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In Utah, a person charged with either a class A misdemeanor DUI or a felony DUI is entitled to a preliminary hearing before a magistrate. At the preliminary hearing the State of Utah must present sufficient evidence to establish that a DUI has been committed and that the person charged with the DUI committed it. [1]  If the magistrate finds that the State of Utah has provided sufficient evidence to establish that a DUI has been committed and that the person charged with the DUI committed it, the magistrate will bind the person over for trial on the DUI.

For a class A misdemeanor DUI charge and a felony DUI charge, at the preliminary hearing, the State of Utah must present believable evidence of the following: (1) That the DUI occurred within the State of Utah;[2] (2) That the person operated or was in actual physical of a motor vehicle;[3] (3) The person had sufficient alcohol in their body that a subsequent chemical test showed that their blood or breath alcohol concentration was .08 grams or greater at the time of the test[4]; or (4) The person was under the influence of alcohol, any drug, or the combined influence of alcohol and any drug to a degree that rendered the person incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle.[5]

For the class A misdemeanor DUI charge, at the preliminary hearing, the State of Utah must also present believable evidence that: (1) the person inflicted bodily injury upon another person as a result of having operated the motor vehicle in a negligent manner;[6] or (2) The person had a passenger under 16 years of age in the motor vehicle at the time of the offense;[7] or (3) The person was 21 years of age or older and had a passenger under 18 years of age in the vehicle at the time of the offense.[8]

For the felony DUI charge, at the preliminary hearing, the State of Utah must also present believable evidence that: (1) the person inflicted serious bodily injury upon another person as a result of having operated the motor vehicle in a negligent manner;[9] or (2) the person had two or more prior DUI convictions within 10 years;[10] or (3) the person was previously convicted of an automobile homicide;[11] or (4) the person has ever been previously convicted of a felony DUI.[12]


Preliminary Hearing

State of Utah v. Maughan, 2012 UT App 121-

“To bind a defendant over for trial, the State must show probable cause at the preliminary hearing by presenting sufficient evidence to establish that the crime charged has been committed and that the defendant committed it.” State v. Clark, 2001 UT 9, 20 P.3d 300.

This requires the State to “present sufficient evidence to support a reasonable belief that an offense has been committed and that the defendant committed it.” State v. Virgin, 2006 UT 29, 137 P.3d 787.

This includes producing “believable evidence of all the elements of the crime charged.” Virgin, 2006 UT 29.

At this early stage of the proceedings “the evidence required to show probable cause . . . is relatively low.” Clark, 2001 UT 9.

When faced with conflicting evidence, the magistrate may not sift or weigh the evidence . . . but must leave those tasks to the fact finder at trial. Clark, 2001 UT 9.

The magistrate must view all evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution and must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the prosecution. State v. Hester, 2000 UT App 159, 3 P.3d 725.

In circumstances where alternative but equally reasonable inferences may be drawn from the evidence in favor of either the defendant or the State, the magistrate must rely on those reasonable inferences that are favorable to the State. (reasoning that “the facts presented gave rise to two alternate inferences” and, accordingly, “the evidence, and all reasonable inferences therefrom, must be construed in a light most favorable to the State.”

Nevertheless, “the magistrate’s role in this process, while limited, is not that of a rubber stamp for the prosecution”.  Indeed, “the primary purpose of the preliminary hearing is ferreting out . . . groundless and improvident prosecutions.” Virgin, 2006 UT 29. In this regard, magistrates “are free to decline bindover where the facts presented by the prosecution provide no more than a basis for speculation-as opposed to providing a basis for a reasonable belief.  See also, State v. Cristobal, 2010 UT App 228, 238 P.3d 1096 (explaining that a reasonable inference “is a conclusion reached by considering other facts and deducing a logical consequence from them”, while speculation is defined as the “act or practice of theorizing about matters over which there is no certain knowledge.) (An inference is a deduction as to the existence of a fact which human experience teaches us can reasonably and logically be drawn from proof of other facts.”) Thus, for the State to meet its evidentiary burden at a preliminary hearing, the inferences drawn from the evidence must be reasonable rather than speculative. See Virgin, 2006 UT 29, and the evidence and reasonable inferences drawn therefrom must support the requisite reasonable belief that a crime occurred and that the defendant committed that crime, See In re I. R. C., 2010 UT 41, 232 P.3d 1040.

