Teen Joyriding in Stolen Vehicle Arrested After Rollover in Salt Lake City

One teen was transported to the hospital and another arrested after rolling a stolen vehicle in Salt Lake City in what could have been a dramatic end to a fast-paced joyriding trip.

Unlawful driving ends in rollover

Photo by: Eric Starck

Late Wednesday night police officers observed a stolen vehicle exceeding the speed limit in downtown Salt Lake City with its headlamps off. After requesting the driver of the vehicle to pull over, the young motorist continued at a high rate of speed, rolling the vehicle shortly after. A teenage girl in the car was taken to the hospital. The 15 year old driver was arrested for charges that could include joyriding or felony theft of a vehicle.

Felony theft of a motor vehicle

In some states, the theft of a motor vehicle is considered grand larceny or vehicle theft. Utah does not categorize vehicle theft in its own category, but instead classifies the crime and punishment depending on the value of an item stolen. According to Utah Code 76-6-412, “theft of property and services . . . is punishable:

• As a second degree felony if the:
o value of the property or services is or exceeds $5,000;
o property stolen is . . . an operable motor vehicle [regardless of vehicle value] . . .”

Joyriding

Not all teens who joyride in another person’s vehicle will face felony charges. There is a difference between felony theft of a vehicle and taking someone else’s car for a spin around the block without their permission. While felony theft of a vehicle is punishable as a second-degree felony, joyriding or “unauthorized control for extended time” could be punishable as a misdemeanor. Utah Code 41-1a-1314 states “. . . is a class A misdemeanor for a person to exercise unauthorized control over a motor vehicle that is not his own, without the consent of the owner or lawful custodian and with the intent to temporarily deprive the owner or lawful custodian of possession of the motor vehicle.” If the vehicle is damaged however, joyriding is then punishable as a third-degree felony.

To borrow or keep?

Since the vehicle driven by the teen was completely totaled in the accident, the teen is likely to face felony charges. Will the teen face second-degree felony theft of a motor vehicle or third-degree joyriding resulting in property damage? It all depends on whether or not the teen planned on giving the vehicle back within 24 hours of taking it. For more information on teen crimes related to theft or borrowing property without permission, contact a juvenile defense attorney.

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.

Unlawful Sexual Activity among Teens

Teens who engage in sexual relations with other teens may feel they are legal to do so as long as both parties consent, however sometimes their relations are considered unlawful sexual activity.

Too young for consent

Photo by: Leo Hidalgo

Unlawful sexual activity among teens does not include instances or rape, sodomy or sexual abuse that carries severe penalties for the offender. Unlawful adolescent sexual activity are sexual relations where both parties give consent yet one or more parties are not at an age old enough for consent. According to the Salt Lake County Division of Youth Services, “teens and youth of a certain age range CANNOT consent to sexual activities. Even if a youth gave consent, they are not permitted by law to do so in certain circumstances – and anyone having sexual contact with them could face criminal charges. This rule still applies even if the contact was by a teen or youth with another teenager or youth.” So how young is too young for teens to engage in sexual activity and what are the punishments?

Felony charges

Unlawful sexual activity among teens is considered a felony if there is a major age difference between the consenting teens involved. According to Utah Code 76-5-401.3, teens face third degree felony charges if they are:

• 17 years old and engaging in unlawful sexual activity with another teen 12 or 13 years old, a four to five year age difference;
• 16 years old and engaging in unlawful sexual activity with a teen who is 12 years old, a four year age difference.

Close in age, still against the law

The closer in age the teens who are involved, the less severe the punishments. This law varies slightly if the younger of the teens is a 12 or 13 year old who has barely reached adolescence. Statute 76-5-401.3 states, teens face class A misdemeanor charges if they are:

• 16 years old engaging in unlawful sexual activity with a teen who is 13 years old, a three year age difference; or
• 14 to 15 and engaging in unlawful sexual activity with a 12 year old, a two to three year age difference.
Teens may be charged with class B misdemeanor if they are:
• 17 and engaging in unlawful sexual activity with another teen who is 14 years old, a three year age difference;
• 15 years old and engaging in unlawful sexual activity with a teen 13 years old, a two year age difference.

Even teens who are really close in age or the same age face charges for having sexual relations. The punishment is a class C misdemeanor if the teen is:

• 14 years old and engaging in sexual activity with a teen who is 12 to 13 years old, a one to two year age difference ; and also
• 12 or 13 and engaging in sexual activity with another teen who is 12 or 13, the same exact age.

Almost adults

The laws regarding sexual activity among teens changes once the younger party involved reaches the age of 16 or 17 years of age. 16 and 17 year old do not face charges for sexual relations with other teens their same age. If the other party is an adult, it may still be legal depending on the age difference. Utah Code 76-5-401.2 explains that “a person commits unlawful sexual conduct with a [16 or 17 year old] if [the person] is:

• seven or more years older but less than 10 years older than the minor (…) and the person knew or reasonably should have known the age of the minor;
• 10 or more years older than the minor (…); or
• Holds a relationship of special trust as an adult teacher, employee, or volunteer (…)”.

