Understanding the Utah Court System


The state of Utah through, e.g., deputy county attorneys, who are employed with a County Attorney’s Office, prosecute:

  • All felonies that occur in a particular county.
  • Class A misdemeanor crimes and all misdemeanor crimes that occur in a county outside the boundaries of any incorporated city.
  • All juvenile crimes that occur in a County, except minor traffic offenses.

Incorporated cities through city prosecutors (or assistant city prosecutors), who are with a City Attorney’s Office, prosecute class B and C misdemeanor crimes and traffic infractions inside the boundaries of an incorporated city.

The Utah State Court System is comprised of:

Two appellate courts:

  • The Supreme Court: five justices, ten-year terms. The “court of last resort” in Utah.  It hears appeals from capital and first degree felony cases, all district court civil cases other than domestic relations cases.  It also has jurisdiction over judgments of the Court of Appeals, lawyer discipline, and constitutional and election questions; and
  • The Court of Appeals: seven judges; six-year terms. It hears all appeals from Juvenile Courts, District Courts involving domestic relations’ matters, and criminal cases (of less than a first-degree felony).  It also may hear any cases transferred to it by the Supreme Court.

Three trial courts located in each of the state’s eight judicial districts:

  • Justice Courts: have the authority to deal with class B and C misdemeanors, violations of ordinances, small claims, and traffic infractions committed within their territorial jurisdiction. Established by counties and municipalities; jurisdictions are determined by the boundaries of cities or counties, which hire the judges.  Justice Court judges need not be attorneys, although they receive continuing legal training (e.g., must attend 30 hours of continuing judicial education each year to remain certified).  There are two types of Justice Court judges: (1) County judges who are initially appointed by a county commission and then stand for retention election every 6 years; and (2) Municipal judges who are appointed by city officials for a 6-year term.
  • District Courts: the state trial court of general jurisdiction. It has authority to deal with class A misdemeanor and felony.  It also hears civil cases, domestic relations cases, probate cases, criminal cases, small claims cases and appeals from Justice Courts; and
  • Juvenile Courts: has jurisdiction over cases involving youth under 18 years of age who violate a state or municipal law and cases involving a child who is abused, neglected or dependent.
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