Knife Wielding Utah Teen Charged With Aggravated Assault after Defending Sibling

A knife wielding Eagle Mountain Utah teenager was charged with aggravated assault after defending his younger sibling from abuse.

Violence for violence

The 16 year old teen who has not been named due to his age was placed into a juvenile detention center after he stabbed his 18 year old brother five times with a knife. The younger teen was trying to intervene to defend his 14 year old sister from their older brother, Steven Johnston, after an argument between the girl and Johnston escalated. Reports state that Johnston began physically assaulting the 14 year old girl when the 16 year old brother came to her aid, using a knife to wound the 18 year old sibling and thereby ceasing the assault on the younger sister.

Charges for both brothers

18 year old Johnston was flown to the hospital to be treated for his wounds and upon his release, will face misdemeanor charges for assaulting his younger sister. Meanwhile, the 16 year old brother is facing felony aggravated assault for using a knife to defend his sister against their older sibling. According to Utah Code 76-5-103, “Aggravated assault in an actor’s conduct that is:
i. an attempt, with unlawful force or violence, to do bodily injury to another; ( . . . )
ii. a threat, accompanied by a show of immediate force or violence, to do bodily injury to another; or
iii. an act, committed with unlawful force or violence, that causes bodily injury to another or creates a substantial risk of bodily injury to another; and
that includes the use of:
i. a dangerous weapon ( . . . );
iii. other means or force likely to produce death or serious bodily injury.”

No criminal intent

More than likely, the teen did not have plans on assaulting his older brother with a knife that day. In the heat of the moment however, it may have been difficult for him to think of anything other than protecting his sister from harm. It is difficult to ask anyone, especially a minor, to think and act rationally in stressful situations. In hindsight, the teen may have been able to stop the abuse from the 18 year old brother without using a weapon. There is also the chance the abuse could have continued to escalate, further jeopardizing the safety of the little sister. The 16 year old Utah teen chose to ensure the safety of his sister, and may now face up to 15 years in prison. Any minors who are facing charges following a rash decision during a stressful situation or after defending another person from harm, contact a juvenile defense attorney to discuss the defense options related to the case.

Out of State Teen Arrested For Intent to Distribute $25K Worth of Drugs

An out of state teen visiting Utah from Oregon was caught with $25K worth of drugs with the intent to distribute them.

Bringing the party with him

19 year old Sean McDonald from Bend, Oregon was pulled over after police spotted him driving his motor vehicle on a walking path. When officers stopped McDonald to speak to him, they saw three juvenile passengers in the car in possession of cigarettes and also observed a strong odor of marijuana. This prompted officers to search the car where they found $25k worth of various drugs including marijuana, LSD, cocaine, and illegal or prescription pills the teen had brought with him to Utah with the intent to distribute them at the annual Festival of Colors.

Intent to distribute

Utah Code 58-37-8 states “it is unlawful for any person to knowingly and intentionally (. . . ) possess a controlled or counterfeit substance with intent to distribute.” The criminal charges for intent to distribute depend on what type of illegal substance the person arrested was in possession of. According to the Utah County Jail bookings page, McDonald was arrested and charged with four first degree felonies for possession of LSD, cocaine, and ecstasy with the intent to distribute. He also is facing two second degree felonies for intent to distribute marijuana and prescription drugs.

Wait, there’s more…

On top of the intent to distribute charges, McDonald is also facing three third degree felonies for endangering a minor because of the juveniles in his car as well as two misdemeanors and a traffic violation. That brings his running total of criminal charges to nine felonies, two misdemeanors, and one traffic violation. His bail was set at double the amount he expected to make selling the drugs in his possession. The juveniles in the car that were also from Oregon faced possession charges as well but not intent to distribute as McDonald was the only one determined to be selling the drugs.

Do you know where your teen is?

It is important for parents to know where their teens are at all times and not always assume they are where they said they would be, or even the same state. Teens who have passed the ripe old age of 18 should remember that they will forever be considered adults, and should act as such especially in the company of minors. For more information on drugs charges for old and young teens, contact a criminal defense attorney that also specializes in juvenile defense.

Third Degree Felony for Theft of Watercraft

A 19 year old in Utah is facing a third degree felony for the theft or possession of stolen watercraft or outboard motor.

