Felony Distribution and Negligent Homicide Charges for Utah Teen Who Arranged Fatal Drug Deal

A teen has been charged with felony distribution as well as negligent homicide after arranging a drug deal that led to the overdose of a southern Utah woman.

Heroin overdose

Photo by: Tony Webster

A southern Utah woman was found dead of a heroin overdose and police were able to track down the individual who helped her obtain the drugs that led to her death. 19 year old Gadge Christensen admitted to police that he helped obtain the drugs for the woman and was aware of her death. He then self-confessed that prior to helping the woman obtain the heroin, he knew it was dangerous- a fact that anyone with common sense would know. He was booked into Purgatory Correctional Facility on negligent homicide and felony distribution charges.

Negligent Homicide

The heroin that Christensen helped obtain for the woman has not been reported as being laced with anything that would increase the chances of an overdose, but any heroin use carries an overdose risk. Since Christensen knew that basic drug fact prior to the user’s death, he is also facing charges of negligent homicide. Negligent homicide is defined by Utah Code 76-5-206 as when “. . . the actor, acting with criminal negligence, causes the death of another. Negligent homicide is a class A misdemeanor.

Felony distribution

Photo by: Find Rehab Center

Utah Code 58-37-8 states regarding felony distribution of heroin that “ . . . it is unlawful for any person to knowingly and intentionally . . . distribute a controlled or counterfeit substance, or to agree, consent, offer, or arrange to distribute a controlled or counterfeit substance”. Setting up a heroin deal can result in “. . . a second degree felony, punishable by imprisonment for not more than 15 years”.

 

Exercising Miranda Rights

With the information that is provided so far, Christensen doesn’t appear to be a regular time heroin dealer. He very well could have been a middle man who was fulfilling a request of a user. However since Christensen openly admitted to law enforcement that he had played a part in finding and distributing the heroin to the now deceased woman, he is now facing serious charges with the potential to land him behind bars for several years. Many older teens and young adults do not fully understand their rights when being faced with an arrest. They may not listen closely to all the protections that their Miranda Rights offer, and instead choose to be openly affable. This mindset could result in them portraying themselves out to have more of a criminal intent that they actually did. Anyone who has been read the Miranda Warning is highly encouraged to be honest with law enforcement, but to also exercise their “right to an attorney” prior to speaking to police to ensure they do not admit to crimes in the spirit of being agreeable.

Racial Tension Involving Teenagers Ends in Death Threats

Last week a picture portraying racial tension surfaced from an incident at the Lincoln Memorial and the teenagers involved have now been the recipients of death threats.

Racial Tension

Photo by: jar [o]
You’ve seen it – the young white teenage male with a little smile on his face, wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat. He is looking at an angry looking Native American carrying a drum. The old adage says “a picture cannot lie”, however a picture does not always present the whole truth. This picture went viral on social media; it popped up on many people’s home page and created public outrage, which resulted in death threats.

Many sides to the story

The picture appears to involve a group of white teenagers and a group of Native Americans. This would lead people to believe that there are only two groups involved, however there are three sides to this story and all three sides have some similarities and some discrepancies. All agree that the event took place outside the Lincoln Memorial on Friday, January 18th. All three agree that there were three separate demonstrations going on a march for the Indigenous Peoples, a March for Life, and a group preaching the bible and their beliefs. All three agree that there were hostile words spoken and raised voices. The rest is up for interpretation.

Hebrew Israelites’ Side

The Hebrew Israelites were at the National Mall to “preach the truth of the Bible”, to teach their belief that African ’Americans are God’s chosen people. One member of the Hebrew Israelite said while they were trying to teach the Native Americans of the meaning of the word savages, the teenagers were mocking them and shouting racist slurs. The Hebrew Israelites believe the students were at fault for the incident.

The Native American Side

The spokesman for the Native Americans said that throughout the day the teenagers had been walking around making derogatory comments about the Blacks and about the Native Americans. Then there was a shouting match with heated words between the students and the Hebrew Israelites. The Native Americans began playing a prayer chant on the drums and walking between the two groups to try to calm both groups down. They accused the teenagers of making fun of the Native American heritage by making chopping motions with their hands. The Native Americans were walking between the students towards a meeting place at the front of the mall, but one teenager stood with a smirk on his face. The Native American believed this was illustrative of the years of built-up aggression against the Natives by whites. The Native Americans believe the Hebrew Israelites and the students were at fault for the incident.

The Teenager’s Side

The teenage in the photo was with a group of Catholic students in Kentucky protesting against abortion. The Hebrew Israelites had been shouting hateful comments to the students and the Native Americans throughout the day. When the Hebrew Israelites were calling the Native Americans savages, the group decided to chant cheers from sporting events to try and drown out the hateful words. One young black student responded to the insults by taking off his shirt and jumping along with the chants. When the Native Americans began to walk through the students, the teenagers were confused about what was going on so the pictured teen stood still with a small smile on his face, hoping to appear non-confrontational. Since the incident, the teens have started receiving death threats for their part in the situation.