Issue: Whether the State presented sufficient evidence to support a reasonable inference that, in effusing to be interviewed by police and to testify at Griffin’s trial, defendant acted with the specific intent to hinder Griffin’s prosecution.

Specific Intent is “the intent to accomplish the precise criminal act that one is later charged with,” whereas general intent is “the intent to perform an act even though the actor does not desire the consequences that result.” Black’s Law Dictionary (9th ed. 2009).

Reasoning: The State cannot merely allege that hindering Griffin’s prosecution was a natural consequence of defendant’s refusal to cooperate with the police and testify and Griffin’s trial. Rather, the State must show that defendant acted with the conscious objective to hinder Griffin’s prosecution.

Intent, even specific intent, need not be proved by direct evidence but may be inferred from “the defendant’s conduct and surrounding circumstances.” State v. Davis, 711 P.2d 232,234 (Utah 1985). Thus, we must look to the reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the evidence presented in order to establish whether there is sufficient evidence to establish the requisite specific intent.

While the State’s inference is perhaps plausible, that inference is contradicted and overwhelmed in light of totality of the evidence.  When the evidence is considered in its broader context, the State’s inference becomes simply speculative rather than reasonable. Based on the entire evidentiary picture, the only reasonable inference to be drawn is that in refusing to testify at Griffin’s trial, defendant acted with the intent to protect himself.  Given the requirements of specific intent as applied to the totality of the evidence, it is speculative to infer that, rather than acting to protect himself, defendant’s conscious objective was to hinder Griffin’s prosecution.

Thus, in concluding that the State had failed to present sufficient evidence to prove that defendant acted with the specific intent to hinder Griffin’s prosecution, the magistrate fulfilled its crucial role in “ferreting out . . . groundless and improvident prosecutions” by “declining bindover where the facts presented by the prosecution provide no more than a basis for speculation-as opposed to providing a basis for a reasonable belief.” See State v. Virgin, 2006 UT 29, 137 P.3d 787

The key word that elevates the magistrate’s role beyond that of a mere rubber stamp for the prosecution is “reasonable.” Indeed, the prosecution has not carried its burden if it merely shows belief rather than reasonable belief.  Inclusion of the word “reasonable” in this standard suggests that, at some level of inconsistency or incredibility, evidence becomes incapable of satisfying the probable cause standard.  When that is the case, magistrates are empowered to deny bindover.

Ultimately, the totality of the facts and the reasonable inferences drawn therefrom are incapable of establishing a reasonable belief that defendant stopped cooperating with the State and refused to testify with the requisite specific intent to hinder Griffin’s prosecution.  We therefore agree with the magistrate that “the facts demonstrate that the only reasonable inference to be drawn from the evidence presented is that defendant refused to be interviewed and to testify . . . to protect his interests against the prosecution of himself for murder.”  Accordingly, the magistrate appropriately declined to bind over defendant for trial on the obstruction of justice offense.

Conclusion: We conclude that the magistrate appropriately declined to bind over defendant for trial on the obstruction of justice offense.

[1] State v. Virgin, 2006 UT 29.
[2] Utah Code Ann. §41-6a-502(1)
[3] Utah Code Ann. §41-6a-502(1)
[4] Utah Code Ann. §41-6a-502(1)(a)
[5] Utah Code Ann. §41-6a-502(1)(b)
[6] Utah Code Ann. §41-6a-503(1)(b)(i)
[7] Utah Code Ann. §41-6a-503(1)(b)(ii)
[8] Utah Code Ann. §41-6a-503(1)(b)(iii)
[9] Utah Code Ann. §41-6a-503(2)(a)
[10] Utah Code Ann. §41-6a-503(2)(b)
[11] Utah Code Ann. §41-6a-503(2)(c)(i)
[12] Utah Code Ann. §41-6a-503(2)(c)(ii)