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Last Modified: July 16, 2022


Black’s Law Dictionary technically defines a plea as “the answer which the defendant… makes to the plaintiff’s declaration.” More simply, Utah State Courts define it as “the defendant’s formal response to a criminal charge.”

Example Sentence

Dr. Mower plead not guilty to accidentally killing her patient.

Case Study

While driving, Reggie Shaw crossed the center line and hit another car. That car then got thrown into the path of a truck and the passengers died as a result. Phone records showed that Shaw sent several text messages right before the accident. The state of Utah charged him with two counts of negligent homicide because of his distracted driving. He entered a plea agreement with the state, i.e. he plead guilty in exchange for a lighter penalty. The family of the passengers could also file a lawsuit against Shaw to seek compensation for the loss of their loved ones. Penalties are now more severe for texting while driving.

Important Information

Utah allows defendants to plead any of the following:

If the person refuses to plead anything, then the courts assume a not guilty plea. The accused person makes his plea at what’s called an arraignment. A person can also withdraw his plea of not guilty or no contest any time before conviction. The defendant can also work with the government agency charging him to reduce the punishment in exchange for pleading guilty, known as a plea bargain. This avoids a trial by jury and results in an immediate punishment. Typically, the defendant’s attorney helps him decide whether to accept this. Some worry about these attorneys not really helping their client. However, this process works different for civil cases. Instead of plea bargains, parties use settlements. Even if the defendant admits guilt, the plaintiff could still have him tried by a jury.

Legal Glossary brought to you by: Christensen & Hymas Personal Injury Attorneys