Salt Lake County DA vacates two convictions on technicalities

Aug 25, 2021, 6:00 AM
FILE PHOTO (Sim Gill announces the fatal shooting of Chad Breinholt, 31, by a West Valley police of...
FILE PHOTO (Sim Gill announces the fatal shooting of Chad Breinholt, 31, by a West Valley police officer justified.)
(Sim Gill announces the fatal shooting of Chad Breinholt, 31, by a West Valley police officer justified.)

SALT LAKE CITY — The top prosecutor in Salt Lake County filed motions to throw out a pair of decade-old convictions on technicalities this week. 

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said a conviction review panel found the two cases, one for drugs and the other for sexual battery, were riddled with mistakes. The biggest errors were that both defendants were teenagers at the time of their convictions in district court. 

“Until one is 18, with very few exceptions, the state’s juvenile courts have exclusive original subject matter jurisdiction for the violation of Utah criminal law,” Gill explained Tuesday. 

The DA said he is uncertain how the ages of the defendants were overlooked, but their birth certificates clearly show both were 17 years old. 

Technicalities, not merits

DA Gill said the conviction review panel did not make a determination on the merits of the case. The convictions are simply being vacated due to their mishandling. 

“Due process is a fundamental right of our criminal justice system. If we violate the due process rights of the people who come through the system, then we cannot rely on the convictions that we have,” said Gill. 

Gill’s motion for overturning the drug case was done so with prejudice, meaning the conviction should be dismissed in all courts. However, the sexual battery case was vacated without prejudice. 

The DA said his office had the opportunity to refile charges in the juvenile court system but decided against it after contacting the alleged victim in the case. 

Gill said, “We have the ability to charge people, but when we don’t follow the rules and we make mistakes, then we have an ethical, legal, and moral duty to correct that as well.”

Both defendants were deported after being found guilty. 

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Salt Lake County DA vacates two convictions on technicalities