Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Criminal Defense Attorney Salt Lake City

Criminal Defense Attorney Salt Lake City: The Good

I remember being at a doctor's office with a broken wrist and the doctor telling me my wrist wasn't broken. 

"We looked at the X-Rays and they appear fine," he said. 
"Doc, I've broken my wrist before and I know what it feels like. I'm certain it's broken." 
"No, you're fine. Trust me." 

Well, I couldn't sleep that night from the pain. In the morning, I went to another, larger hospital for a second opinion. They took an X-Ray and of course my wrist was broken. 

Hiring a criminal defense attorney in Salt Lake City is a lot like that. Experience and knowledge in any profession goes across the spectrum. I've known some criminal defense attorneys in Salt Lake City that were so awful I heard judges, in private of course, wondering how it was they had kept their bar licenses. On the flip side, I have seen some criminal defense attorneys in Salt Lake City that have blown my mind with some of the creative tactics they've used. 

I'm very fortunate to be a partner at this firm and have the ability to spot these characteristics in criminal defense attorneys and hire the ones that impress me. We hired one attorney away from another firm for the simple fact that he was aggressive and smart. I knew he would be an excellent attorney at our firm and I had to have him. 

Many criminal defense firms in Salt Lake don't realize the talent that they might have in their associates. Perhaps because I come from a business background, when I recognize talent, I know we need to add it to our roster as quickly as possible. 

It takes time to hire a good criminal defense attorney in Salt Lake City. Don't just hire the first person you speak with: call around. I tell all potential clients to speak with at least three other firms. This is a big decision, especially for those facing prison time, and it shouldn't be taken lightly. 

Criminal Defense Attorney Salt Lake City: The Bad

So how do you spot bad criminal defense attorneys? Hard to say since it varies, but here are some general tips:

a. If a criminal defense attorney is rude to you on the phone, they will probably be rude to you during the case. Avoid this. Criminal defense is a service and you are the customer. You should be treated with respect. 

b. If a criminal defense attorney charges too little, they probably don't have the experience or the knowledge you need. A good attorney knows how much time each criminal defense case takes and charges accordingly. If they are charging you too little, that generally means they plan on spending as little time on the case as possible. This isn't always true, but in my experience this seems to be the trend. 

c. If a criminal defense attorney charges too much, they may be inflating what they can do for you. I've known some criminal defense attorneys here in Salt Lake City that charge triple what everyone else does and promise a dismissal to the client. When the dismissal eventually doesn't come, the criminal defense attorney shrugs and says, "Oh well. That's life." Call around and check out what everyone is charging. A difference of a few thousand dollars is okay, but if someone is charging twenty thousand more than everyone else, that may be a problem. 

d. If a criminal defense attorney has no staff, that may be a problem. I cannot tell you how much I rely on the hard work of my staff. How well I do on my cases is a direct result of how well my staff works in the background, gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, coordinating with the courts. If I didn't have them, all the little things that go into a case would have to be done by me personally. This would take time away from me doing what I do best: coming up with a legal strategy to win my client's case. 

Criminal Defense Attorney Salt Lake City: The Ugly

It is a sad fact of the criminal defense world that there are some attorneys that will take a client's money, not do a thing for them, and then refuse to give any of the money back when the client requests a refund. It makes all of us hard working criminal defense attorneys here in Salt Lake look bad and it makes the attorney profession look bad. 

How to Hire a Good Criminal Defense Attorney in Salt Lake City

The old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure applies here. Do your research, speak or preferably meet with your potential criminal defense attorney in person, ask lots of questions, and make a good judgement. A good criminal defense attorney can make the difference between winning your case and going to jail. Don't leave that decision up to chance.


Yossof Sharifi

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Salt Lake County Jail: How to Get Your Loved Ones Out

Salt Lake County Jail: The Arrest

If a loved one is being held at the jail, it means he was arrested for a crime or crimes that the police believe them to have committed.