Shopping in the off season

Theft
Photo by: Robbie Sproule

19 year old Dillon Anthony Smith of Hurricane, Utah was booked into the Weber County Jail on multiple charges including two each of: criminal mischief; fail(ure) to appear on citation; and theft or vessel/motor in possession with reason to believe stolen. His total bail was posted at $14,250. It is not known what the 19 year old was doing so far away from home or why he would have a stolen watercraft or outboard motor on him in the month of February.

Theft

A person can be charged with theft if they physically took property that didn’t belong to them, received stolen property, or found property that was lost and didn’t return it. The theft of any property can result in criminal charges and the penalties are usually based on the value of the item(s). Utah Code 76-6-412 states that:

• Theft of property valued under $500 is punishable as a class B misdemeanor;

• Theft of property valued between $500 and $1,500 is punishable as a class A misdemeanor;

• Theft of property valued between $1,500 and$5,000 is punishable as a third degree felony; and

• Theft of property valued above $5,000 is a second degree felony.

Specialty theft items

Photo by: Mark Moz
Photo by: Mark Moz

The value of the watercraft of outboard motor that was stolen or possessed illegally was not noted; however whether it was worth $5,000 or $50, it wouldn’t have mattered. There are some items that may have a determined value, but have a set penalty depending on the type of property stolen.

• If the item stolen is a firearm, it is a second degree felony;

• If a horse, cow, sheep, goat, pig, poultry, or “fur-bearing animal raised for commercial purposes” is stolen, it is a third degree felony unless valued above $5,000;

• A stolen vehicle that is operable is punishable as a second degree felony;

• In the case of a stolen watercraft or outboard motor, the penalty is a third degree felony.

Prison term for theft of watercraft

Photo Courtesy of: Weber County Sheriff's Office
Photo Courtesy of: Weber County Sheriff’s Office

Smith is facing at least two third degree felonies which carry a possible prison term of zero to five years in prison each. Since he is over the age of 18, he will face his charges in the adult court system. A defendant who may have the mentality of a teenager with the physical age of an adult would benefit greatly by a criminal defense attorney who handles adult cases, but also is experienced in dealing with teens who may need more guidance in the judicial proceedings. Anyone in this situation is encouraged to seek such counsel.

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.

Undetected Bullying May Have Led to Violent Outburst by Utah Teenager

After the stabbing that happened at an Orem high school this week, several Utah residents questioned if undetected bullying may have led to the violent outburst by the 16 year old teenager.

When bullying victims fight back

Photo by: Thomas Ricker
Photo by: Thomas Ricker

Although authorities are unaware of any bullying that may have occurred prior to the stabbing, it is not uncommon for teen bullying victims to quietly bear the tormenting before eventually lashing out at their oppressors; an act that is too often done immediately before harming themselves. While this may not be the case for this incident as stated by the suspect’s parents, something triggered this young man with perfect grades and no criminal record to snap.

Depression to aggression

Bullying is often a major cause of depression among teenagers. Bad-mouthing (in person or online), name calling, ostracizing, and/or physical confrontations by peers can often cause a teen to withdraw from family and friends. When teens withdraw, they are more likely to lose interest in things that used to make them happy. As depression sets in, teens may experience intense, prolonged times of sadness and despair. Depression is not always evident as sadness however; those suffering may become more irritable and have increased instances of aggression.

Bullying
Photo by: Serge Saint

Watch for red flags of bullying victims

Stopbullying.gov lists nine warning signs that parents and teachers should be aware of to identify a child or teen who may be a victim of bullying:

• “Unexplainable injuries
• Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
• Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
• Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch.
• Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
• Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
• Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
• Feelings of helplessness or decreased self esteem
• Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide”

Signs of an aggressor

Stopbullying.org also lists eight red flags that a child or teen may be the aggressor in bullying cases. “Kids may be bullying others if they:

• Get into physical or verbal fights
• Have friends who bully others
• Are increasingly aggressive
• Get sent to the principal’s office or to detention frequently
• Have unexplained extra money or new belongings
• Blame others for their problems
• Don’t accept responsibility for their actions
• Are competitive and worry about their reputation or popularity”

Taking appropriate action

If adults can be aware of bullying red flags and address them immediately with their teen, school personnel, as well as a counseling service that specializes in teen depression and mood disorders, many teens can receive the help they need to channel their feelings appropriately while those doing the bullying can be dealt with appropriately. If teens are facing criminal charges for a violent response to bullying they have endured, contact a juvenile defense attorney