Utah Sexting Laws

Simms, on the topic of  Sex Crimes

With the majority of Utah kids having their first cell phone by age 10-12, it is important that parents discuss sexting laws and how they apply to minors.

Utah Sexting Laws

Photo by: Summer Skyes 11

Electronic dirty talk

One practice that continues to rise in popularity among Utah teens is sexting. According to dictionary.com, sexting is defined as “the sending of sexually explicit photos, images, text messages, or e-mails by using a cell phone or other mobile device.” While many teens get away with sexting time and time again, it is against the law and will result in criminal penalties if they are caught.

Utah sexting laws

Currently every state has a law that criminalizes sexting that includes images of minors, although many states group sexting in with child pornography or sexual exploitation of a minor. There are three laws in the Utah State Code that teens should be aware of before they send, receive, or share explicit images or videos of other teens.

Sexual exploitation of a minor

According to Utah Code 76-5b-201, “(1) A person is guilty of sexual exploitation of a minor: when the person:

(i) knowingly produces, possesses, or possesses with intent to distribute child pornography; or

(ii) intentionally distributes or views child pornography; ( . . . )

Sexual exploitation of a minor is a second degree felony and charges for sexual exploitation of a minor can be multiplied depending on how many minors are depicted and/or how many times the same minor appears in different pictures or videos.

Giving explicit material to minors

Photo by: Leo Hildalgo

Photo by: Leo Hildalgo

Utah Code 76-10-1206 warns “(1)A person is guilty of dealing in material harmful to minors when, knowing or believing that a person is a minor, or having negligently failed to determine the proper age of a minor, the person intentionally:

(a) distributes or offers to distribute, or exhibits or offers to exhibit, to a ( . . . ), any material harmful to minors;

(b) produces, performs, or directs any performance, before a minor ( . . . ) that is harmful to minors; or

(c) participates in any performance, before a minor ( . . . ) that is harmful to minors.

(2) (a) Each separate offense under this section committed by a person 18 years of age or older is a third degree felony ( . . . )

(b) Each separate offense under this section committed by a person 16 or 17 years of age is a class A misdemeanor.

(c) Each separate offense under this section committed by a person younger than 16 years of age is a class B misdemeanor.”

Distributing porn

Utah code 76-10-1203 states “(1) Any material or performance is pornographic if:

(a) The average person, applying contemporary community standards, finds that, taken as a whole, it appeals to prurient interest in sex;

(b) It is patently offensive in the description or depiction of nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, sadomasochistic abuse, or excretion; and

(c) Taken as a whole it does not have serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.”

If someone shares or otherwise distributes or attempts to distribute pornographic material, adults 18 and older may face a third degree felony for each item of pornographic material shared or produced while 16-17 year olds face a class A misdemeanor, and under 16 year olds face a class B misdemeanor.

Photo by: Maurizio Pesce

Photo by: Maurizio Pesce

What’s posted on the internet stays on the internet

With so many options to “delete” content shared, too many teens have the false sense of security that they can share a picture or video briefly and never have to worry about it again. Unfortunately, what’s posted on the internet stays on the internet. Besides other individuals who screenshot or otherwise save things they’ve been sent online, the internet has a way of somehow storing embarrassing or incriminating pictures forever. It is important to warn teens that sexually explicit images or videos that are shared can resurface and that type of content will result in criminal charges.

Use of Synthetic Drugs by Teens

Simms, on the topic of  Drugs

Every year more and more synthetic drugs hit the streets and before anyone has a chance to test and warn the public of the potentially fatal reactions to those drugs, many teens have already gotten their hands on them.

Synthetic drugs

Ecstasy - Synthetic Drugs

Photo by: Kripos_NCIS

According to the New York State Health Department, synthetic drugs are those “with properties and effects similar to a known hallucinogen or narcotic but having a slightly altered chemical structure, especially such a drug created in order to evade restrictions against illegal substances.” The Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) added “based on their chemical composition, synthetic drugs are commonly divided into two categories:

• Cannabinoids such as K2 and Spice. Synthetic Cannabinoids are chemicals that mimic the effect of THC, the primary psychoactive active ingredient in marijuana.

