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.

Felony Distribution and Negligent Homicide Charges for Utah Teen Who Arranged Fatal Drug Deal

A teen has been charged with felony distribution as well as negligent homicide after arranging a drug deal that led to the overdose of a southern Utah woman.

Heroin overdose

Photo by: Tony Webster

A southern Utah woman was found dead of a heroin overdose and police were able to track down the individual who helped her obtain the drugs that led to her death. 19 year old Gadge Christensen admitted to police that he helped obtain the drugs for the woman and was aware of her death. He then self-confessed that prior to helping the woman obtain the heroin, he knew it was dangerous- a fact that anyone with common sense would know. He was booked into Purgatory Correctional Facility on negligent homicide and felony distribution charges.

Negligent Homicide

The heroin that Christensen helped obtain for the woman has not been reported as being laced with anything that would increase the chances of an overdose, but any heroin use carries an overdose risk. Since Christensen knew that basic drug fact prior to the user’s death, he is also facing charges of negligent homicide. Negligent homicide is defined by Utah Code 76-5-206 as when “. . . the actor, acting with criminal negligence, causes the death of another. Negligent homicide is a class A misdemeanor.

Felony distribution

Photo by: Find Rehab Center

Utah Code 58-37-8 states regarding felony distribution of heroin that “ . . . it is unlawful for any person to knowingly and intentionally . . . distribute a controlled or counterfeit substance, or to agree, consent, offer, or arrange to distribute a controlled or counterfeit substance”. Setting up a heroin deal can result in “. . . a second degree felony, punishable by imprisonment for not more than 15 years”.

 

Exercising Miranda Rights

With the information that is provided so far, Christensen doesn’t appear to be a regular time heroin dealer. He very well could have been a middle man who was fulfilling a request of a user. However since Christensen openly admitted to law enforcement that he had played a part in finding and distributing the heroin to the now deceased woman, he is now facing serious charges with the potential to land him behind bars for several years. Many older teens and young adults do not fully understand their rights when being faced with an arrest. They may not listen closely to all the protections that their Miranda Rights offer, and instead choose to be openly affable. This mindset could result in them portraying themselves out to have more of a criminal intent that they actually did. Anyone who has been read the Miranda Warning is highly encouraged to be honest with law enforcement, but to also exercise their “right to an attorney” prior to speaking to police to ensure they do not admit to crimes in the spirit of being agreeable.

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.