Utah Teens Who Stole Pride Flags May Face Hate Crime Charges Under New Law

Three teens who went around a South Jordan, Utah neighborhood stealing pride flags may face hate crime charges under a new law put into effect recently.

Stolen flags

Photo by: Elliott Brown

Several residents in South Jordan, Utah were the victims of theft when their pride flags were taken from their yards during Pride week. One resident caught the perpetrators on camera which led police to another home nearby. Inside officers discovered three teen boys who were identified from the resident’s video. Officer’s also located the stolen flags.

Theft

Charges are pending for the teens responsible but is it likely the teens will be charged with theft. According to Utah Code 76-6-412, criminal charges for theft of services or property can range from a class B misdemeanor to a second degree felony depending on the monetary value of the item and other variables such as previous convictions. The pride flags stolen by the teens may be of great personal value to the owners and others around that look to them as a symbol of hope and love to the LGBT community, but their monetary value isn’t high enough to warrant any felony charges.

Hate crime

While the teens shouldn’t face felony charges for theft of the flags, they could face additional misdemeanor charges if their actions are considered a hate crime. The teens were not going around the neighborhood, terrorizing random individual’s yards. They were collecting pride flags, which could be seen as a specific target. SB 103 regarding victim targeting penalty enhancement that was signed into law early April “ enacts provisions relating to sentencing for a criminal offense committed against a victim who is selected because of certain personal attributes.” If their crime could be seen as a hate crime as defined in SB 103, the boys could see enhancements to their charges. For instance, a class B misdemeanor would them become a class A misdemeanor; a class A misdemeanor would become a third degree felony; and so on.

Intent or ignorant choice

Authorities have not determined whether or not the boys intended to target the LGBT community or if they were just making ignorant choices by taking all the rainbow flags they could find. An experienced juvenile defense attorney can help ensure any youth facing charges in portrayed honestly and fairly in a court of law.

Utah Juvenile Case Goes Public

A Utah juvenile who was charged with choking an elderly woman while she played the organ at church will now have his case be viewed to the public.

The crime

A 71 year old woman was playing the organ at church late one night in November when someone came up behind her, choking her to the point of unconsciousness. Five months later, DNA evidence left at the scene by the suspect was linked to family members through a DNA database. With the linked DNA, investigators were able to track down a 17 year old boy and charge him with multiple felonies, including aggravated assault.

Juvenile cases and the public

When a juvenile commits a crime, the public may hear about the crime through news outlets when the story is deemed “newsworthy” or when reporters are grasping for any story during a dull week. Usually this information only contains the age of the juvenile and the details of the crime committed. Once the case goes to court, those proceedings are typically closed to protect unless the teen is charges as an adult. This protects the juvenile from public scorn and retaliation while increasing the teen’s chances at rehabilitation and turning instead to a crime free life.

Juvenile case goes public

The judge over the 17 year old boy’s aggravated assault case has decided to let the case go public. What this means:

  • News reporters will be allowed to view and document the public hearing; and
  • Witness testimonies will become public knowledge;

Since it is still in juvenile courts:

  • The teen’s name will still be withheld in an attempt to protect the court proceedings; and
  • No pictures will be taken of the juvenile defendant.

Pros and cons

When a juvenile case goes public, there is always the worry that the public proceedings will have a detrimental effect on the youth. On the contrary, having the case publicized could stop false accusations from surfacing from a public who are drawing their own conclusions while in the dark. Teens facing charges should consult with their attorney about the pros and cons of having a case go public, while knowing their legal counsel will do everything in their power to protect the teens still growing reputation and future.

Expungement of Juvenile Records in Utah

The past can’t be changed, however it need not be revealed with expungement of juvenile records in Utah. Juvenile court records can be sealed, without ever having to be mentioned again. The crime is not cleared, but repercussions do not need to follow the youth into adulthood.

Juvenile crimes

Photo by: Flazingo Photos

There it is – that “yes/no” box on college applications and job applications following the question: “Have you ever been convicted of a misdemeanor?” or “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” Older teens and young adults trying to get a job or get into college may wonder when the mistake they made when they were younger will ever be resolved. For anyone still marking “yes” for a crime that happened when they were a juvenile, there is a way to change the “yes” to a “no”.

Expungement of records

Expunging is the same as sealing the record. The court clerk places the records in an envelope, seals it, and writes “do not open unless ordered by a court”. Only the person that committed the crime can have the court order the envelope to be opened. The court looks on the expunged juvenile record as never having occurred.

Requirements for expungement

According to Utah Courts, In order for records to be expunged, the courts must be petitioned. The petitioner must be at least 18 years old, and fulfilled their sentence at least one year prior. The petitioner must not have been charged as an adult nor involved in any moral turpitude. All restitution must have been made. In addition the petitioner has to exhibit rehabilitation. If the expungement is ordered by the court, it is the petitioner’s duty to file with all pertinent agencies.

