Utah is implementing a new system designed to both increase public safety and reduce the rate of recidivism, or repeat offenses. The system, coined ECR or Early Case Resolution, began in 2011. It is structured to increase the effectiveness of the criminal justice system by holding hearings and sentences more quickly.
The program works by applying the same principles used in Drug Court: accountability, supervision and therapeutic assessment.
More specifically, ECR was created with the intention of meeting the following timeframes:
- Within two days of booking: Law Enforcement Agencies electronically submit cases to DA’s Office as well as screen and file the case with the Court.
- Within 10 – 14 business days: The accused has his or her initial court appearance.
- Within 30 days of arrest: Resolve 30 percent of Class A Misdemeanor and felony cases.
In an attempt to determine if the program is working, the Utah Administrative Office of the Courts, Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, Utah Department of Corrections, Criminal Justice Advisory Council, Criminal Justice Services, District Attorney’s Office and Legal Defender Association asked the Utah Criminal Justice Center to conduct a three year evaluation of the program. The first report, Evaluation of Early Case Resolution (ECR) Year 1 Report, was recently released.
Researchers note the program, for the most part, appears to be working. Overall the length and number of hearings was reduced, with most reaching a resolution in a single hearing. Those within the legal field that support the program agree, stating that it allows those who commit a crime to “pay their debt to society and then move on with their lives more expeditiously.”
Is ECR right for you?
Those charged with a crime in Utah should carefully consider ECR as an option, weight both the benefits and drawbacks. Benefits include:
- Individual charged with the crime only needs to come to court once or twice, as opposed to five or six times with the previous system.
- Decreased likelihood of additional charges for missing one of the six hearings.
- Potential decreased length of prison time for the accused.
It appears a catch phrase tossed around with ECR is “transformative.” The process is “transformative” for those who were guilty of their accused crimes. But could the program be devastating for those who are wrongly accused? Salt Lake District Attorney Gill stated to Desert News that the program is not an “end all.”
Although a case begins in ECR court, is not required to remain there. After the initial appearance the case can opt out. Overall, the ECR process appears to be most beneficial for cases involve drug and property crimes.
Determining if ECR is the right choice can be difficult. Those who are attempting to make this decision should contact an experienced Utah criminal defense lawyer to discuss their case and better ensure their legal rights are protected.