Utah Justice Courts can be wild sometimes, especially with non-law trained judges. A Utah Justice Court is the most likely court a Utahn can find themselves in. Utah Justice Courts combined processed 410,158 in FY2023. Utah District Courts processed 248,229 in FY2023. See utcourts.gov.
Once you plead guilty or are found guilty by a jury or judge and sentenced you have a right to a De Novo appeal. A De Novo appeal from the justice court means “DO OVER.” Or do it all over again up top in a Utah District Court. Trials De Novo are a complete appeal of the entire case. See Utah Rules of Criminal Procedure 38(f) and Utah Code 78A-7-118. Hearing De Novo are appeals, but only of limited issues, not the entire case like Trial De Novo.
Reckless Driving and DUI Trial De Novos are slightly different. See HERE for how to appeal.
Hearings De Novo are not a complete appeal of the entire case from the justice court to the district court. Hearings De Novo only apply to the following types of matters decided by the justice court.
Defendant’s Hearing De Novo Right. A defendant convicted and sentenced in the justice court is entitled to a hearing de novo in the district court regarding:
Prosecutor’s Hearing De Novo Right. A prosecutor is entitled to a hearing de novo in the district court regarding:
Victim’s Hearing De Novo Right. A victim (or prosecutor) is entitled to a restitution hearing de novo in the district court regarding restitution if:
Constitutional or Statutory Interpretation. The Utah Court of Appeals will review cases originating in justice court, which permits appellate review of a district court decision only if the district court rules on the constitutionality of a statute or ordinance. See Utah Code 78A-7-118(11).
Appeals from the Utah Court of Appeals to the Utah Supreme Court. You can appeal a decision of the Utah Court of Appeals determining your justice court originated appeal through a petition for certiorari.
To say the least, not many justice court originated cases make it to the Utah Supreme Court and are heard and decided.
If you are going to appeal from the Justice Court until you get the relief you must preserve any constitutional, ordinance or statutory interpretation issue clearly in the District Court De Novo appeal.
In 2024 Ut 3 Park City Municipal Corporation v. Robert Evan Woodham the Utah Supreme Court affirmed that you can appeal a justice court case to the Utah Supreme Court if you properly preserve a constitutional, ordinance or statutory challenge.
In Woodham the Utah Supreme Court found that merely mentioning constitutional words in your defense like “by invoking the due process clause limitation on all statutes” was insufficient to properly preserve a constitutional challenge. “Mere mention of a constitutional right, phrase, or principle does not raise a constitutional claim” or preserve it for appellate review.