• Stimulants such as Bath Salts. Most synthetic stimulants contain chemical compounds that mimic the effects of cocaine, LSD and methamphetamine. (Similar drugs include MDMA sometimes referred to as “ecstasy”, “molly”)”

Increased danger of  overdose

One of the major threats with synthetic drugs is the sloppy way in which they can be produced. Synthetic drugs found on the street are often cooked up in kitchens, basements, or sheds by those who do not have a pharmaceutical or chemistry degree. This can result in the active ingredient in the drug being too strong for someone to consume, resulting in an overdose. This overdose risk is even greater for teens whose lower body weight and minimal history of drug use make them more prone to adverse reactions to strong synthetic drugs.

Educate teens on risks

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “about 570,000 people die annually in the U.S. due to drug use. Parents and educators should find every opportunity to speak with teens about the risks of overdose and death associated with all drugs, and especially those synthetic drugs that are not regulated. For more information on helping teens with drug abuse issues contact the Utah Department of Health. For those teens facing criminal charges for drug use, possession, or distribution, contact a juvenile defense attorney.

Once an Adult, Always an Adult – Juveniles in the Adult Court System

Simms, on the topic of  Juvenile Court

Once an adult, always an adult. This phrase is used to describe what happens to juveniles in Utah when they are convicted in the adult court system.

Serious Youth Offender Act

Photo by: PRSA-NY

Photo by: PRSA-NY

When a teenager 16 years of age or older (and sometimes younger) is charged with serious offenses listed in the serious youth offender act, there case can be transferred to the adult district court. The crimes which can send a juvenile to adult court are found in Utah Code 78A-6-702 and include:

“(a) Any felony violation of:

(i) aggravated arson;

(ii) aggravated assault resulting in serious bodily injury to another;

(iii) aggravated kidnapping;

(iv) aggravated burglary;

(v) aggravated robbery;

(vi) aggravated sexual assault;

(vii) felony discharge of a firearm;

(viii) attempted aggravated murder; or

(ix) attempted murder; or”

(b) any subsequent felony offense involving the use of a dangerous weapon.

Charged as an adult…and then what?

So what happens to those under the age of 18 years old once they’ve been charged as an adult for one of the above crimes? Well, according to the state of Utah and 33 other states, they are no longer considered minors. Utah Code 78A-6-703 states “when a minor has been [found guilty] to the district court ( . . . ), the jurisdiction of the Division of Juvenile Justice Services and the jurisdiction of the juvenile court over the minor is terminated regarding that offense, any other offenses arising from the same criminal episode, and any subsequent misdemeanors or felonies charged against the minor ( . . . ) the district court retains jurisdiction over the minor for all purposes, including sentencing.”

Once an adult, always an adult

Once an adult, always an adult

Photo by: meesh

The above statute is known informally as “ once an adult, always an adult  “. This means that once a juvenile case has been transferred to adult district court, if the juvenile is found guilty, they will from there on out be considered adults for any other crime committed. According to a bulletin posted by the U.S. Department of Justice, once an adult, always an adult laws “are a special form of exclusion requiring criminal prosecution of any juvenile who has been criminally prosecuted in the past-usually without regard to the seriousness of the current offense.”

Keep things in juvenile court

An attorney who has experience in both juvenile court and adult district court knows how differently sentencing is carried out by each court and how drastically crimes are handled from that point out. This knowledge is why so many juvenile defenders fight to keep cases in juvenile court if possible. For more information regarding serious offenses by minors and how to keep kids out of adult court, contact a reputable juvenile defense attorney.

Third Degree Felony for Theft of Watercraft

Simms, on the topic of  Utah Law

A 19 year old in Utah is facing a third degree felony for the theft or possession of stolen watercraft or outboard motor.

Shopping in the off season


Photo by: Robbie Sproule

19 year old Dillon Anthony Smith of Hurricane, Utah was booked into the Weber County Jail on multiple charges including two each of: criminal mischief; fail(ure) to appear on citation; and theft or vessel/motor in possession with reason to believe stolen. His total bail was posted at $14,250. It is not known what the 19 year old was doing so far away from home or why he would have a stolen watercraft or outboard motor on him in the month of February.


