. The screening process begins when we receive a case. Each case we receive is assigned to a deputy attorney (prosecutor) and thoroughly reviewed. The prosecutor determines if charges will be filed and what those charges will be. Our office policy is to only file charges on cases that can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt with admissible evidence and for which there is a reasonable likelihood of conviction in the interest of justice.
Cases are sometimes referred back to the law enforcement agency for further investigation and are considered “pending.” If the prosecutor chooses not to file charges, the case is “declined for prosecution.”
B. Plea Bargains
No criminally accused person or defense lawyer should expect to receive a plea bargain offer; nor is any defendant ever entitled to one. However, judicial and budgetary limitations dictate that most cases will be resolved by plea bargain. There are simply not enough resources within our office, the court system, and law enforcement to take most cases to trial. Plea bargains may take the form of charge reductions, partial dismissal, pleas held in abeyance, diversion agreements, sentencing agreements, or a combination of these. The use of plea bargains shall be in accordance with all applicable statutes and rules and shall promote just and productive outcomes. Factors that may be considered in offering or not offering plea bargains include, without limitation:
- Severity of the crime;
- Expressed desires of victims;
- Safety of victims, witnesses, and the community;
- Strength of admissible inculpatory and exculpatory evidence;
- Rehabilitation opportunities for defendant;
- Cooperation of defendant;
- Defendant’s criminal history;
- Defendant’s prior probation/parole history;
- Extent of defendant’s participation in charged crimes; and
- Any aggravating or mitigating facts or circumstances.
Prosecutors in the Tooele County Attorney’s Office are autonomous, experienced professionals with control over the disposition of cases assigned to them. However, the disposition of cases involving death, substantial violence, and/or grievous sexual offenses as defined in Utah Code Annotated Section 76-1-601(8) will be staffed with the County Attorney or Chief Deputy Attorney for approval. Other case dispositions may be staffed with other prosecutors from time to time and at the discretion of the individual prosecutor.
It is possible that facts and evidence not known at the time of screening may come to light. Evidentiary or witness complications may develop. Tooele County prosecutors reserve the right to amend an Information, offer a compromised resolution, or otherwise resolve any case in the interests of justice, truth, and fairness.
C. Sentencing Recommendations
This office shall make sentencing recommendations in accordance with State law with the goals of protecting victims and members of the public, deterring future offenses, and rehabilitating the offender. The same factors used in plea bargains may be considered when making sentencing recommendations.
D. Discovery Practices
It is our policy to comply with Rule 16 of the Utah Rules of Criminal Procedure and all other applicable statutes and rules by providing evidence in our possession or in the possession of law enforcement to defendants/defense counsel in a timely fashion. We recognize our special responsibility to provide exculpatory evidence, including evidence that may be used to impeach state witnesses, as an affirmative discovery obligation.
The Tooele County Attorney’s Office shall at all times comply with the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct:
Rule 3.8. Special Responsibilities of a Prosecutor. The prosecutor in a criminal case shall:
(d) Make timely disclosure to the defense of all evidence or information known to the prosecutor that tends to negate the guilt of the accused or mitigates the offense, and, in connection with sentencing, disclose to the defense all unprivileged mitigating information known to the prosecutor, except when the prosecutor is relieved of this responsibility by a protective order of the tribunal.
E. Prosecution of Juveniles
The Tooele County Attorney’s Office desires to intervene effectively in the lives of youth and deter them from future criminal conduct. Our office has one prosecutor primarily assigned to Juvenile Court cases who works closely with the juvenile probation office to determine whether delinquent acts committed by juveniles should be resolved by nonjudicial process or through formal adjudication. Several factors may affect that determination.
