A new Utah program is giving people convicted of federal crimes an opportunity to turn their lives around. The innovative Utah Alternatives to Conviction Act, or U-ACT, is designed to help rehabilitate those convicted of federal crimes by utilizing incentives, treatment and court involvement. Beginning this fall, Utah District Judge Robert Shelby will accept a handful of offenders who pled guilty to federal crimes. The U-ACT is considered a revolutionary for the federal criminal justice system in Utah.
It is important to understand there are some fundamental differences between federal courts and the state court system. Federal courts do not offer plea-in-abeyance, which allows those convicted of crimes to have their charges dropped if they meet certain conditions. To qualify for the U-ACT, offenders would have to meet the following qualifications:
- Accept full responsibility for the crime
- Plead guilty
- Agree to a sentence
While critics may see the U-ACT as being soft on those convicted of federal crimes, the offenders must comply with all conditions and guidelines set by the judge or they will be forced to to serve their original prison sentence. U.S. attorney John Huber expects 8 to 12 offenders, mostly convicted of federal drug crimes, to participate . Eligibility for the Utah criminal law program will be determined by a team of public defenders, prosecutors and the probation office. Those who successfully complete the program could have their charges dismissed or have them downgraded to probation. Convicted hardcore violent criminals and child predators are not eligible under the U-ACT.
Like much of the nation, Utah’s jails are already overcrowded with prisoners. Many inmates are unable to make the transition back to regular society after serving their sentences. The purpose of the U-ACT is to help convicted offenders with their issues and to prevent them from repeating their self destructive behavior. In far too many cases the criminal justice system fails to rehabilitate convicted criminals. As more prisoners fill up our jails, more tax dollars must be used to build new facilities to house offenders. The U-ACT is also expected to help ease the workload on a prosecutor and Utah criminal defense attorney. In far too many cases, attorneys may have to prosecute a repeat offender several times. The U-ACT was designed to emulate a similar program developed in Los Angeles, which is already seeing many positive results.
Although many consider the U-ACT as a “get out of jail card”, proponents maintain public safety is always the biggest priority. The Department of Justice estimates the U-ACT will help the state save money. It estimates nearly a quarter to a third of its budget goes to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Countless people are arrested or accused of drug crimes in Salt Lake City. These are charges that can be extremely damaging to a person’s future and could cost their freedom. It is important to understand each person has rights. The first important step is to hire an experienced Salt Lake City drug crime attorney with an extensive track record of looking out for the best interest of each client. Do not take chances with your quality of representation. Contact the Law Offices of David Paul White & Associates and make sure your rights are protected.