A person can be charged with theft if they physically took property that didn’t belong to them, received stolen property, or found property that was lost and didn’t return it. The theft of any property can result in criminal charges and the penalties are usually based on the value of the item(s). Utah Code 76-6-412 states that:

• Theft of property valued under $500 is punishable as a class B misdemeanor;

• Theft of property valued between $500 and $1,500 is punishable as a class A misdemeanor;

• Theft of property valued between $1,500 and$5,000 is punishable as a third degree felony; and

• Theft of property valued above $5,000 is a second degree felony.

Specialty theft items

Photo by: Mark Moz

Photo by: Mark Moz

The value of the watercraft of outboard motor that was stolen or possessed illegally was not noted; however whether it was worth $5,000 or $50, it wouldn’t have mattered. There are some items that may have a determined value, but have a set penalty depending on the type of property stolen.

• If the item stolen is a firearm, it is a second degree felony;

• If a horse, cow, sheep, goat, pig, poultry, or “fur-bearing animal raised for commercial purposes” is stolen, it is a third degree felony unless valued above $5,000;

• A stolen vehicle that is operable is punishable as a second degree felony;

• In the case of a stolen watercraft or outboard motor, the penalty is a third degree felony.

Prison term for theft of watercraft

Photo Courtesy of: Weber County Sheriff's Office

Photo Courtesy of: Weber County Sheriff’s Office

Smith is facing at least two third degree felonies which carry a possible prison term of zero to five years in prison each. Since he is over the age of 18, he will face his charges in the adult court system. A defendant who may have the mentality of a teenager with the physical age of an adult would benefit greatly by a criminal defense attorney who handles adult cases, but also is experienced in dealing with teens who may need more guidance in the judicial proceedings. Anyone in this situation is encouraged to seek such counsel.

Differences between Juvenile Court and Adult Court in Utah

Simms, on the topic of  Juvenile Court

When a teenager in Utah is charged with a crime, it can be handled by either the juvenile court or the adult court and it is important to know the differences between the two.

Juvenile court

Juvenile Court or Adult Court

Photo by: State Farm

Although the juvenile court handles cases of criminal activity by minors, it is a civil court where the goal is not to punish kids but to teach and rehabilitate them while also ensuring that they are not a danger to the community. Utah Code 78A-6-102 states: “The purpose of the [juvenile] court is to:

(a) promote public safety and individual accountability by the imposition of appropriate sanctions on persons who have committed acts in violation of law;

(b) order appropriate measures to promote guidance and control, preferably in the minor’s own home, as an aid in the prevention of future unlawful conduct and the development of responsible citizenship;

(c) where appropriate, order rehabilitation, reeducation, and treatment for persons who have committed acts bringing them within the court’s jurisdiction;

(d) adjudicate matters that relate to minors who are beyond parental or adult control and to establish appropriate authority over these minors by means of placement and control orders;

(e) adjudicate matters that relate to abused, neglected, and dependent children and to provide care and protection for minors by placement, protection, and custody orders;

(f) remove a minor from parental custody only where the minor’s safety or welfare, or the public safety, may not otherwise be adequately safeguarded; and

(g) consistent with the ends of justice, act in the best interests of the minor in all cases and preserve and strengthen family ties.”

Adult criminal court

If a teenager is charged with a felony listed under Utah’s Serious Youth Offender Act (78A-6-7), their case can be transferred to adult court where they can face serious repercussions including hefty fines and lengthy imprisonment. Offenses that are included in the Serious Youth Offender Act include:

• aggravated cases of arson;
• assault;
• kidnapping;
• burglary;
• robbery; and
• sexual assault; as well as
• felony discharge of a firearm;
• attempted aggravated murder; or
• attempted murder; or
• any subsequent offense involving the use of a dangerous weapon;

Juvenile defense attorney

Unfortunately in adult court, it is less lenient that juvenile court and those facing adult criminal charges should expect their sentencing to include more punishment without so much focus on education and rehabilitation. Additionally, once a case goes to adult court, those records which include the juvenile’s name are released to the public. For these reasons, it is imperative that juveniles and their parents and/or guardians seek counsel from a criminal defense attorney who has dealings with both the juvenile court as well as the adult court, and who will try diligently to keep all cases against minors within the juvenile court jurisdiction.

Three Utah Juveniles Arrested Following Gas Station Aggravated Robbery

Simms, on the topic of  Violent Acts

Three Utah juveniles were arrested following an early morning aggravated robbery of a gas station where the clerk was shot multiple times.

