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.