The police either had an arrest warrant and executed it, meaning they found your loved one and brought them in, or they arrested them at or near a crime scene. Once someone is arrested in Salt Lake County, they are then taken to the Salt Lake County Jail for booking. The booking process can be slow or fast depending on how busy the jail is at that time. It will involve booking photos, fingerprints, intake forms, and of course, a full body-cavity search.

Many people think they are entitled to a phone call at this point because that is what happens in movies when someone is arrested. That is definitely not the case and the guards get annoyed fairly quickly about inmates screaming for a phone call.

If you or a loved one are arrested, don't fight, keep your mouth shut, and make sure to hire a good criminal defense lawyer.

Salt Lake County Jail: The First 48 Hours

After the booking process, the prosecution has 72 hours to file an information officially bringing charges against the inmate. If they fail to meet that 72 hours, the inmate is released. If they meet the deadline and file the charges, the inmate will then have an arraignment date set with the court that has jurisdiction. Many arraignments are handled at the Salt Lake County Jail itself by video arraignment.

Salt Lake County Jail: The Arraignment

Your loved one will be arraigned in front of a judge. Bail will be determined and an offer may even be made by the prosecution on the case. Public defenders are there to help people plead guilty or to set things out to a regular court hearing.

I really do not recommend pleading guilty at this stage. Your attorney will not have any of the information and you run the risk of pleading guilty to a case that might be won. It's much better to plead not-guilty and let an attorney take care of the case for you.

Salt Lake County Jail: The Bail

Bail is a tricky issue. For many judges, the default position is to set bail higher than needed to ensure the appearance of the inmate at future court proceedings. The two issues the judge will be looking at to determine if someone receives bail are threat to the community, and flight risk. If you do not meet either of these criteria, you will likely get bail.

After bail is received you may hire a bail-bondsman  This is someone for which you pay 10% of the total bail amount and they post a bond and secure your release. There are many good bondsman out there. Our law firm uses Dewey's Bail-bonds as they have consistently worked with our clients and get them out of jail in a very short amount of time.

Salt Lake County Jail: The Release

Once released on bail, hire an attorney right away. Too many people attempt to represent themselves and I watch in court as they get railroaded and receive far stiffer penalties than they need to. Do not let this happen to you. Hire an attorney, don't speak to anyone else about the case, and let the attorney handle everything.

A good criminal defense attorney should walk you through the process step-by-step and explain to you everything that's expected of you. They can make the process much easier. I don't fix the plumbing at my house: I hire a specialist for it because they can do it better and quicker and cheaper if you take into account how many things can go wrong with me attempting to fix the problem myself.

Criminal offenses in Utah are no laughing matter and the Salt Lake County Jail is not a fun place for anybody. Don't think short-term. Hire an attorney, have them hire a bailbondsman, and get you out so you can move on with your life.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

How to Get a Terrible Utah DUI Attorney

Bad Utah DUI Attorneys

There seems to be a lot of blogs talking about how to get good Utah DUI attorneys and most of them point the finger back to the DUI attorney writing the blog. So instead of being tacky and doing that, I thought I would discuss the ways in which you can go about and hire the worst DUI attorneys out there.

If you received a DUI and you're looking for a DUI attorney, then just follow these steps and you're certain to ruin your life:

Steps to Hiring Really, Really Bad Utah DUI Attorneys

Step 1: Hire someone from a billboard:

Ah, the ole' billboard. Used by many a fast-food restaurant to make you hungry on the long drive home. Not to bash them too much, but Park City, Utah is one of the most beautiful cities in the nation and a big part of that is that they have completely banned billboards. Billboards are little more than annoying mind pollution but the billboard lobby in Utah is so powerful doing what Park City did is nearly impossible now.

But lawyers love their billboards. Check out this gem:

Nice. I'm sure that was  a good $30,000 well spent.

Step 2: Get your DUI attorney to guarantee a victory: 

After you call a DUI attorney off a billboard (or bus advertisement or bus bench, anything having to do with buses really), then call and set an appointment. Then tell him or her that you demand a guarantee that they will get your case dismissed with an apology from the judge. Don't settle for even a traffic ticket with a $50 fine. Demand the apology too, just to teach the judge and the prosecutors and police that you won't be hassled if you commit a crime.

