The Appellate Group

State v. James

State v. James, 2023 UT App 80 (Orme, J.)

Criminal Law

After James pleaded guilty to felony charges, the district court failed to invite him to speak at sentencing. On appeal, James argued that the district court plainly erred by not affording him the right to allocution, urging adoption of the federal standard that does not require a showing of harm. The Utah Court of Appeals adopted the 10th circuit standard and vacated the sentence, holding:

  • The district court plainly erred in denying James his right to allocution.
  • Practice tip: The general rule is that there is “per se or presumptive prejudice” when a defendant is denied the right to allocution.
  • Judicial tip: The language in rule 22(a) that the district court “must afford” a defendant the right to allocution is more indicative of a mandatory directive than the previous “shall afford” language.

Read the full court opinion