Theft and Vandalism of Holiday Lawn Decorations

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…

Photo by: Allessandro Valli

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.

Intentional 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.


Photo by: Eric Kilby
Photo by: Eric Kilby

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.

Misdemeanor charges

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.

Teens Who Drink and Drive

Teens and alcohol don’t mix and very often it seems that teens are driving don’t mix either; so what about those teens that do both – drink and drive?

Underage DUI’s

Renee Silverman
Renee Silverman

Teens and young adults under the age of 21 are not legally permitted to drink alcohol and no one of any age should get behind the wheel of a car after drinking. When both of these laws are broken at once and teens make the dangerous choice to drink and drive, the statistics can get ugly. Some of the facts stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are:

• “One in 10 teens in high school drinks and drives.

• Young drivers (ages 6-20) are 17 times more likely to die in a crash when they have a blood alcohol concentration [BAC] of .08%.

• 85% of teens in high school who report drinking and driving in the past month also say they binge drank [more than 5 alcoholic drinks within a couple hours]”

Penalties for teens who drink and drive

Not only do teens need to worry about the dangers of alcohol on a young brain and the messy combination mixing alcohol with driving, teens who are caught driving drunk can expect certain penalties as well. These penalties can include a fine too large for any after school job to afford as well as 48 hours of house arrest or even detention along with probation. Teens who drink and drive can usually expect to lose their driver’s license for anywhere from 6 months until they turn 21 years old. They are also expected to attend alcohol abuse classes.

Not worth it

Drink and Drive
Photo by: Jono Haysom

Making the choice to drink and drive is a choice with more disadvantages than any buzz is worth. If that bad choice is made, it is important to understand how teens fit into the legal system. Teenagers who are facing charges in juvenile court for minor consumption of underage DUI should be represented by a juvenile defense attorney. Those who are facing criminal charges with the possibility of being charged as an adult should speak with a criminal defense attorney. The best bet would be to find an attorney who can handle anything from a juvenile misdemeanor to an adult felony for any charge accrued by a teen.

Jail Time Not Necessary For Utah Teen Charged With Vandalism

It has been determined that jail time will not be necessary for a Utah teenager who was charged with vandalism in California last June.

Vandalism – a costly choice

Photo by: Brandon Crowe

18 year old Jared Vance of Provo Utah was visiting a war memorial in Danville California when he foolishly spray painted drug referenced graffiti on what was described by Danville Police as “pavement, stone paths and granite benches”. California law states that depending on the cost of the damage, vandalism can be punishable as a misdemeanor or a felony with a fine ranging between $1,000 and $50,000 along with up to a year in jail.

Discerning it as a juvenile mistake

Authorities in Danville California and board leaders of the All Wars Memorial could have thrown the book at Vance for the vandalism on a respected memorial site however they have chosen to accept a public apology, community service, and reimbursement for the graffiti removal with no expected jail time for the young graffiti artist.

Fortunate “young” adult

Photo by: Tony Webster
Photo by: Tony Webster

At 18 years old, Jared Vance likely still looks and acts like a teenager yet is considered by law to be an adult. Although there is no excuse to defacing public property, the immaturity of his actions should not result in him spending time behind bars.  Fortunately, the people of Danville California recognized that and gave this young man a chance to redeem himself without jail time. The Danville Police Department, who are continually involved with or sponsoring community events such as “Recess with the Cops” and “Coffee & Cocoa with the Cops” obviously understood a juvenile mistake when they saw one.

Juvenile defense

Many teenagers and young adults are not the recipients of such understanding and grace as what was shown to young Jared Vance by the people of Danville. Not only can juveniles be punished severely for crimes, they can also be charged as adults and face time in jail. If your son or daughter is facing criminal charges whether they are a teenager or an immature young adult, it is imperative to consult with a defense attorney that handles both juvenile and adult criminal cases to keep them out of the system.

Trespassing Concerns with Pokémon GO

The new Pokémon GO augmented reality game has become an overnight sensation and authorities are already noting issues with the game such as safety concerns and an increase in trespassing which can lead to arrests.

Technology based geocaching

Photo by: Eduardo Woo
Photo by: Eduardo Woo

Adults and teenagers alike are crazy about Pokémon GO, a game that utilizes some functions of a cell phone such as maps, location, and camera to allow players to search and capture different species of Pokémon characters while earning candies and stardust. While the new game has many benefits such as a wide targeted age range and encouraging physical activity, there are some dangers and concerns after only a week of the game being launched.

Careful where you “GO”

The game which became available last week as a free download to Android and iOS devices has already created safety and legal concerns. There have been reports of people getting injured while chasing Pokémon characters. Since the game involves getting closer to a character while keeping an eye on their location via the mobile app, players are walking around with their noses in their phones, oblivious to the dangers of their surroundings. There have been instances of people walking into traffic and even stepping off a cliff which leads authorities to fear for players’ safety. Beyond the danger that may come by playing the game, players also need to be wary of trespassing.

Trespassing on private property and night hunting

Photo by: Amadeusz Jasak

Within a week of the game’s launch, police departments across the country have begun receiving multiple complaints of players wandering into residents’ yards and on other private property. Players have also been spotted near businesses and parks after hours. Law enforcement officials are warning players that regardless of finding an ultra-rare Scyther in someone’s backyard or a public park at 2am, players need to think twice about trespassing to avoid criminal charges.

Utah Gun Laws for Kids

Most parents in Utah do not let their kids have continual access to any gun yet others may be more comfortable with their older, experienced children handling certain firearms with or without parental supervision.

Possession of a dangerous weapon by minor

Gun Cabinet
Photo by: Mitch Barrie

According to Utah Code 76-10-509, kids under 14 must have a responsible adult with them to possess a weapon. In regards to older teens, ”a minor under 18 years of age may not possess a dangerous weapon unless he has the permission of his parent” or “is accompanied by a parent.” This states that a teen 14 to 18 years old may be in possession of a firearm even if the parents are not around.

Small print, different section

When reading the above section of the Utah Code, parents may fall under the false assumption that this section applies toward all weapons including any type of firearm, therefore letting their kids over 14 access whatever they want to in the family gun cabinet. Unknown to the parents however is there is another section to the Utah Code that states they may in fact be breaking the law.

Sorry not THOSE weapons

Kid with Handgun
Photo by: OakleyOriginals

The very next section of the Utah Code is 76-10-509.4 which specifies certain prohibitions on the types of guns a minor can possess. In Subsection 1 it states “A minor under 18 years of age may not possess a handgun”. Subsection 2 adds, they are also not permitted to possess a shortened rifle, shotgun, or fully automatic weapon. Violation of subsection 1 is a class B misdemeanor or a class A misdemeanor for repeat offenses. Violation of subsection 2 is a 3rd degree felony. A parent allowing their child to be in possession of a handgun is likely to face charges as well.

Study gun laws thoroughly

Although Utah gun laws may be more lenient than other states, it is important to fully understand ALL laws regarding guns and other weapons before allowing minors near them. Failure to read all laws regarding guns and weapons may end in criminal charges for both parent and child. It is also important to know your child and whether or not they are mature and stable enough to possess a weapon.