Hire only a DUI attorney that's willing to give you a guarantee. After all, they have none of the evidence at this point, haven't spoken to a single witness, haven't watched any videos, and don't know anything about your case. They must be super-humanly skilled at DUI's, predicting the future, and manipulating public officials if they can guarantee a victory.

Because if they don't follow through, you have a lot of options. For example, you can ask for your money back at which point they'll tell you no. And then you can begin a three year law suit at which time you will probably lose anyway. But you will annoy the DUI attorney for sure.

Step 3: Lie to the attorney about everything: 

DUI attorneys love when you lie to them. It keeps the element of surprise when they go into the courtroom and the prosecutor and police know more about your case than they do. DUI attorneys also love looking like fools in front of judges. Again, it's about variety here so if they went in and did a good job every time with perfect knowledge about your case, they'd get bored. So keep them on their toes and lie about everything, including your name and address if possible.

Step 4: Yell at everyone:

DUI attorneys don't like everyone being polite to them. Call them frequently and yell, even if they're doing a great job. Think of it as reminding them that you're the boss. You might think that this would annoy them and they won't work as hard and just withdraw from your case, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. DUI attorneys are masochists and they would like nothing more than the occasional yelling. Holidays, evenings and weekends work best.

Step 5: Tell them it's their fault as you're hauled to jail:

Inevitably, you will be taken to jail if you follow these steps. But don't waste this opportunity to yell that it was their fault for not fighting hard enough.

Using these steps, you're sure to ruin your life over what should be just a simple case that a good DUI attorney could get dropped to a traffic offense.

In case sarcasm isn't your bag, these are clearly the worst things you can do if you have a DUI. If you want sound advice and to have your DUI taken care of quickly and quietly, find a top-notch DUI attorney on the internet and pay him what he needs to do a good job. Go too cheap, and you're better off going in by yourself and saving the attorney fees for the fines to the court.

So find the right DUI attorney online, be prepared to pay what a top notch professional in any field charges for their services, and then sit back and let them handle the headache.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Utah Criminal Defense Attorneys: A Paralegal's Perpective

Note: This contribution is from the paralegal staff at Sharifi & Baron PLLC

Utah Criminal Defense Attorneys: What I Think They Do

When I tell people I work for a criminal defense attorney’s office, they always ask how I feel about it.  The assumption is that if you work for a criminal defense attorney, you will be dealing with hard criminals on a daily basis and that you are working to put these criminals back on the street.  The underlying implication is that this is morally wrong and something I shouldn’t be proud to be a part of. The reality of it is, there is a wide spectrum of innocent to guilty clients.  

Utah Criminal Defense Attorneys: What Everyone Else Thinks They Do

We are taught that we are “innocent until proven guilty.”  This certainly stands true in criminal defense.  The important thing to note is that many of our clients are innocent, and we are trying to help prove it.  Admittedly, some of our clients are guilty, and don’t try to hide it.  Those client’s, however, aren’t trying to get away unscathed, they are trying to make amends and get on with their lives.  From a moral perspective, our office isn’t trying to litter the streets with criminals, but trying to get just and fair deals for our clients.
Utah Criminal Defense Attorneys: Why they do what they do

Many of our clients believe cooperating with the police means they will get a better deal in the end.  In cooperating with the police however, sometimes they say things that will lead to their conviction or admit guilt, regardless of whether or not they are truly guilty.  Many people are intimidated into saying things that they don’t mean or aren’t true.  Often times, detectives do what they call “blind calls” where they will have an alleged victim call the person they are accusing, and try to get them to admit guilt.  This is done without the accused knowing the detective is listening in on a third line.  This is completely legal, by the way.  Other times, detectives will interrogate suspects and say what they feel is necessary to get them to admit guilt, regardless of whether or not the information they are feeding you is true.  This is also legal.

