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.

Three Teens Harboring a Runaway Friend Arrested

Three 18 year old teens from St. George Utah were arrested for harboring their friend who was listed as a runaway by law enforcement.

Missing person

Photo by: chriscom

In a Facebook plea from her distraught father, 17 year old McKenzie Scholzen was reported missing Monday after leaving home to go on a walk and never returning. Jeff Scholzen, McKenzie’s father stated concern for his daughter’s well-being due to suicidal tendencies. Local law enforcement was informed and began investigating the case while the community shared the father’s online post more than eight thousand times in an effort to locate the missing teen. Three days later, McKenzie was located safe and three older teens were arrested.

Road trip

McKenzie was found in a LDS church roughly 40 miles north of her home but hadn’t been there the entire time. The teen along with three 18 year olds had in fact travelled over 800 miles away to northern California before returning to southern Utah. McKenzie who left of her own free will was placed temporarily with a crisis center before being released to her parents. The 18 year olds who weren’t much older than McKenzie but legally considered adults by Utah law were arrested – Luis Rockwood for a warrant and Diego (Jasper) Wellhoff along with Lydia Probst for obstruction of justice and harboring a runaway.

Harboring a runaway

Photo by: Francois Marcotte

McKenzie went on the road trip willingly with her friends but because of her age as a minor, anyone helping her now faces criminal charges. Utah Code 62A-4a-501 states “a person . . . is guilty of a class B misdemeanor if the person:

(a) knowingly and intentionally harbors a child;
(b) knows at the time of harboring the child that the child is a runaway;
(c) fails to notify one of the following, by telephone or other reasonable means, of the location of the child:
i. the parent or legal guardian of the child;
ii. the division; or
iii. a youth services center; and
(d) fails to notify [one of the above persons] within eight hours after the later of:
i. the time that the person becomes aware that the child is a runaway; or
ii. the time that the person begins harboring the child.”

A class B misdemeanor is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine on top of any other charges faced.

Differences between Juvenile Court and Adult Court in Utah

When a teenager in Utah is charged with a crime, it can be handled by either the juvenile court or the adult court and it is important to know the differences between the two.

Juvenile court

Juvenile Court or Adult Court
Photo by: State Farm

Although the juvenile court handles cases of criminal activity by minors, it is a civil court where the goal is not to punish kids but to teach and rehabilitate them while also ensuring that they are not a danger to the community. Utah Code 78A-6-102 states: “The purpose of the [juvenile] court is to:

(a) promote public safety and individual accountability by the imposition of appropriate sanctions on persons who have committed acts in violation of law;

(b) order appropriate measures to promote guidance and control, preferably in the minor’s own home, as an aid in the prevention of future unlawful conduct and the development of responsible citizenship;

(c) where appropriate, order rehabilitation, reeducation, and treatment for persons who have committed acts bringing them within the court’s jurisdiction;

(d) adjudicate matters that relate to minors who are beyond parental or adult control and to establish appropriate authority over these minors by means of placement and control orders;

(e) adjudicate matters that relate to abused, neglected, and dependent children and to provide care and protection for minors by placement, protection, and custody orders;

(f) remove a minor from parental custody only where the minor’s safety or welfare, or the public safety, may not otherwise be adequately safeguarded; and

(g) consistent with the ends of justice, act in the best interests of the minor in all cases and preserve and strengthen family ties.”

Adult criminal court

If a teenager is charged with a felony listed under Utah’s Serious Youth Offender Act (78A-6-7), their case can be transferred to adult court where they can face serious repercussions including hefty fines and lengthy imprisonment. Offenses that are included in the Serious Youth Offender Act include:

• aggravated cases of arson;
• assault;
• kidnapping;
• burglary;
• robbery; and
• sexual assault; as well as
• felony discharge of a firearm;
• attempted aggravated murder; or
• attempted murder; or
• any subsequent offense involving the use of a dangerous weapon;

Juvenile defense attorney

Unfortunately in adult court, it is less lenient that juvenile court and those facing adult criminal charges should expect their sentencing to include more punishment without so much focus on education and rehabilitation. Additionally, once a case goes to adult court, those records which include the juvenile’s name are released to the public. For these reasons, it is imperative that juveniles and their parents and/or guardians seek counsel from a criminal defense attorney who has dealings with both the juvenile court as well as the adult court, and who will try diligently to keep all cases against minors within the juvenile court jurisdiction.

