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A Utah Order to Show Cause is typically a situation where some or all the terms of an agreement reached in court as a result of a criminal charge were not properly completed or were not completed within the given timeframe as outlined in the agreement.
Before May 1, 2021, an order to show cause was the method Utah judges used to enforce orders in both civil and criminal matters. On May 1, 2021, the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure switched to the term “motion to enforce order,” but the purpose is the same.
A Utah order to show cause can happen in civil and criminal cases in which a judge has issued a court order or entered a court-approved agreement.
Orders to show cause can be particularly bad because, by not complying with the original agreement, you have demonstrated to the court and the judge who imposed the terms of the agreement that you do not hold them in high regard sufficient to their station. In other words, you just made the judge mad. That’s not a great way to treat the court, and it’s a terrible situation to land you back in front of that judge.
Although a party can file this order in any civil matter, people see it happen most frequently in domestic cases.
For example, suppose that a judge issued a temporary order in a divorce. One spouse accused the other of violating it by filing a motion to enforce the order. The spouse accused of violating the court order can respond to the motion and the judge will set the matter for a hearing.
At the hearing, the judge must determine whether the accused:
● Knew what the order said
● Was able to comply with the order
● Willfully violated the order
Upon a finding that all three elements were met, a judge could impose sanctions on the accused party. In some cases, these sanctions could include a citation for contempt, which exposes the violator to fines and jail time.
A Utah order to show cause also happens in criminal cases. When a judge orders you to meet certain conditions as part of your sentence or release, the judge enforces compliance with those conditions using orders to show cause.
For example, a judge may impose conditions when:
● Releasing you on bail
● Enrolling you in a pre-trial diversion program
● Entering a plea in abeyance
● Releasing you on probation
If your pretrial case manager or probation agent believes you violated your conditions, they can file an affidavit with the court. The judge will issue an order to show cause and schedule a hearing.
If the judge observes that you have violated your conditions, they can issue an order to show cause on their own motion.
A Utah order to show cause is an “order” for you to appear in court and “show cause” that the judge should not punish you. This order reverses the usual burden. Rather than requiring a prosecutor to prove your guilt, an order to show cause requires you to:
● Dispute the allegation that you violated your conditions
● Provide a reason or excuse for violating your conditions
● Present mitigating reasons as to why the court should not punish you for violating your conditions
If a judge finds that you have not shown cause, the court can:
● Revoke your release and order you to jail
● Terminate your participation in a pre-trial diversion program
● Revoke your probation and impose your original sentence
● Restart the term of your probation
This happens often. Every probation violation and bail revocation starts as a Utah order to show cause.
The best way to avoid an order to show cause is to fulfill all of the agreement. If you cannot do so, speak to your pre-trial case manager or probation agent before they file an affidavit with the court. You might be able to head off the order to show cause.
In a lot of circumstances, clearing up the Order to Show Cause in Utah involves completing the terms of the agreement sufficiently. Sometimes they can be attributed to clerical errors or to lack of communication with the court regarding steps that have been completed.
But you still have to explain yourself to the judge—and he or she isn’t going to be happy with you. Judges can sympathize when a violation is minor and you provide an excuse. For example, if you violated your curfew because your bus was late, a judge might not punish you.
There can be other consequences of not complying with the orders of the court, including the issuance of a warrant for your arrest, increased fines, and potentially losing the original deal as an option for you.
Contact your attorney immediately if you learn that there is an Order to Show Cause violation on your record. The sooner you take care of the matter, the better off you will be. Most people choose to retain the same attorney who helped with the original case, but that is not necessary. Any attorney can help you with an Order to Show Cause violation.
At Schatz, Anderson & Associates, LLC, our practice focuses almost exclusively on criminal defense on behalf of clients throughout Utah, including in Salt Lake City, Vernal, Provo, and St. George. Our attorneys have successfully defended clients against thousands of misdemeanor and felony criminal charges—including charges for violation of a protective order. We have a fully staffed knowledgeable, experienced legal team ready to help you. Schedule your consultation today!