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.

Joyriding in Stolen Vehicle Leads to Death of a Police Officer

Authorities have announced that three Utah teenagers who were joyriding in a stolen vehicle are the ones responsible for the death of a West Valley police officer.

Struck by stolen vehicle

Officer struck by stolen vehicle
Photo by: Tiocfaidh ár lá 1916

A report of a stolen vehicle during the early morning hours on Sunday November 6th prompted a quick response by law enforcement. During the short police chase, 25 year old Officer Cody Brotherson exited his vehicle to set up spike strips when the thieves struck Officer Brotherson with the stolen vehicle, killing him. The teens then lost control of the stolen vehicle and were apprehended shortly after.

Not even old enough to drive

The three teenage boys who were responsible for killing Officer Brotherson with the stolen vehicle were not even old enough to drive; two of the teens were 15 years old and the third was only 14. It is not known at this time whether or not the teens deliberately hit Officer Brotherson or if it was a result of poor vision and/or inexperienced drivers.

Possible charges

Although there is no word yet on what kind of charges the teens could be facing, their joyride in a stolen vehicle may end with charges such as:

• Driving without a license, an infraction (53-3-202),
• Driving without vehicle insurance, a class C misdemeanor (41-12a-302)
• Unauthorized control of a motor vehicle (joyriding) that is used to commit a felony, a third degree felony (41-1a-1314),
• Theft of a vehicle, a second degree felony (76-6-412),
• Fleeing police with said action resulting in death or bodily injury of another person, second degree felony ( 41-6a-210),
• Manslaughter, a second degree felony (76-5-205),
• Reckless conduct which results in the murder of a police officer, a first degree felony (76-5-203), and/or
• Aggravated murder, a capital felony (76-5-202). This grave charge is a possibility if investigators determine the teens intentionally hit and killed Officer Brotherson.

A Joyride that was not so joyful

Photo by: David K.
Photo by: David K.

These young Utah teenagers probably didn’t expect their joyride in a stolen vehicle to end in the death of a police officer. It is important for youth to know that there are almost always consequences to poor choices; the penalties for these teens are expected to include criminal charges as well as the life-long guilt from taking another’s life.

Use of E-Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products by Utah Teens

Teenagers in Utah use traditional tobacco products such as cigarettes and chew less than most other states in the nation, but the use of e-cigarettes in the beehive state is skyrocketing.

Teens and e-cigarettes

E-cigarettes
Photo by: Vaping360

Noting the “availability of appealing flavors as the primary reason for use”, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated that “More than 3 million middle and high school students were current users of e-cigarettes in 2015 ( . . . )” E-cigarettes are claimed to be less dangerous than regular tobacco products, yet there is still much not known about possible adverse effects of e-cigarette use or “vaping”. For one, e-cigarettes typically contain liquid nicotine which is an addictive stimulant and has been noted to increase the risk of psychiatric and memory issues. Another danger is the device itself that is used to deliver the nicotine cocktail.

Exploding e-cigarette

Last month a 13 year old Utah teenager was injured when she borrowed her 16 year old brother’s e-cigarette. Naïve to the proper operation of the electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS), the teen turned the device on, only to have it explode in her face. Fortunately, the girl is expected to heal completely without needing plastic surgery.

All tobacco products

The FDA recognizes e-cigarettes as a danger especially for minors and recently added them to the list of tobacco products so they could be regulated. Utah law has been updated to mirror those new regulations.

• Utah Code 76-10-103-Business owners can face a class C misdemeanor for letting persons under age 19 to use tobacco products including e-cigarettes at their place of business.

• 76-10-104, it is unlawful to provide any tobacco product including e-cigarettes to someone under the age of 19. Those who are found guilty of supplying minors with e-cigarettes can face a class C misdemeanor for their first offense, class B misdemeanor for the second offense, and a class A misdemeanor for any subsequent offenses.

