Throughout the last few weeks, there have been reported cases of vandalism as well as an uptick of theft of holiday lawn decorations throughout Utah. Many who are caught end up being juveniles.
No one is laughing…
What often starts as a simple prank can end up going too far. Many Utah kids find it humorous to rearrange holiday lawn decorations such as light-up deer into positions that can be seen as sexually-explicit. While the youth may think it is just a joke that can be undone in a matter of seconds, the decorations are often damaged during the prank which can be considered vandalism.
While some instances of vandalism to decorations are non-intentional, other cases are deliberate such as trashing a holiday display or slashing the inflatable Christmas décor. Not only can those responsible face charges for criminal mischief and trespassing, they risk upsetting homeowners who can then become aggressive and dangerous if they catch the vandals in the act.
Beyond the steady amount of vandalism throughout the holidays, the amount of thefts to Christmas décor and lights are growing. A large majority of the items stolen from Utah residents’ yards this year turned out to be the new LED projection lights. These lights are placed a good distance away from homes in order to illuminate as much as the house as possible, yet this puts them in a place that is at the edge of property and easy to steal.
With so many projection lights being stolen as well as decorations being vandalized, many homeowners are installing cameras to catch the thieves and vandals. Unfortunately, those who are caught frequently end up being juveniles. It is important that Utah youth understand the repercussions that can come from vandalism and theft, and are encouraged to choose other holiday activities that will not result in criminal charges.
Late night pranks such as toilet papering and egging houses may seem like harmless fun, but the pranksters could end the night with vandalism charges.
For the next week or more, most youth throughout Utah have a break from school which also leads to a break from curfew and early bedtimes. With this newfound freedom, numerous teens take time away from their electronics to find something more entertaining to do. Late night pranks aren’t anything new; generations of teens have used the nighttime hours to get into a variety of mischief. Regrettably, some of these common rites of passage can essentially lead to vandalism charges.
Not a harmless prank
While some pranks are annoying yet harmless, other pranks such as egging houses are not as innocent. Egging houses can cause thousands of dollars’ worth of damage ranging from broken windows to entirely redoing a home’s siding. When a prank ends in damage, it is vandalism. Vandalism is considered criminal mischief and is punishable as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the value of the damage. Beyond criminal charges, homeowners who are targeted with the vandalism can press charges as well.
Mom of the year
Most parents understand the risk of criminal charges such as vandalism on a juvenile record and therefore discourage their teens from getting involved in acts of vandalism or criminal mischief. Other parents, the forever children, not only condone vandalism such as toilet papering or egging houses, but may help their kids out with the prank. This was the case for an Ogden Utah mom who helped her daughter and friends egg several houses throughout the Wasatch front. The mother is now facing criminal charges related to the vandalism and it is possible that the youth involved will face charges as well.
There are many safe and legal options out there to keep teens entertained during this winter break. However, for teens who have used this free time unwisely and are facing vandalism charges because of it, contact a juvenile defense attorney as soon as possible.
Fake weapons such as BB guns and airsoft rifles are meant to give kids a safe alternative to the real deal, however they are proving to be a danger to our youth.
Armed gunmen at an elementary school
Each year on the anniversary of 9/11, citizens, police officers, and other government authorities around the country continue to be on high alert for any signs of another attack. On the 14th anniversary of that event, the West Valley Police Department was notified by several callers who witnessed two armed suspects at a nearby elementary school after hours.
Two Utah teens nearly shot over fake weapons
With their weapons drawn, West Valley police officers approached the suspects who thankfully did as they were told and lowered their weapons. Police officers discovered that the two supposed gunmen were only 15 year old boys, and their weapons of choice were nothing more than airsoft rifles with the orange tip colored over. Behaving suspiciously on school property at night while garnishing fake weapons almost cost both of the boys their lives.
Airsoft guns not legal everywhere
Besides the physical danger that fake weapons impose, there is also the risk of charges for having fake weapons such as toys guns in public. So far, there are 5 cities in northern Utah who have laws regarding airsoft guns. Disobeying these laws, such as South Jordan’s law on no airsoft guns in public, could result in criminal charges. For more information on each city’s laws regarding fake weapons or to discuss charges that a minor may have for using a fake weapon such as an airsoft gun in public, contact a juvenile defense attorney.
Whether living in downtown Salt Lake City or the rural southwest town of Ivins Utah, residents are warned to not have unlocked vehicles with recent statewide theft by teens.
Theft and sometimes vandalism
On June 5th 2015 an 18 year old Ivins, Utah resident was arrested after he got drunk and roamed around leaving scratches on the exterior of several cars and rifling through the owner’s personal property inside the unlocked vehicles. In his drunken stupor he didn’t manage to actually steal anything and unlike most vehicle break ins, he left plenty of evidence for police to catch him, including his blood.
Most theft from unlocked cars happens at night when residents are asleep. Without any tools needed, anyone can open a car door and rummage through the belongings unnoticed. This petty theft doesn’t usually involve any damage, besides a dead battery from a door being left ajar and interior lights on. Unlocked vehicles are easy access for bored or broke teens looking for pocket cash, CDs, and other valuables. While cash and change are the main focus for theft from unlocked vehicles, occasionally CDs, GPS devices and even expensive sunglasses will be stolen. However, these items if pawned can be traced back to the thief.
Just because it’s unlocked, doesn’t mean it’s legal
Even though overly trusting Utah residents are at partial fault for the unlocked vehicles, it is still a crime to take property that belongs to someone else. If a teen is caught going through someone else’s vehicle or if they are found with items that are reported missing, the charges could involve criminal mischief, theft, and possession of stolen property. To speak with someone regarding these or other juvenile charges, call a juvenile criminal defense attorney.
Two Weber County, Utah teens were arrested earlier this month for vandalism done to a church. The spray painted anti-religious symbols were similar to other vandalism to churches done earlier this year in St. George, Utah and Duchesne, Utah. Churches aren’t the only target; schools are often broken into and damaged as well, sometimes simply as a way to “celebrate” the end of year.
Vandalism can occur to a variety of things such as: vehicles, homes, outbuildings, overpasses, & parks. While all vandalism is illegal, damaging schools and churches that are meant for secular or religious teachings is disappointing.
There is speculation as to why teens are targeting schools and churches. There may be animosity towards certain teachers or principals at their school. Sometimes the reason is frustration over school bullies or bad grades that lead them to take out their frustration through vandalism. Targeting churches is commonly done by those not of that religious denomination, or possibly by those that feel rejected or are treated unkindly by members of that faith. These bad feelings towards people often leads teens channel their anger into vandalism.
Possible felony charges
Vandalism is considered criminal mischief and the law and penalties are the same for teens and adults. Frequently for minor vandalism, the punishment for the teens is a fine and restitution or community service. Unfortunately for the teens in Weber County, they are facing felony charges. Additionally, other crimes such as burglary and theft are common along with criminal mischief. The penalties for those can range from misdemeanors to felonies. For teens who are facing criminal mischief charges for vandalism, contact a juvenile criminal defense attorney to help you achieve the slightest penalty possible.