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

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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

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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.

School Truancy Laws in Utah

As kids head back to school after the long winter break, parents should take the opportunity to talk to their teens about school truancy laws in Utah.

Mandatory school attendance

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With the second half of the school year upon Utah families, minors may begin feeling more indifferent about their school attendance. Although most kids have a healthy fear of getting in trouble with their parents, they may not realize ditching school can result in legal penalties as well. According to Utah State Law, students between the ages of six and eighteen years old are expected to be enrolled and attending school until they graduate. Failure to enroll or attend school will end in trouble for the student and the parent.

Habitual truant

Ditching school once or twice won’t get a kid in legal trouble, but if they start missing too many days without a valid excuse such as illness or school related activity, school administrators take more notice and may claim the minor is a habitual truant. Utah Code 53A-11-101 defines a habitual truant as “a school-age minor who:

a) Is at least 12 years old;
b) Is subject to the [Compulsory Education] requirements (…) and;
c) (i) is truant at least 10 times during one school year; or
(ii) Fails to cooperate with efforts on the part of school authorities to resolve the minor’s attendance problem as required ( . . . )”

Cited and punished

Once a student has at least five absences that are not excused, they along with their parents are issued a compulsory education violation and expected to meet with school administration to discuss attendance. Utah Code 53A-11-101.5 warns that if they fail to meet with the school or are truant an additional 5 days or more, the parents of students may face a class B misdemeanor for not ensuring their kids are in school and the student may be fined and taken to a truancy support center. For more information regarding truancy laws, it is recommended to speak to your child’s school administrators or an 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.