• 76-10-105 states that an 18 year old that has or tries to possess any tobacco product is guilty of a class C misdemeanor while minors under 18 will be fined at least $60 and required to attend a tobacco class.

Education starts at home

It is important for parents to discuss with their teens the dangers and possible criminal charges of using or possessing tobacco and e-cigarettes whether or not they contain nicotine. If a teen is facing criminal charges for e-cigarette use, consult with a juvenile defense attorney immediately.

Disorderly Conduct for Teenagers Fighting in Public

Teenagers are warned to check their behavior while out in the community and to refrain from fighting in public which can result in disorderly conduct charges.

Photo by: emilydickinsonridesabmx
Photo by: emilydickinsonridesabmx

Creating a precarious situation

Public places should be safe for everyone.  If teens have caused a scene in which people feel unsafe or as Utah Code 76-9-102 states “knowingly create[d] a hazardous or physically offensive condition, by any act which serves no legitimate purpose”, they may face charges of disorderly conduct.

Public fighting

Photo by: Megan Leetz
Photo by: Megan Leetz

One way in which teens may cause a hazardous situation is when fighting in public.  Arguments can escalate quickly into fights between friends or foe with no regard of place or audience, which leaves teenagers with the choice of ending the scuffle before it gets out of hand or facing charges of disorderly conduct.  Utah Code 76-9-102 addresses this type of behavior as “intending to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, the person:

• Engages in fighting or in violent, tumultuous, or threatening behavior;

• Makes unreasonable noises in a public place;

• Makes unreasonable noises in a private place which can be heard in a public place;[…]”

Although “unreasonable noises” doesn’t specify arguments, any loud noise such as quarreling that gets too loud could constitute disorderly conduct, even if no punches are thrown.

Leave when asked

Photo by: Jeffrey Smith
Photo by: Jeffrey Smith

If teenagers start or continue a fight in public which can cause those around them to be fearful, they may receive an infraction for disorderly conduct.  Law enforcement will usually try and resolve the situation quickly and peacefully by asking those involved to leave.  Continuing with the bout or failure to leave when asked by law enforcement can result in a class C misdemeanor for disorderly conduct.  Any teenagers facing charges such as disorderly conduct from public fighting are encouraged to speak with a juvenile defense attorney.

Vaping Increases among Utah Teenagers

Vaping, otherwise known as using e-cigarettes, is the newest fad among nicotine addicts and this practice is increasing even among Utah teenagers. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “e-cigarette use among middle and high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014 […] rising to 2 million students.” Vaping doesn’t show to be replacing regular cigarettes and tobacco products either, as the CDC states that during this same time, “there was no decline in overall tobacco use.

Is vaping a safer alternative?

Photo by: Ecig Click
Photo by: Ecig Click

One of the biggest selling points of vaping e-cigarettes is that they are supposedly a safer alternative to regular cigarettes, cigars, and chew. Studies in favor of vaping have shown that vaping doesn’t deliver the same amount of chemicals as tobacco products. Another health argument is that because e-cigarettes don’t burn like a regular cancer stick, the dangers of tar buildup and smoke inhalation are void. Vaping still delivers nicotine though, which is highly addictive and hazardous for teenagers and their growing brains. Additionally, because the amount of nicotine is added by the user, the chance of a measurement mistake and overdose is dangerously high, if the teenagers don’t first get sick from simply handling the nicotine.

Still illegal for minors

Photo by: Mike Mozart
Photo by: Mike Mozart

Vaping is still relatively new therefore the full health consequences aren’t known at this time. What is known is that it is still illegal in Utah for teenagers under the age of 19. Utah Code 76-10-105 states that minors under the age of 18 who are found vaping or using tobacco products will be fined and have to attend a class. Teenagers who are 18 years old would face similar charges plus a class C misdemeanor for e-cigarette use or possession. Charges can also be added for anyone caught vaping on school property. For a full definition of tobacco and e-cigarette laws as they apply to persons under the age of 19, contact a juvenile defense attorney.