The Appellate Group

State v. Hararah

State v. Hararah, 2023 UT App 77 (Mortensen, J.)

Criminal Procedure

Houston Raefat Hararah was charged with assault. He contends that he was coerced into waiving his right to a preliminary hearing and also that counsel provided ineffective assistance for not objecting to the court’s allegedly problematic statements. The Utah Court of Appeals affirmed, holding:

  • Hararah’s claim that the district court coerced him into waiving his preliminary hearing is not supported by the record, so the exceptional circumstances doctrine does not apply, and the court also did not plainly err.
  • Judicial Tip: Judges have the discretion to diverge from the plea agreement. They may also reject a plea recommendation that involves a plea to a lesser included or the dismissal of other charges.
  • Judicial Tip: The court may not use the preliminary hearing as a bargaining chip for any reason as the court may not participate in the bargaining process.
  • Judicial Tip: Judges may not participate in plea discussions prior to any plea agreement being made.
  • Practice Tip: Any flaw that may occur in a preliminary hearing is cured by a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • Practice Tip: Parties wishing to challenge a district court’s decision to condition a plea on the waiver of a preliminary hearing should seek interlocutory review in accordance with Aleh.

Read the full court opinion