Conclusion

The true story often lies somewhere in between each side’s story. Reality is often based on a each person’s past and beliefs. Interviews with bystanders are very different to each other and to the three groups. What may be dancing to one person would appear to be mocking to another. What may be a non-confrontational pose to one person may be an insult and an invitation to fight to another. When these incidents arise no one, including the youth, are exempt from the rising tensions. If you or your teen are facing legal action for violent or threatening behavior that could have risen based on a racially or otherwise tense situation, contact a defense attorney.

Utah Teen Charged with Attempted Murder Following Family Argument

A Utah teen has been charged with attempted murder following a heated family argument.

Family dispute

Photo by: SaminatorH

18 year old Tristan Olsen and his father both of Vernal Utah were engaged in a verbal argument when things quickly intensified. It is not known at this time whether or not the two began physically assaulting each other first, but what ended the argument was when the younger Olsen attacked his father with a knife, stabbing him multiple times. After the father and son went outside to smoke together, they told the mother who called for an ambulance. The father was taken to the hospital where he is in stable condition and Tristan Olsen was booked into the Uintah County Jail for attempted homicide.

Attempted murder

According to Utah Code 76-4-101, “. . . a person is guilty of an attempt to commit a crime [such as murder] if he:
(a) Engages in conduct constituting a substantial step toward commission of the crime; and
(b)
(i) intends to commit the crime; or
(ii) when causing a particular result is an element of the crime, he acts with an awareness that his conduct is reasonably certain to cause that result.”
That section also goes on to note that “. . . conduct constitutes a substantial step if it strongly corroborates the actor’s mental state [as acting with awareness of the potential result of the conduct].”

Attempted murder or something else

According to young Olsen, his father was the first to reach for the knife used in the attack. If this information proves correct, Olsen could have been acting in self-defense which is not punishable if “. . . the person reasonably believes that force or a threat of force is necessary to defend the person . . . against another person’s imminent use of unlawful force.” If any witnesses or the victim do not collaborate with that story, Olsen could still see a lessened charge since his actions were done during a heated argument when emotions were heightened. Like most teens who lash out at their parents, it is likely that Olsen didn’t intend to do his father harm. An experienced attorney can ensure Olsen receives the mental health services he needs while making sure he is represented fairly in court.

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.

Teen Joyriding in Stolen Vehicle Arrested After Rollover in Salt Lake City

One teen was transported to the hospital and another arrested after rolling a stolen vehicle in Salt Lake City in what could have been a dramatic end to a fast-paced joyriding trip.

Unlawful driving ends in rollover

Photo by: Eric Starck

Late Wednesday night police officers observed a stolen vehicle exceeding the speed limit in downtown Salt Lake City with its headlamps off. After requesting the driver of the vehicle to pull over, the young motorist continued at a high rate of speed, rolling the vehicle shortly after. A teenage girl in the car was taken to the hospital. The 15 year old driver was arrested for charges that could include joyriding or felony theft of a vehicle.

Felony theft of a motor vehicle

In some states, the theft of a motor vehicle is considered grand larceny or vehicle theft. Utah does not categorize vehicle theft in its own category, but instead classifies the crime and punishment depending on the value of an item stolen. According to Utah Code 76-6-412, “theft of property and services . . . is punishable:

• As a second degree felony if the:
o value of the property or services is or exceeds $5,000;
o property stolen is . . . an operable motor vehicle [regardless of vehicle value] . . .”

Joyriding

Not all teens who joyride in another person’s vehicle will face felony charges. There is a difference between felony theft of a vehicle and taking someone else’s car for a spin around the block without their permission. While felony theft of a vehicle is punishable as a second-degree felony, joyriding or “unauthorized control for extended time” could be punishable as a misdemeanor. Utah Code 41-1a-1314 states “. . . is a class A misdemeanor for a person to exercise unauthorized control over a motor vehicle that is not his own, without the consent of the owner or lawful custodian and with the intent to temporarily deprive the owner or lawful custodian of possession of the motor vehicle.” If the vehicle is damaged however, joyriding is then punishable as a third-degree felony.

To borrow or keep?

Since the vehicle driven by the teen was completely totaled in the accident, the teen is likely to face felony charges. Will the teen face second-degree felony theft of a motor vehicle or third-degree joyriding resulting in property damage? It all depends on whether or not the teen planned on giving the vehicle back within 24 hours of taking it. For more information on teen crimes related to theft or borrowing property without permission, contact a juvenile defense attorney.