In determining whether to prosecute a juvenile as an adult for a “qualifying offense” as defined by Utah Code Annotated Section 80-6-501 et seq., this office will consider factors that may include but are not limited to the following:
- the best interests of the juvenile offender;
- the safety of victims, witnesses, and the community;
- the seriousness of the offense;
- whether the offense was committed in an aggressive, violent, premeditated, or willful manner;
- the history and background of the juvenile offender; and
- the likelihood of rehabilitation and the availability of rehabilitation and treatment
The primary duty of a prosecutor is to seek justice. Prosecutors have a duty to give effect to the purpose of the Utah Juvenile Courts which is to promote public safety and individual accountability through the imposition of appropriate sanctions on those who have committed acts in violation of law by ordering appropriate measures to promote guidance and control, preferably in the minor’s own home, as an aid in the prevention of future unlawful conduct and the development of responsible citizenship, and where appropriate, order rehabilitation, reeducation, and treatment for persons who have committed acts bringing them within the court’s jurisdiction. Furthermore, prosecutors should, where it is consistent with the ends of justice, act in the best interests of the minor in all cases and preserve and strengthen family ties (UCA 78A-6-102).
To that end, it is our policy to balance community safety, offender accountability to victims and communities, and competency development in offenders. We seek to resolve juvenile prosecutions as quickly as possible, without compromising due process, fairness, and thoroughness.
F. Collection of Fines and Fees
The Tooele County Attorney’s Office does not collect fines or fees ordered in criminal cases. We may recommend a fine or fee as a condition of probation in some cases. The imposition and collection of fines and fees, however, is the prerogative of the courts. We will file and prosecute orders to show cause, when necessary, to assist with the enforcement of court-ordered fines and fees.
G. Criminal and Civil Asset Forfeiture Practices
The Tooele County Attorney’s Office will seek the forfeiture of property in criminal cases where the prosecutor is able to prove that the property was used to commit a crime or is the proceeds from the commission of a crime and will utilize the procedures set forth in Utah Code Annotated Section 24-4-105 (Criminal Forfeiture Procedure). In addition, this office will use civil forfeiture sparingly with the procedures outlined in UCA 24-4-104.
H. Services Available to Victims of Crime
The Tooele County Attorney’s Office recognizes its responsibility to victims of crimes under Article 1, Section 28 of the Utah Constitution and Chapters 37, 38, and 38a of Title 77 of Utah Code Annotated. Our victim/court advocate serves as a liaison between crime victims and prosecutors and may assist crime victims with referrals or applications for counseling, legal assistance, reparations, or restitution. The court advocate also helps victims navigate the court process.
The Tooele County Children’s Justice Center (CJC) is another resource for victims of child abuse and their families. The CJC is a comfortable environment designed specifically for children to be interviewed by specially-trained investigators following a report of abuse.
I. Diversion Programs
The Tooele County Attorney’s Office may institute diversion programs for certain types of misdemeanor cases which have no identified victims and meet the criteria established as part of the program. On rare occasions, diversions may be used in individual cases as a plea bargain tool.
J. Restorative Justice Programs
The Tooele County Attorney’s Office is supportive of and promotes restorative justice programs. Currently, the only formal restorative justice program available in Tooele County is the Third District Court Tooele County Drug Court.
The mission of the Tooele County Drug Court is to decrease the prevalence of substance abuse and drug-related crime in Tooele County by breaking the cycle of addiction, crime, and incarceration. This is achieved by diverting qualified offenders to a program of comprehensive treatment and education, offender accountability, and intensive court supervision designed to help participants gain control of their lives and stop the cycle of recidivism caused by their addiction.
The Tooele County Attorney’s Office promotes the mission of the Tooele County Drug Court by collaborating with the Court, public defenders, law enforcement, treatment providers, case managers, social service agencies, and community-based treatment organizations to apply evidence-based practices in all aspects of the program.
The Tooele County Drug Court Program is a voluntary, abstinence-based program founded on the Ten Key Components identified by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. Drug Court provides a courtroom environment where the judge is actively involved in the progress of individual clients. Clients undergo treatment and counseling, make regular appearances before the judge, submit to frequent and random drug testing, and are monitored closely by case management staff and trained law enforcement. Graduated sanctions are imposed for program non-compliance taking into consideration the proximal and distal goals associated with substance abuse treatment.
Tooele County is a small jurisdiction and, as such, does not have the caseload for formal Mental Health Court, Veterans Court, etc.