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.

Reckless Driving Charges Possible for Utah Teen Who Crashed Vehicle While Blindfolded

A Utah teen who took a new challenge to dangerous levels could face charges of reckless driving after she crashed her vehicle while blindfolded.

New thriller

Photo by: Ginny

Netflix recently released a new thriller titled Bird Box which was viewed over 45 million times within a week of its release date. In the horror/thriller film “Bird Box”, the main character and her two children must navigate through a forest and down a river. The clincher however is they must remain blindfolded or they will die from their own suicide attempts. The movie uses monsters that prey on sight, leaving blindfolds to be the only saving grace of the characters.

The Challenge

While the film itself has received high ratings from viewers and critics alike, one of the fads that has followed is being openly opposed by law enforcement and Netflix. Following the millions of movie views, several people have taken it upon themselves to do what is known as the “Bird Box Challenge”. This challenge involves a person blindfolding themselves and then trying to navigate or perform tasks without the ability to see. Although some may do the challenge in a controlled environment such as navigating safely across their bedroom, others are taking the challenge too far, putting themselves and others in danger.

Bird Box vs driving

Photo by: Keirsten Marie

One teen in Utah decided to take the challenge to the road. The 17 year old girl was driving down Layton Parkway with her 16 year old male friend pulled her beanie down over her eyes, and continued down the road. Not surprisingly, she eventually crossed into oncoming traffic and hit another vehicle before crashing into a light pole. Fortunately for her and the other driver, no injuries were reported. Now that law enforcement knows the reason behind the wreck, the teen will likely face charges which could include reckless driving.

Reckless Driving

Utah Code 41-6a-528 states “A person is guilty of reckless driving who operates a vehicle: In willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property. . . “. Reckless driving is punishable as a class B misdemeanor. Anyone who wants to join a like fad or challenge is encouraged to think about the physical as well as criminal repercussions that could occur. Parents are encouraged to speak to their teens about dangerous challenges that are currently making the rounds to ensure their teen are using common sense before joining in with the crowd.

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.

Sexual Assault Charges for Utah Teen Who Took Hazing Too Far

A Gunnison, Utah teen was charged with multiple charges of sexual assault after a hazing incident was taken too far.

Sexual assault by team member

Photo by: Mike Dupris

Many youth that join high school sports teams will experience a little bit of hazing. While some incidents are innocently done as a fun way to welcome new members to the team, others cross a line and can result in criminal charges for those responsible. Mid-September, a 15 year old freshmen student at Gunnison High School alerted the high school resource officer to a hazing incident that involved the male juvenile being held down and sexually assaulted by a sophomore following football practice. After the boy came forward to authorities, other victims soon followed suit and the 16 year old sophomore was arrested for six first degree felonies as well as five second degree felonies related to the sexual abuse.

Harmful hazing

While the student charged with sexual abuse obviously crossed the line from innocent hazing to criminal activity, other hazing rituals may also be against the law as well. Utah Code 76-5-107.5 states “A person is guilty of hazing if that person [knowing the activity is for those to be or remain a member of any organization] intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly commits an act or causes another to commit an act that:

(a) i. endangers the mental or physical health or safety of another;

ii. involves any brutality of a physical nature such as whipping, beating, branding, calisthenics, bruising, electric shocking, placing of a harmful substance on the body, or exposure to the elements;

iii. involves consumption of any food, alcoholic product, drug, or other substance or any other physical activity that endangers the mental or physical health and safety of an individual; or

iv. Involves any activity that would subject the individual to extreme mental stress, such as sleep deprivation, extended isolation from social contact, or conduct that subjects another to extreme embarrassment, shame or humiliation”.

Criminal Penalties

Depending on the severity of the hazing and what weapons of illicit materials are used, hazing may be punished ranging from a class B misdemeanor to a second degree felony. Any teens facing charges for their involvement of criminal hazing are encouraged to seek the legal counsel of a reputable juvenile defense attorney.

19 Year old Utah Teen Arrested for Receiving Stolen Property

A 19 year old Utah teen was arrested for receiving stolen property after accompanying a friend to sell thousands of dollars of stolen sports memorabilia.

150k of stolen sports memorabilia

Photo by: Ryan Hyde

An avid sports memorabilia collector in West Jordan, Utah called police in late July claiming his trailer loaded with $150,000 worth of sports memorabilia had been stolen. A week later, the trailer was found burned, but empty. Investigators began to follow leads on the missing memorabilia, eventually posing as a buyer and arranging a meeting with a suspect who claimed to have the stolen goods. During that meeting two individuals were arrested – 33 year old Michael Brandon Morris and 19 year old Mariah Christine Smith.

Indirect theft

During questioning Morris claimed another man had given him the sports memorabilia. Knowing the items were stolen, Morris did not alert authorities but instead priced the items and listed them for sale. Reports do not indicate whether or not his 19 year old accomplice was directly involved but it is possible she knew the items were obtained illegally. Both are facing charges for receiving stolen property.

Receiving stolen property

Utah Code 76-7-408 states, “A person commits theft if he receives, retains, or disposes of the property of another knowing that it has been stolen, or believing that it probably has been stolen, or who conceals, sells, withholds or aids in concealing, selling, or withholding the property from the owner, knowing the property to be stolen, intending to deprive the owner of it.” Punishment for receiving stolen property or being an accomplice in said crime can vary from class B misdemeanor to a second degree felony depending on the value of the property. Any teens who may suspect someone they have been helping is dealing in stolen property are encouraged to alert law enforcement and seek legal counsel from a juvenile defense attorney.