Three Teens Harboring a Runaway Friend Arrested

Three 18 year old teens from St. George Utah were arrested for harboring their friend who was listed as a runaway by law enforcement.

Missing person

Photo by: chriscom

In a Facebook plea from her distraught father, 17 year old McKenzie Scholzen was reported missing Monday after leaving home to go on a walk and never returning. Jeff Scholzen, McKenzie’s father stated concern for his daughter’s well-being due to suicidal tendencies. Local law enforcement was informed and began investigating the case while the community shared the father’s online post more than eight thousand times in an effort to locate the missing teen. Three days later, McKenzie was located safe and three older teens were arrested.

Road trip

McKenzie was found in a LDS church roughly 40 miles north of her home but hadn’t been there the entire time. The teen along with three 18 year olds had in fact travelled over 800 miles away to northern California before returning to southern Utah. McKenzie who left of her own free will was placed temporarily with a crisis center before being released to her parents. The 18 year olds who weren’t much older than McKenzie but legally considered adults by Utah law were arrested – Luis Rockwood for a warrant and Diego (Jasper) Wellhoff along with Lydia Probst for obstruction of justice and harboring a runaway.

Harboring a runaway

Photo by: Francois Marcotte

McKenzie went on the road trip willingly with her friends but because of her age as a minor, anyone helping her now faces criminal charges. Utah Code 62A-4a-501 states “a person . . . is guilty of a class B misdemeanor if the person:

(a) knowingly and intentionally harbors a child;
(b) knows at the time of harboring the child that the child is a runaway;
(c) fails to notify one of the following, by telephone or other reasonable means, of the location of the child:
i. the parent or legal guardian of the child;
ii. the division; or
iii. a youth services center; and
(d) fails to notify [one of the above persons] within eight hours after the later of:
i. the time that the person becomes aware that the child is a runaway; or
ii. the time that the person begins harboring the child.”

A class B misdemeanor is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine on top of any other charges faced.

Romeo and Juliet Laws in Utah

Older teens who are sexually involved with others near their own age may not have to worry about legal repercussions thanks to Utah’s Romeo and Juliet laws.

Romeo and Juliet laws

Photo by: Rob Zand

Romeo and Juliet laws are in place nationwide to protect teens and young adults from criminal charges for engaging in sexual activity with others. These laws vary depending on how old each person involved is along with the differences between the ages of the two parties. The state of Utah’s consensual sex laws may differ from neighboring states, therefore it is essential for teens and young adults to understand the laws of the states where they live or frequent to ensure their sexual activity is not considered a crime.

Consensual sexual activity

In the state of Utah, if two individuals engage in sexual activity where at least one party is a minor, there may be no legal issues as long as the encounter is consensual. There are some instances where regardless of whether or not both parties concede to the activity, it may be against the law.

When one or both parties are too young. Utah Code 76-5-401.3 explains that “unlawful adolescent sexual activity is punishable as a . . . Class C misdemeanor if an adolescent who is 12 or 13 years of age engages in unlawful adolescent sexual activity with an adolescent who is 12 or 13 years of age [or] . . . if an adolescent who is 14 years of age engages in unlawful adolescent sexual activity with an adolescent who is 13 years of age.”

When there is a significant age difference. That same statue warns that older teens who engage in sexual activity with a younger teen will face more severe penalties than teens closer to the same age. For instance, if a 17 year old engages in sexual activity with a 14 year old, they may face a class B misdemeanor. If the younger party is 12 or 13 year old, the older teen may face third degree felony charges.

When one individual involved is an adult. Once a teen is 16 or 17 years old, they are considered more capable of making decisions regarding sexual activity, even if the individual to whom they are engaging in the activity with is an adult. There is an age limit to this law however. Utah Code 76-5-401.2 notes that sexual activity with a 16 or a 17 year old is against the law if the adult involved is “seven or more years older but less than 10 years older than the minor . . . and the individual knew or reasonably should have known the age of the minor; or 10 or more years older than the minor”.

For more information on Romeo and Juliet consensual sex laws in Utah or for legal help regarding charges related to these laws, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Vandalism and Abuse of a flag at Utah High School

The small town of Hurricane, Utah has once again gained national attention after vandalism and signs of abuse of a flag were found at the local high school.

Small town, big news

Photo by: Lin Cheong

The small southern Utah town has made the news again not even a month after two students from Hurricane High School posted a disturbingly racist post on social media, gaining national attention and outrage. Now Hurricane, Utah has made headlines for flying an Isis flag at the local high school?

Legitimate threat or immature prank

Early last Thursday morning, one or more individuals removed the American flag from a flagpole outside the Hurricane High school, desecrating it. They then proceeded to replace the American flag with an Isis flag and continued their humorless prank by spray painting the side of the building. Concerned over the possibility of a terrorist threat, the local police department contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigations who deemed there to be no danger. The possibility of a prank is likely which could have been carried out by local residents or even students.

