Teen Vaping Ban

Teen vaping is a growing problem across the nation and in an effort to curb the rising amount of underage users, the FDA is pushing a ban on certain products that appeal more to the younger crowd.

National Youth Tobacco Survey

Photo by: Misha Sokolnikov

According to a news release last week by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, the National Youth Tobacco Survey showed “. . . more than 3.6 million middle and high school students were current (past 30 day) e-cigarette users in 2018, a dramatic increase of more than 1.5 million students since last year.” They also noted that “The sharp rise in e-cigarette use has resulted in an increase in overall youth tobacco product use, reversing a decline seen in recent years”. What was originally created as a way for tobacco users to quit may actually be making things worse, especially for teens.

Dangers of vaping

Through education and advertisements, the dangers of tobacco products are well-known among adults and youth. E-cigarettes are still new enough that information about the hazards was not available before millions of Americans had already become accustomed to using them. Now the more that is learned of vaping, the more the FDA wants to limit its availability and use among youth. A campaign to teach teens about the dangers of e-cigarettes or vaping states that “[vaping] can contain dangerous chemicals such as: acrolein, a chemical that can cause irreversible lung damage; formaldehyde, a cancer-causing chemical; and toxic metal particles, like chromium, lead and nickel, which can be inhaled into the lungs.”

Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan

Photo by: Mike Mozart

With the dangers of vaping known and the use of E-cigarettes rising among teens, The FDA is pushing back on companies that are contributing to this new crisis for the youth. The FDA sent letters to companies that produce and sell e-cigarettes to determine which companies are marketing their e-cigarettes illegally under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco control Act of 2009 and what the five major manufacturers plan on doing to help prevent teens from accessing and using their vaping products. Additionally, the FDA is restricting many fruity and sweet vaping flavors to stores that only allow adults to access. This would stop these appealing flavors from being marketed in areas where kids frequent including convenience stores. Additionally, the agency is pushing a ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars which are used by more than have of youth smokers.

Vaping laws in Utah

While rules regarding e-cigarette manufacturers and vendors are updating, the laws punishing underage smoking remains the same. Teens who are caught smoking or vaping before they reach the age of 19 will likely be fined and ordered to participate in a “court-approved tobacco education program” as stated in section 76-10-105. Teen who are 18 years old may face class C misdemeanor charges. For more information on laws regarding the illegal use or sale of tobacco or vaping products, seek legal counsel from a reputable attorney.

Increase in Shoplifting on Black Friday

Shoplifting is a crime that often begins in the teenage years, and surprisingly there is a notable increase in retail theft crimes that occurs on Black Friday.

Black Friday

Photo by: Matt Madd

Many families have been sitting around the table today sharing reasons they are thankful while mere hours later they will be fighting for a place in line to obtain the hottest item on store shelves. While some of the best deals can be found on Black Friday, it is certainly not the day to see the best of people. Beyond those quarreling in line and past others who may be getting physically aggressive with fellow store patrons are other crimes being committed under the radar. Shoplifting is one of these unexpected crimes that can occur despite the increased holiday foot traffic. Also not expected is the extra eyes and cameras being used to catch those taking advantage of the crowds.

Retail theft

Shoplifting is known under the Utah Criminal Code as retail theft. Section 76-6-602 states: “A person commits the offense of retail theft when he knowingly: Takes possession of, conceals, carries away, transfers or causes to be carried away or transferred, any merchandise. . . in a retail mercantile establishment with the intention of retaining such merchandise or depriving the merchant permanently of the possession . . . without paying the retail value of such merchandise.” Shoplifting can also occur if someone alters or removes a tag in order to deprive the merchant of the full retail value.

Teens and shoplifting

Photo by: Mike Mozart

Shoplifting can be done by people of all ages, and teens are definitely not exempt from this crime. Many adults who face problems with chronic shoplifting say the practice started when they were adolescents. Teen shoplifting can begin due to a variety of reasons such as low or non-existent income, peer pressure, entitlement issues and even just for thrills. This time of year, many teens may shoplift because they feel they have no other way of obtaining gifts for their family and friends. Regardless of why teenagers begin shoplifting, most do not understand the legal consequences surrounding this crime. The criminal charges for shoplifting depend on the value of the items lifted. Charges can range from a class B misdemeanor to a second degree felony and additionally, most stores will also permanently ban shoplifters from ever entering their stores again.