This statute goes on to note sexual conduct includes any sexual act, inappropriate touching, or indecent liberties with the minor. Charges for the adult involved range from a class A misdemeanor to a third degree felony.

Not just old fashioned thinking

Teens who wish to engage in sexual activity should be warned that refraining from such is not just old fashioned thinking, it is the law. Those who face charges for unlawful sexual conduct should consult with a juvenile defense attorney.

Knife Wielding Utah Teen Charged With Aggravated Assault after Defending Sibling

A knife wielding Eagle Mountain Utah teenager was charged with aggravated assault after defending his younger sibling from abuse.

Violence for violence

The 16 year old teen who has not been named due to his age was placed into a juvenile detention center after he stabbed his 18 year old brother five times with a knife. The younger teen was trying to intervene to defend his 14 year old sister from their older brother, Steven Johnston, after an argument between the girl and Johnston escalated. Reports state that Johnston began physically assaulting the 14 year old girl when the 16 year old brother came to her aid, using a knife to wound the 18 year old sibling and thereby ceasing the assault on the younger sister.

Charges for both brothers

18 year old Johnston was flown to the hospital to be treated for his wounds and upon his release, will face misdemeanor charges for assaulting his younger sister. Meanwhile, the 16 year old brother is facing felony aggravated assault for using a knife to defend his sister against their older sibling. According to Utah Code 76-5-103, “Aggravated assault in an actor’s conduct that is:
i. an attempt, with unlawful force or violence, to do bodily injury to another; ( . . . )
ii. a threat, accompanied by a show of immediate force or violence, to do bodily injury to another; or
iii. an act, committed with unlawful force or violence, that causes bodily injury to another or creates a substantial risk of bodily injury to another; and
that includes the use of:
i. a dangerous weapon ( . . . );
iii. other means or force likely to produce death or serious bodily injury.”

No criminal intent

More than likely, the teen did not have plans on assaulting his older brother with a knife that day. In the heat of the moment however, it may have been difficult for him to think of anything other than protecting his sister from harm. It is difficult to ask anyone, especially a minor, to think and act rationally in stressful situations. In hindsight, the teen may have been able to stop the abuse from the 18 year old brother without using a weapon. There is also the chance the abuse could have continued to escalate, further jeopardizing the safety of the little sister. The 16 year old Utah teen chose to ensure the safety of his sister, and may now face up to 15 years in prison. Any minors who are facing charges following a rash decision during a stressful situation or after defending another person from harm, contact a juvenile defense attorney to discuss the defense options related to the case.

Criminal Defamation Charges for Creating Fake Social Media Accounts

Using the internet to slander or hurt another person such as creating face social media accounts may result in teens facing criminal defamation charges.

Tech age

Photo by: Summer Skyes 11

Much of the communications going on between teenagers takes place over electronic devices through the use of text messaging as well as social media apps including Instagram, SnapChat, and Facebook. Often when things go sour, teens will take to the internet to simply vent and sometimes to retaliate on those who wronged them. Long ago were the days of whispering gossip in the school halls, as now everything is done from a teen’s cell phone. Malicious posts, IM’s, and even seconds long messages can spread like wildfire on social media, causing a lot of damage in its wake.

Fake social media accounts

Photo by: Perzonseo Webbyra

One very damaging way that teens may lash out at one another online is by creating fake social media accounts. These fake social media accounts are created to look as though they belong to the other person, leaving the begrudged peer open to ruin the other’s online reputation. Fake social media accounts are simple to set up and usually free as well. All that is needed is an email address which is also simple to obtain and a fake name, or the exact name of the detested teen. Photos can be easily stolen from the profiles of online accounts and teens then have a way to get revenge on those they loathe.

Digital footprint

Photo by: G =]

What happens on the internet stays on the internet and leaves a digital footprint there as well. Although social media accounts and email servers don’t require identification and can be created using phony information, law enforcement has ways to tie these malicious accounts back to the person that created them. When online communications are being spread at another’s expense, the aggressor could face criminal defamation charges.

Criminal defamation

Criminal Defamation
Photo by: New3dom3000

Utah Code 76-9-404 states: “A person is guilty of criminal defamation if he knowingly communicates to any person orally or in writing [or online] any information which he knows to be false and knows will tend to expose any other living person to public hatred, contempt, or ridicule. Criminal defamation is a class B misdemeanor”, punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine up to $1,000. Additionally, if any personal information about a minor is shared on the fake social media account without permission, the accused may also face a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of $2,500. Teens who are facing criminal charges for publicly slandering another online are encouraged to immediately seek legal counsel with their parents.