Utah Criminal Defense Attorneys: What They Actually Do

For me, from a moral perspective, criminal defense attorneys are trying to help prevent confusion within the legal system.  When a client comes in and admits they are guilty, they aren’t asking our attorneys to get them off scot-free; they are asking our attorneys to help them right their wrongs.  Many are aware of the reality that they will have to pay a fine, do community service, or in extreme cases, serve jail-time.  These clients, however, are very aware and have accepted the fact that this is the case, and our attorney’s don’t hide the probability of these outcomes. 

 The way I look at it, the only way to defend yourself is to know your rights.  To know your rights, you have to understand the law.  The problem is that there is so much law - both federal and state -  that unless you’ve studied the law significantly, there is no way for you to truly understand it.  The way I look at it, this is why our attorneys are here.
On some level I understand why people might question my job. We aren’t here putting hardened criminals back out on the streets, rather, we are here to protect you, and your rights.  Criminal defense attorneys work hard to fight for you within the law.  They know how to navigate the system, and they guide you through it. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

How long will you go to jail or prison?

If you are accused of a crime, there is a chance that you will go to jail. Everyone wants to win their case and we’ve won more than our share of cases at trial or by dismissal. But there is sometimes the chance that you will have to go to jail. When you are considering a plea bargain or a trial strategy, you have to consider the possibility of jail time and how long you might have to go to jail or prison.

In Utah, judges have broad powers to decide how long you will go to jail if you are convicted. For example, if you are charged with a Class A misdemeanor, you can be sentenced to up to one year in jail. The judge does not usually have to send you to jail, but can sentence you to anything from 0 days in jail to 365.

But judges frequently refer to forms produced by the Utah Sentencing Commission when deciding on a sentence. Understanding those forms is essential to giving an accurate prediction of a jail sentence.

For serious crimes or when the judge wants extra input, the judge will request a Pre-Sentence Investigation(PSI) from Adult Probation and Parole (AP&P). AP&P uses the same forms to make a recommendation on a jail or prison sentence.

The forms are somewhat complicated, but I will give an example to illustrate how they are used. It is always best to consult an experienced attorney to make sure that a sentencing prediction is accurate.

Sentencing Example: Drug Possession

Mary Jane is accused of selling marijuana in a drug-free-zone (within 1,000 feet of a public park). She has been convicted twice before for possessing marijuana, but she successfully completed probation both times. She pleads guilty to distribution of marijuana, a third degree felony, which was reduced from a first degree felony based on the drug-free-zone and her previous marijuana convictions. Mary Jane has a good job working as a waitress at a diner. She doesn’t make much money, but she supports her kids on her own. She is a single mother. According to the sentencing guidelines, how long could Mary Jane serve in jail or prison?

The maximum sentence for a third degree felony like the one Mary Jane is accused of is a sentence of 0-5 years in the Utah State Prison. If she got that sentence, the judge would send Mary Jane to the prison and the Board of Pardons and Parolewould decide when she would get out at a parole hearing.

However, Mary Jane is very unlikely to be sentenced to prison. To predict her likely jail sentence, we start with the “GeneralMatrix” form. Mary Jane does not have any prior felony convictions. She has two prior misdemeanor convictions, but no juvenile convictions. She was previously on probation, but she never had any problems on probation. She has no violent history and no weapons were used in this offense.

Mary Jane scores three points on the criminal history matrix which places her in the lowest criminal history category.

Next we turn to the “Jail As a Condition of Probation” matrix form. Distribution of marijuana is a 3rd Other along the top row because it is a third degree felony and it does not involve violence to a person (which would make it more serious) or simple possession of a drug (which would make it less serious). The roman numerals in the left column represent the criminal history category for the defendant and in this case we’ve already determined that Mary Jane falls in the least serious “Criminal History Category I.” A person with the lowest criminal history category who is convicted of a third degree felony “other” offense isrecommended to serve 60 days in jail.

There are three color codes on the “Jail As a Condition of Probation” form. Dark, partially shaded, and light. In the dark-shaded parts of the form, the Sentencing Commission is recommending prison. That means that if a person is charged with certain serious crimes or has extensive criminal history, the Sentencing Commission recommends that judges sentence defendants to prison. Defendants whose sentencing matrix falls in the light areas can hope that no jail will be imposed or that they will get an alternative sentence like ankle monitor or more intensive supervised probation. The partially shaded areas represent the Sentencing Commission’s recommendation that those people at least serve jail time and that the judge should at least consider prison time.