Education and good examples

Before shopping for gifts and other material possessions takes over this season, parents should sit down with their teens and educate them on the laws regarding shoplifting. This is also an opportune time to help teenagers discover ways to make gifts or earn money so they can join in the holiday gift exchange. Teens who may be facing charges for shoplifting and other types of theft should consult with an attorney.

Incarcerated Utah Teen Charged with Witness Tampering

A teen who was arrested for aiding and filming his friend’s suicide is being charged with witness tampering while incarcerated.

Criminal actions while incarcerated

Photo by: Atomic Winter

19 year old Tyerell Przybycien was arrested for murder and desecration of a human body after he helped his friend commit suicide in May of 2017. While in prison awaiting his trial for those charges, Przybycien wrote a letter to a friend asking them and others not to talk to authorities regarding his case. Authorities intercepted the letters, adding tampering with a witness to Przybycien’s charges.

Witness tampering

The friends mentioned in Przybycien’s letter were all individuals who had already been questioned and who may be called to testify in his December trial. Utah Code 76-8-508 states “A person is guilty of the third degree felony of [witness tampering] if, believing that an official proceeding or investigation is pending or about to be instituted, or with the intent to prevent an official proceeding or investigation, he attempts to induce or otherwise cause another person to:

(a) testify or inform falsely;
(b) withhold any testimony, information, document, or item;
(c) elude legal process summoning him to provide evidence; or
(d) absent himself from any proceeding or investigation to which he has been summoned.”

Not included in the 5th Amendment

In the letter to friends, Przybycien urged them to use their 5th amendment rights to remain silent. While this constitutional protection can help an individual to avoid self-incrimination, it is not used to quiet information that can incriminate another. It is possible that Przybycien did not fully understand this 5th amendment right, however failure to fully research the protections under this amendment will not protect him from facing criminal charges for witness tampering. His trial is set for December 5th.

Criminal Charges For Lying to Police for a Friend

Many teens will do anything to protect their friends, but lying to police could result in obstruction of justice charges.

Lying to police

Photo by: Carmella Fernando

Talking to police officers can be intimidating to teens and they often feel they need to respond to every question asked. Unfortunately, many juveniles also want to protect their friends and may give dishonest responses to police questioning. They may lie to officers about a friend’s involvement in a crime to protect their friend from legal trouble or to protect themselves from backlash from peers for being a “snitch”. Unknown to many youngsters however, lying to an officer even if the person being questioned is not a suspect in the crime is still against the law.

Obstruction of justice

There are many ways teens may lie or otherwise display dishonest behavior in order to protect a peer. They may flat out lie in response to police questioning or they may throw items away for a friend or even supply transportation or a place to hide. If a person tampers with evidence, helps someone evade the law, or otherwise meddles with a criminal investigation, as stated in Utah Code 76-8-306, they could face obstruction of justice charges. Penalties for obstruction of justice vary from a class A misdemeanor to a second degree felony depending on the crime a person is trying to help their friend avoid.

Prepare for questioning

Photo by: Ethan Lofton

Police officers are allowed to communicate with the public freely, asking questions about investigations or simply shooting the breeze. When this happens, teens shouldn’t feel trapped into answering questions that could incriminate themselves or another person. Preparing for possible inquiries from law enforcement may help teens avoid saying too much or saying things that aren’t true which could lead to legal trouble. Teens should always state their identity if asked by an officer but any further questions do not require answers without legal representation present. The person being questioned can politely ask in response to questioning:

• “Am I being arrested or detained?” ; and

• If the answer is ‘no’, they may then ask “Am I free to go?”

If they are required by an officer to stay and answer questions, ensure all teens know of their right to ask for an attorney and to exercise that right prior to answering any further questions. For more information related to crimes involving minor children and teens, contact a juvenile defense attorney.