Abuse of a flag is no joke

Whether or not the shout out to Isis was a prank or not, abuse of a flag is not tolerated. Utah Code 76-9-601 states: “A person is guilty of abuse of a flag if he . . . Knowingly casts contempt upon the flag of the United States or of any state of the United States by publicly mutilating, defacing, defiling, burning, or trampling upon it. Abuse of a flag is a class B misdemeanor.” Adults or teens who wish to voice their frustration with the government are encouraged to seek legal avenues to make their voices heard.

Utah Teen Dies after Trespassing on Roof of Building

A 17 year old Utah teen is dead after trespassing on the roof of a Murray building with his friends.

Trespassing results in death

Photo by MySecuritySign.com

The 17 year old teen along with two friends had made their way past a fence and onto the roof a building in Murray Utah that was being renovated when the teen somehow fell through the roof, falling to his death. Despite the fence as a barrier and signs instructing people to stay clear of the area, the teens made the fatal mistake to trespass onto the property.

No trespassing for safety

There are several reasons why fences and no trespassing signs are listed on buildings and edges of property. Often this is due to Utah residents and businesses attempting to keep loitering down or to protect their property from theft or vandalism. One of the key reasons however for a property owner to ask the public not to trespass is to prevent others from injury or death.

Criminal charges

Any teens thinking of trespassing where they are not allowed should be warned that beyond the danger that trespassing poses, there are also legal reasons to obey “keep out” signs and barrier fences. According to Utah Code 76-6-206, “A person is guilty of criminal trespass if . . .

(b) knowing the person’s . . . presence is unlawful, the person enters or remains on . . . property to which notice against entering is given by:

(i) personal communication to the person by the owner or someone with apparent authority to act for the owner;

(ii) fencing or other enclosure obviously designed to exclude intruders; or

(iii) posting of signs reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders”.

Punishments and consequences

Trespassing is a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Due to the uppermost punishment of already losing a friend, it is possible the friends of the teen killed may not face charges for trespassing. For those who do face charges, contact a juvenile defense attorney.

18 Year old Arrested for Unlawful Sexual Activity with a Minor

An 18 year old Ogden Utah teen was arrested and booked into Elko County Jail in Nevada for having sexual activity with a minor under 14 years old.

Teen younger than 14 years old

Photo by: CGP Grey

18 year old Nathanial Sweat of Ogden was arrested and detained by Elko County Sherriff’s Office in Nevada after the mother of a 14 year old West Wendover girl discovered the two teens were dating and had been intimate on at least one occasion. Although the younger teen involved was 14 when her mom discovered the relationship between the two, the sexual activity presumably took place when the teen was younger than 14 years old as Sweat severe consequences under Nevada Law. According to Nevada Statute 201.230, an 18 year old having sexual relations with a 14 year old is considered a category B felony and is punishable by one to 10 years in prison. If an 18 year old has sexual relations with a teen younger than 14 years old, it is considered a category A felony “and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for life with the possibility of parole, with eligibility for parole beginning when a minimum of 10 years has been served . . . “

Utah law

Photo by: Francois Marcotte

Utah law differs greatly from Nevada regarding sexual relations with a teen who is 14 or 15 and there is also added leniency depending on the age gap of the two involved. Utah Code 76-5-401 states explains that if an adult commits unlawful sexual activity with a minor who is 14 years old , they will face a third degree felony which is punishable in the state of Utah with up to five years in prison. That statute notes however, that if “the defendant is less than four years older than the minor at the time the sexual activity occurred, the offense is a class B misdemeanor” which is punishable by up 6 months in jail at the most. Now if the minor is younger than 14, say 13 and a half, just as with Nevada law, that charge quickly escalates. In Utah it is considered rape of a child. According to Utah Code 76-5-402.1, there may still be some leniency for adult teenagers however. “If:

Photo by: Ben Phillips

i. It is a first time offense for the defendant . . . ;
ii. The defendant was younger than 21 years of age at the time of the offense; and
iii. The court finds that a lesser term . . . is in the interests of justice . . . “

With these considerations, “the court may impose a term of imprisonment of not less than;

i. 15 years and while may be for life;
ii. 10 years and which may be for life; or
iii. Six years and which may be for life.”

Prepare for adulthood, learn the law

Teens who have barely graduated to being an “adult” may be stunned at some of the things that can land them in jail. Even more surprising are how the laws can differ greatly with the age of those involved or where the crimes take place. For any questions regarding Utah law and how it applies to teens or “teen adults”, contact a defense attorney that handles both juvenile as well as adult cases.