Juvenile Recidivism in Utah

When a juvenile is arrested shortly after being released for a previous offense, it is known as recidivism and continues to be a problem among the youth in Utah.

More than half re-offend

According to a study done by the Utah Criminal Justice Center in 2013, over half of all juvenile offenders return to incarceration within a year of being released from either community placements or secure facilities. The purpose of juvenile offender programs and detention facilities should be to help assess the needs of youth and get them the help they need to ensure the youth are capable of living in the community with a lowered risk of further criminal charges. If half of the youth are returning, the programs are not working.

Causes of juvenile recidivism in Utah

There are several possible causes for juvenile recidivism in Utah; the study by the Utah Criminal Justice Center along with other sources highlights a few of the key components that are consistently lacking among all types of treatment options put forth by the Juvenile Justice Services of Utah.

• Lack of continued mental health and substance abuse screening. Juvenile offenders will often go through initial mental health and substance use screening, yet these assessments should be continued at least biannually throughout the youth’s incarceration or detention to ensure they are receiving the adequate treatment for their specific needs to reduce their risk of recidivism.

• Communication gaps. The Juvenile Justice Services and the Juvenile Courts need to ensure that all information pertaining to a juvenile individual is shared entirely to ensure that all the needs of the youth are met to help them benefit fully from their treatment which in turn should help reduce some cases of recidivism.

• Adequate training for staff. All staff employed by the Juvenile Justice Services, from those who work in early intervention to those at the detention facilities should receive training on a regular basis to help them effectively use the results of all assessments to understand a youth’s risk level as well as their specific needs and how to incorporate treatment to fulfill those needs.

• Utilizing programs that work. There are several different programs available for youth through the Juvenile Justice Services. Some of them have a better track record than others. Those programs that are failing to successfully reintroduce youth into the community without a high risk of recidivism should not be used as often as they are.

Research options and be informed

Parents with youth who have been arrested for an offense need to speak to a juvenile defense attorney immediately to discuss not only defense options, but also effective treatment programs that may need to be implicated to help the youth avoid recidivism.

Dealing with Stress and Anxiety – Juvenile Drug Use in Utah

There are several possible explanations for the issue of juvenile drug use in Utah, however dealing with anxiety and high levels of stress may be all it takes to send kids looking for an escape through substance abuse.

Juvenile Drug Use in Utah
Photo by: CollegeDegrees360

Pointing fingers

Peer pressure, demographics, weak family relationships, and poor choices of friends are all areas that have received much of the blame for the problem of juvenile drug use in Utah. While these have been proven to play a noteworthy part in some cases of adolescent drug use, one area that is often overlooked is the everyday stresses of being a teenager.

Rough stage of life

Being a teenager is tough: classes are harder; relationships with friends can change suddenly and dramatically; dating can be cruel; more is expected from parents; and shifting hormones can make everything seem overwhelming at times. Teenagers can be left feeling sad, anxious, and stressed out. It is no surprise that the teenager years, especially starting around the ages of 12 and 13 is when juvenile drug use in Utah sees an intense increase in numbers.

“To feel better”

Photo by: Marius Dollinger
Photo by: Marius Dollinger

Teenagers are often at a loss at how to deal with everything that life is throwing at them. This can often be why normally good kids turn to drugs. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Some adolescents suffer from depression, social anxiety, stress-related disorders, and physical pain. Using drugs may be an attempt to lessen these feelings of distress. Stress especially plays a significant role in starting and continuing drug use as well as returning to drug use (relapsing) for those recovering from an addiction.”

Learn to spot triggers for juvenile drug use in Utah

It is important for parents, teachers, and other adult role models to recognize when a teen needs help and to teach them how to deal with life issues before drugs come into play. This can protect the youth in Utah from a life of substance abuse and dependency or from having a criminal record.