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.

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.

19 Year Old Charged in Triple Homicide

19 year old Gerald Grant was charged with murder for the triple homicide that took place in South Salt Lake earlier this month. His attorney stated he was acting in self-defense.

Gunfire in a closed vehicle

Triple Homicide
Photo by: Peter Anderson

Police are still investigating the triple homicide that resulted in the death of a 17 year old teenager and his friends, 19 and 20 year old brothers. At this time it is known that an altercation erupted in a car in which the three friends and Grant were riding in together. The car stopped abruptly, gunfire took place inside, and all parties were injured.

Leaving the scene of a crime

The three critically injured friends stayed on scene while Grant left and later checked himself into a local hospital. The 17 year old and the brothers ended up succumbing to their injuries while Grant was originally listed in serious condition. Authorities were able to locate two guns found at the scene. Both weapons allegedly belonged to Grant yet he was not the only shooter. At this time, authorities have not determined who shot first and if anyone including Grant acted on self-defense.

Photo by: Tex Texin
Photo by: Tex Texin

Wounded and bragging?

Grant who suffered from a gunshot wound to his left leg appeared to be only a victim in the shooting until witnesses came forward with hearsay. They claimed Grant openly confessed to be the shooter in the triple homicide. Currently, their hearsay is the only evidence against Grant; hearsay and the fact that he is the only survivor of the shooting.

Murder or self-defense for triple homicide

Photo by: Matt Reinbold
Photo by: Matt Reinbold

If Grant’s attorney can prove that he was not the one who provoked the shootout and that he was only trying to defend himself, he may face charges for possession of the firearms and leaving the scene of a crime, but not for murder. If Grant’s attorney is unable to show beyond a reasonable doubt that he acted in Self-defense, Grant could be facing three first degree felonies for aggravated murder, each punishable by 5 years to life in prison.

Attempted “Death by Cop” Ends in Teen Killing a Police Officer Instead

A 17 year old teen from Colorado attempted a “death by cop” but instead ended up killing a police officer.

Teen asked to be shot


17 year old Austin Patrick Holzer of Mesa County Colorado was on the run, unwilling to go to jail for a sexual offense, when he was approached by Deputy Derek Geer. After being unable to flee from Deputy Geer, Holzer told the police officer to shoot him, hoping to be killed by what is referred to as “death by cop”. To the teen’s dismay, Deputy Geer brandished a Taser and not a firearm.

Attempted suicide first

When Holzer realized the officer wasn’t going to kill him, he brought out a weapon and pointed it at himself; yet he was unsuccessful at discharging it. When his attempt at suicide failed, he then pointed the gun at Deputy Geer, shooting him in the face and upper body. Deputy Geer, a veteran of the United States Navy and father of two, later died at a hospital from his injuries.

Killing a police officer

Photo by: Victor
Photo by: Victor

Holzer was hoping to run or die, anything but spend time in jail as a sex offender. Now because he is being charged as an adult for killing a police officer, a first degree felony, it is likely the rest of his life will be spent in prison. Had Holzer confronted his original crimes, the life of a police officer would have been spared and Holzer’s time behind bar would have been greatly reduced.

Seek legal counsel

Minors who are dealing with criminal charges should speak with a juvenile defense attorney to discuss options and possible outcomes before resorting to drastic measures that can greatly affect any chances of reducing jail time.

Utah Teen Accomplice to a Crime

18 year old Meagan Grunwald, a Utah teen facing 30 years to life in prison, knows all too well how being an accomplice to a crime is nearly as bad as pulling the trigger herself.

Photo by: redjar
Photo by: redjar

Getaway driver

Grunwald was the getaway driver for her much older boyfriend who went on a 50 mile crime spree in January of 2014, which left one Utah officer dead and another seriously injured. Although Grunwald only drove the car and didn’t ever touch the gun used in the crime, under Utah accomplice liability statute, she was charged with crimes including aggravated murder because being the driver helped her now deceased boyfriend commit the crimes.

Accomplice liability

Utah Code 76-2-202 regarding responsibility for those who directly commit the crime and for any accomplice to a crime states: “every person, acting with the mental state required for the commission of an offense who directly commits the offense, who solicits, requests, commands, encourages, or intentionally aids another person to engage in conduct which constitutes an offense shall be criminally liable as a party for such conduct.”

Not always seen as an innocent bystander

Buying spray paint for a friend who uses it to tag a building, driving a friend around who is in possession or is selling drugs, or watching for security while a friend shoplifts are just a few ways in which a teen can become an accomplice to a crime. When teens are around others who are breaking the law, lack of direct involvement is not enough to keep them out of trouble. Teens need to be taught to stay clear of any misconduct, and report it as soon as possible to police lest they be charged with being an accomplice to a crime. If your teen is facing accomplice charges for being with the wrong group at the wrong time, contact a juvenile defense attorney immediately.