Unnecessary escalation

Aggravated Robbery

Photo by: Chris Heald

The three juveniles who have not been named nor had their ages released were arrested for aggravated robbery after then allegedly entered an Exxon gas station in the early morning hours of January 23rd, 2017, emptied the contents of the cash register, and shot the clerk twice; once in the wrist and once in the upper leg. A family member of the victim who is recovering after multiple surgeries said the victim stated that the suspects became frustrated when the clerk could only offer them the money in the till, not in the vault for which he had no access. Pictures taken from the security camera of the store showed the robbery taking place as well as identifying the teen who pulled the trigger on the clerk.

Aggravated Robbery

Utah Code 76-6-302 defines aggravated robbery as when a person, “in the course of committing robbery, he: uses or threatens to use a dangerous weapon ( . . . ); causes serious bodily injury upon another; or takes or attempts to take an operable motor vehicle. Aggravated robbery is a first degree felony” and punishable with a fine as high as $10,000 and a possible prison term of five years to life in prison.

Minimal cash for life in prison

Photo by: majuznk

Photo by: majuznk

Most gas stations and other convenience stores keep a maximum of $100 in the register, which is why they discourage accepting large bills which would deplete their ability to make change. This is especially true at night when management is not available to open the vault, and regular employees are not privy to the combination to open it. Aggravated robbery of a gas station is literally trading life in prison for pocket change.

Adult charges may be pending

When a juvenile is charges with a first degree felony, there is a great possibility they may be charged as an adult. Defendants in this position are encouraged to counsel with a defense attorney who handles all defense cases, both in juvenile and adult (district) court.

Utah Teenager Crashes Stolen Vehicle into Home

Simms, on the topic of  Utah Law

A teenager from Utah was arrested after she crashed a stolen vehicle into a home, causing major damage to the structure.

Taking the family car for a spin

Photo by: Andy Armstrong

Photo by: Andy Armstrong

18 year old Kylee Westenskow from Ogden, Utah was driving a stolen vehicle belonging to her grandparents when she left the road and crashed into a home in Highland, nearly taking off the side of their garage. When police arrested Westenskow they discovered she was did not have her license and was under the influence of marijuana at the time of the accident.

Possession of a stolen vehicle

The 18 year old, who according to Facebook is a student at Ben Lomand High School, is facing multiple misdemeanors including DUI and reckless driving. She is also facing a second degree felony for possession of a stolen vehicle; a charge that could put her behind bars for as long as 15 years. Utah Code 76-6-412 states “Theft of property and services as provided in this chapter is punishable:

a) As a second degree felony if the: ( . . . ) Property stolen is a firearm or an operable motor vehicle; ( . . . )”

A young felon

At just 18 years old, this teenager who is likely in her senior year of high school will be a felon if convicted for the charge of possession of a stolen vehicle. Even if she doesn’t serve the full sentence behind bars, the label of felon will follow her for seven years after she has finished her sentence and/or probation. This can make it difficult to get housing and employment which is not something a new adult should have to face.

Juvenile and criminal defense

If any juveniles or pseudo adults are facing criminal charges such as possession of a stolen vehicle, contact an attorney who is experienced in helping individuals of all ages.

Blended Sentencing for Utah Juveniles

Simms, on the topic of  Education

There is a steady debate on whether or not Utah teenagers charged with serious crimes should face juvenile or adult penalties yet the answer isn’t always black and white; this is where blended sentencing comes in to offer another solution.

Adult crimes committed by kids

Blended Sentencing

Photo by: Rae Allen

With the threat of rising violent crimes among Utah juveniles and the desire for public safety, it may seem easy to sentence teenagers as adults and let them spend years to decades behind bars. This only solves a temporary problem of young violent offenders on the streets, yet it will create even greater problems of overly crowded prisons and kids who finish growing and maturing while behind bars with little to no rehabilitation.

Blended Sentencing

Blended sentencing is a way for the juvenile courts and adult courts to work together to give teens charged with serious offenses a chance for redemption while still under the control of the juvenile court. The teens are given a disposition order or sentencing through the juvenile court that can include treatment such as education and counseling following vital mental health and behavioral evaluations and testing while also dealing punishments such as detention, probation, and/or community service. The teens will also have a sentence for their crimes through the adult court that is temporarily taken off the table while they are under the jurisdiction of the juvenile courts.