It is also important to consider the “Aggravating and Mitigating Circumstances” form, but that form is the mostsubjective of all the forms. In almost every case, the probation officer, the prosecutor, and the defense attorney can reasonably disagree on the aggravating and mitigating factors.


Judges’ sentencing decisions vary from judge to judge, court to court, and county to county. They are not required to follow the sentencing guidelines and some rarely do. But some judges follow the guidelines religiously and it is important for defense attorneys to understand the matrices and how to use them.

How to Get A Lawyer


I knew a lawyer that would show up to court in jeans and a turtle-neck, plead his client guilty to whatever crime he happened to be charged with, collect his $5000 or $10,000 for the case, and move on to the next one.

Not once did I see him work out a great deal or fight the case at trial. All he did was show up, plead them guilty, and leave.

How to get a lawyer is one of the most common questions I get asked as a lawyer myself from friends and acquaintances. Before we dive into how to get a lawyer, let's talk about some ways how to NOT get a lawyer:

1. Yellow Pages: The phone book is a relic from the 80's. Tons of attorneys still advertise on there but very few of the cutting edge firms who stay on top of trends, and more importantly for their clients, on top of recent developments in law and business, advertise there. It only works for a few types of law and even those only if you spend an enormous sum of money. If you're facing a complex litigation matter or are charged with murder, you probably want to steer clear of the phone book. If you have a minor traffic offense or something else that doesn't really impact your life and you don't want to spend a lot of money on a lawyer, phone book might be okay. Although, even for that, I would still recommend searching the internet instead.

2. Fliers at the Jail: If you happen to commit a crime and have to be booked into jail, you may see fliers up for lawyers on some of the pin-up boards. Usually, these lawyers have some sort of deal worked out with someone somewhere that allows them to do this, or they literally just went into the jail and put it up themselves. Either way, that doesn't bode well for you. A good lawyer is never desperate: he will have a line of clients waiting for his services based on referrals. This just reeks of desperation.

3. Arrest Magazines: This is a growing unfortunate trend. People wondering how to get a lawyer often look at these magazines because they're available everywhere. The magazines basically take booking photos of people arrested, put them up on the internet for everyone to see, and then try and blackmail the defendant by sending them a letter saying we'll remove the booking photo for $100 or as much as $3000. If this happens to you, hire a lawyer right away and have them send a cease and desist letter to the magazine with a copy of a lawsuit (called a complaint) that the lawyer will file if the photo is not immediately removed. Unfortunately, the problem is that there will be dozens of other criminal magazines that do the same thing and you can't threaten them all. A small number of lawyers advertise in these magazines; anyone associated with these horrible publications is probably not who you want representing you in court.

4. TV and Billboards: I can't tell you how many awful advertisments for lawyers I've seen on TV and billboards. Again, it stinks of desperation. If you're on TV yelling about your services, you probably don't have that many clients. A sure sign that a lawyer is either not good or doesn't have much experience or is difficult to work with.


So now that we've talked about some of the ways not to get a lawyer, let's talk about how to get a lawyer in positive ways:

1. Internet: Internet is king. Any firm worth their salt should have a heavy presence online. If they don't, they probably aren't keeping up with the times and that spells bad news for you.

2. Referrals: The second best way to find a lawyer. The reason this was second and not first is that for a firm to rank number one on Google takes a lot of time, money and effort. They would have to be a successful firm to do so which means they probably have a long list of happy former clients. But cases vary from one to the next and your Great Aunt Jill might've gotten a good contract lawyer that does terrible for you. But, it's still a great way to find good lawyers despite the problems.

3. Online Reviews: My partner, Joshua Baron, has a perfect 10 out of 10 Avvo score. I haven't seen a single other lawyer that has that (though I'm sure there's a few). He received that score because he wins lots and lots of cases and publishes about them and is respected by his peers. Online reviews can really help you sort out who to go with. One thing to keep in mind though: sometimes, a lawyer can do an excellent job and the client still may go online and write a bad review about them. I once got a criminal case dismissed and my client gave me a bad review because it took me three months to do it and she wanted it done immediately. So take them with a grain of salt.