Time to move on with life

After having the records expunged, that pesky “yes/no” box asking if an older teen has committed a crime will no longer hold them back unless they commit another crime. A good defense lawyer can help open the doors to a different life for a teen with criminal regrets – One where the “yes/no” box can be marked no and the childhood mistake need not be a detriment any longer.

Racial Tension Involving Teenagers Ends in Death Threats

Last week a picture portraying racial tension surfaced from an incident at the Lincoln Memorial and the teenagers involved have now been the recipients of death threats.

Racial Tension

Photo by: jar [o]
You’ve seen it – the young white teenage male with a little smile on his face, wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat. He is looking at an angry looking Native American carrying a drum. The old adage says “a picture cannot lie”, however a picture does not always present the whole truth. This picture went viral on social media; it popped up on many people’s home page and created public outrage, which resulted in death threats.

Many sides to the story

The picture appears to involve a group of white teenagers and a group of Native Americans. This would lead people to believe that there are only two groups involved, however there are three sides to this story and all three sides have some similarities and some discrepancies. All agree that the event took place outside the Lincoln Memorial on Friday, January 18th. All three agree that there were three separate demonstrations going on a march for the Indigenous Peoples, a March for Life, and a group preaching the bible and their beliefs. All three agree that there were hostile words spoken and raised voices. The rest is up for interpretation.

Hebrew Israelites’ Side

The Hebrew Israelites were at the National Mall to “preach the truth of the Bible”, to teach their belief that African ’Americans are God’s chosen people. One member of the Hebrew Israelite said while they were trying to teach the Native Americans of the meaning of the word savages, the teenagers were mocking them and shouting racist slurs. The Hebrew Israelites believe the students were at fault for the incident.

The Native American Side

The spokesman for the Native Americans said that throughout the day the teenagers had been walking around making derogatory comments about the Blacks and about the Native Americans. Then there was a shouting match with heated words between the students and the Hebrew Israelites. The Native Americans began playing a prayer chant on the drums and walking between the two groups to try to calm both groups down. They accused the teenagers of making fun of the Native American heritage by making chopping motions with their hands. The Native Americans were walking between the students towards a meeting place at the front of the mall, but one teenager stood with a smirk on his face. The Native American believed this was illustrative of the years of built-up aggression against the Natives by whites. The Native Americans believe the Hebrew Israelites and the students were at fault for the incident.

The Teenager’s Side

The teenage in the photo was with a group of Catholic students in Kentucky protesting against abortion. The Hebrew Israelites had been shouting hateful comments to the students and the Native Americans throughout the day. When the Hebrew Israelites were calling the Native Americans savages, the group decided to chant cheers from sporting events to try and drown out the hateful words. One young black student responded to the insults by taking off his shirt and jumping along with the chants. When the Native Americans began to walk through the students, the teenagers were confused about what was going on so the pictured teen stood still with a small smile on his face, hoping to appear non-confrontational. Since the incident, the teens have started receiving death threats for their part in the situation.

Conclusion

The true story often lies somewhere in between each side’s story. Reality is often based on a each person’s past and beliefs. Interviews with bystanders are very different to each other and to the three groups. What may be dancing to one person would appear to be mocking to another. What may be a non-confrontational pose to one person may be an insult and an invitation to fight to another. When these incidents arise no one, including the youth, are exempt from the rising tensions. If you or your teen are facing legal action for violent or threatening behavior that could have risen based on a racially or otherwise tense situation, contact a defense attorney.

Adult Runaway from Juvenile Court System

An 18 year old from southern Utah had been listed as a runaway from the Juvenile Court System despite the fact that he is technically an adult.

Adult runaway

Photo by: James Burrage

Social media is sadly inundated with reports of teens who have gone missing or who have runaway. If someone is missing, the online public is quick to share posts in an effort to find the lost and ensure their safety. Often people are missing because they left on their own accord. If the runaway is under the age of 18 but left on their own, everyone is quick to help find them. Once a person reaches the age of 18 however, many assume they are adults and should be left alone to make their own decisions. While this can be true in many cases, if the runaway is leaving a juvenile detention they have not been officially released from, they may not have the right to make the decision on leaving yet.

Extended juvenile court

Many Utah residents think teens who have been in a juvenile system will only remain there until they reach the age of 18. According to the Salt Lake County Division of Youth Services, “The Juvenile Court has the authority to deal with cases involving persons under 18 years of age, persons 18 years or older whose offenses occurred when the person was under the age of 18 and are under the continued jurisdiction of the Court. The Juvenile Court can maintain jurisdiction over any person up to the age of 21. The Juvenile Court can retain jurisdiction concerning persons over the age of 21, who has failed to comply with an order of the court to pay fines/restitution if the order was imposed prior to the person’s 21st birthday.”

Young is good

While most teens are itching to grow up and be adults so they can make all their own decisions, those who are facing criminal charges should be relieved when their cases can stay in juvenile court. Through the Juvenile Court system, teens and young adults may have more of an opportunity for education, rehabilitation, and restitution without the fear of spending time behind bars or ending up with a criminal record. For more information on the Juvenile Court System or for charges that may constitute an adult offense, contact a reputable criminal and juvenile defense attorney.