Incentive for good behavior

A Second Chance

Photo by: Alyssa L. Miller

After the juvenile disposition or sentencing, teens who respond favorably to treatment and complete their terms in the juvenile system without any problems will not have to face the adult sentence waiting for them. They will finish their time in the juvenile system and be free, reformed adults. If they fail to resolve their criminal behavior and continue to commit other offenses during their juvenile disposition, the adult sentence is then brought back to the table and the teen may face time in adult jail or prison once they are of legal age and no longer in the juvenile system.

Teenagers deserve another chance

The adolescent years are a crucial time of growing and maturing during which most teens are still searching for their own identity while making plans for the future. Their future life as adults should not include incarceration for stupid mistakes they made as kids. Juveniles who are facing serious charges in which they could be charged as adults are encouraged to speak to a juvenile defense attorney about blended sentencing and rehabilitation versus imprisonment.

Utah Teenager Arrested For First Degree Sodomy of a 3 Year old

Simms, on the topic of  Sex Crimes

A 14 year old teenager from Cedar City Utah was arrested for sodomy for sexually abusing his 3 year old relative.

Sexual abuse of a family member

Sodomy on a Child

Photo by: Matt Walker

The allegations of sodomy on a child stem from an incident that took place in the early part of December 2016 where the 14 year old teenager sodomized a 3 year old who was related to the teen, but not a living in the same home. The teen was charged with first degree sodomy on a child and referred to 5th District Juvenile Court.

First degree sodomy on a child

Utah Code 76-5-403.1 states “a person commits sodomy upon a child if the actor engages in any sexual act upon or with a child who is under the age of 14, involving the genitals or anus of the actor or the child and the mouth or anus of either person, regardless of the sex of either participant.” Sodomy on a child is a first degree felony.

No slap on the wrist for juvenile offenders

Many parents believe that when a crime is committed by a minor, the courts will show leniency or “go easier” on a juvenile. This is not always the case. In many instances, especially those involving first degree felonies, end up with the juvenile being charged as an adult. This is especially common in cases against 16-17 year old minors.

Juvenile defense attorney

If the Cedar City teenager in this case was tried as an adult for sodomy on a child, he would be facing imprisonment of 25 years to life or life without parole if the sexual abuse caused any serious bodily injury to the victim. If convicted as a minor he may still be incarcerated in juvenile detention until he reaches the age of 21. Either case would end in the boy being incarcerated before he is even old enough to drive and throughout at least the rest of his teen years. It is always best to consult with a juvenile defense attorney regarding any charges against minors, to obtain the best possible outcome with more treatment and less time behind bars.

Slander and Defamation of Peers in Utah

Simms, on the topic of  Utah Law

Usually starting in elementary and lasting through high school, what their peers think matters greatly to many Utah children teens and slander or defamation by any one person can be devastating and result in criminal charges.



Photo by: S. Packwood

Gossip or bad mouthing of peers by Utah kidscan happen whether through word of mouth, passing notes, or by text messages, Instagram, Snap Chat, and other online forums. While a little gossip is expected around school, although still discouraged, it can take a drastic turn if it is done with the intention of publicly humiliating the other person.


Defamation is described by law.com as “the act of making untrue statements about another which damages his/her reputation. If the defamatory statement is printed or broadcast over the media it is libel and, if only oral, it is slander.” Defamation is usually described as an intentional act by which lies are told with the objective of mentally or emotionally hurting another person. For this reason, it is against the law.

Penalties for defamation

Photo by: Alex Yosifov

Photo by: Alex Yosifov

Utah Code 76-9-404 states “A person is guilty of criminal defamation of he knowingly communicates to any person orally or in writing any information which he knows to be false and knows will tend to expose any other living person to public hatred, contempt, or ridicule.” They also add that “criminal defamation is a class B misdemeanor.”

Never a good reason

Utah kidsmay think they have a good reason for telling lies about a person. Maybe they are retaliating for the person embarrassing them at an earlier date? Perhaps they lack adequate self-esteem and choose to bring others down in an attempt to raise themselves up. Whatever excuse, there is never a good enough reason to bully another person. Not only can the bully face criminal charges, but their hurtful actions and words during a difficult and pivotal time in a person’s life can have lifelong negative effects on the victim.