In the end, you're going to have to go with your gut and evaluate a lot of different lawyers. I recommend you speak to at least three different lawyers that specialize in your needed area. Ask a lot of questions like how many cases they have handled, how many victories they have, how many losses, and how quickly you could get in touch with them if you needed to.

After all is said and done, picking a good lawyer just comes down to how you interact with them. The number one factor people have stated is important to them when picking a lawyer is likability. The only way you'll know if you like them is to meet with them so make sure you put in a little bit of work before hiring. Otherwise, you might get the guy in the turtle-neck and pay $10,000 for something you could've done yourself.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Utah DUI and Your Driver License: The Saga Continues

In a previous post we talked about the Driver License Division taking away your license after you receive a DUI in Utah and what to do about it. 

Just to make it more difficult, they change the laws and rules every few years, sometimes every year, and many people don't know what to do after getting a DUI in order to keep their license. While you're busy hopping from one foot to the next, they suspend your license and make it much more difficult to keep your job, get to school, or shuffle your kids around. 

Here's a few additional tips and updates on DUI's and your license to try and prevent the DLD from suspending. If you haven't read our previous post on DUI's and your license, read that first here:


It's just amazing to me how many people do not request a driver license hearing after getting a DUI. An attorney can and should do it for you but it has to be done within 10 days. No exceptions. Not even if your grandma's in the hospital. Not if your dog's sick. Not even if the series finale of Breaking Bad is on and you just can't get down to the Driver License Division. You just have to do it. 

If you can't hire an attorney right away (and as I wrote in my previous post, everyone should hire a good DUI attorney right after receiving a DUI. Most firms offer extremely flexible payment plans so take advantage of them) then you will need to request it yourself. It's easy: just go down to your nearest Driver License Division Office and request a driver license hearing for your DUI. Many people choose to do it by mail. I wouldn't recommend this. Mail gets lost or misfiled and your driver license is too important to take that risk. Just go down there and do it or hire a good DUI attorney to do it for you. 


This should go without saying but many people do the DUI driver license hearing themselves and predictably lose their driver licenses. I wouldn't install my own plumbing system: you hire experts for that sort of thing. Same thing goes here. Your best shot is to have someone in the DUI hearing that knows what they're doing. 


Having a prior DUI is asking for you to lose your license. Even if you win the hearing, the DLD has been pulling some sneaky tricks lately. For example, lets say a good attorney gets your DUI dropped to reckless driving or impaired driving, which shouldn't suspend your license. Well if your current DUI is your second, it still suspends, even if you're not convicted of DUI but of something else! Also, even on a first DUI, if you have another alcohol related offense on your record, you may be required to get an ignition interlock device. When enter a deal on the DUI, the Driver License Division suspends your license indefinitely stating that you were required to have an interlock device and they won't give it back unless you get one installed and get them proof. The point is: if you got a DUI, the DLD wants to take your license and will do everything possible to take it from you. 


Many states have work exception licenses granted to people who receive DUI's. For example, Nevada allows you to drive to work after serving half of your 90 day suspension on a first DUI. Utah does have a work exception, but as one employee at the DLD told us, he has never seen it granted on a DUI. You have to get the DUI reduced to see if you even qualify and then you will have a hearing and be denied. I have never, in the over 1500 DUI cases I've handled as both a prosecutor and a DUI defense attorney, seen even one of these work exception licenses granted. Don't hold your breath if you think this is a way out of your suspension. A much better way is to hire a good DUI attorney and let them do their job. 


DUI's are unique crimes. You have a massive lobby group, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, who are shaping the laws to be less and less favorable to DUI offenders. The license is where they hit you the hardest. If your license is important to you, and especially if you have a special driving privlege license like a CDL, don't roll the dice just to save a few bucks on a DUI attorney. Hire one and let them deal with the headache.