Underage Drinking on Prom Night Likely Cause of Deadly Utah Crash

A deadly car crash that occurred near Moab, Utah following prom night was likely caused by underage drinking mixed with excessive vehicle speed.

2 teenagers dead and 3 critically injured

Underage Drinking
Photo by: Josh Hallet

In the early morning hours following a prom dance the night before, five teenagers were driving a 2003 Subaru Impreza when the vehicle left the roadway and rolled several times. Three of the teens in the vehicle were ejected; two of those ejected were killed; 16 year old Conner Denney and 14 year old Taylor Bryant. The other teen ejected and the two teens in the car were all flown to area hospitals in critical condition. Police believe that the crash was due to driving at high speeds mixed with underage drinking.

Underage drinking and driving

Underage drinking can be hazardous, especially when inexperienced drivers attempt to operate a vehicle under the influence. The state of Utah has decided that adults who have years of experience driving should still refrain from driving if their blood alcohol limit is over .05%. Teens who drink are known to far surpass this limit. Instead of enjoying a beer with dinner like a responsible adult, teens are more likely to binge drink, making them very drunk in a short period of time.

Alcohol and the teen brain

Photo by: wyinoue
Photo by: wyinoue

Even if a teenager stays away from vehicles when drunk, the alcohol can have damaging effects on their body, especially the growing and maturing brain. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “the adolescent brain may be uniquely sensitive to alcohol’s effects because major changes in brain structure and function occur during this developmental period. ( . . . ) Alcohol exposure during adolescence can have long-lasting effects and may interfere with normal brain functioning during adulthood.”

Other health risks

There are more health risks associated with underage drinking that teens should be aware of such as: potentially fatal alcohol poisoning which can occur from drinking too much too quickly; permanent liver damage from elevated liver enzymes caused by underage drinking; damage to growth hormone production which can alter puberty. Additionally, it is difficult for teens to understand alcoholism should they become addicted and they are less likely to seek help due to them being under the legal age to consume alcohol.

Criminal penalties

Photo by: Sonny Abesamis
Photo by: Sonny Abesamis

Beyond the health risks, there are criminal penalties for those who choose to engage in underage drinking and even far greater penalties if someone is hurt or killed because of a DUI. For teens who are facing criminal charges due to underage drinking or drinking and driving, contact a juvenile defense attorney immediately.

Utah Sexting Laws

With the majority of Utah kids having their first cell phone by age 10-12, it is important that parents discuss sexting laws and how they apply to minors.

Utah Sexting Laws
Photo by: Summer Skyes 11

Electronic dirty talk

One practice that continues to rise in popularity among Utah teens is sexting. According to dictionary.com, sexting is defined as “the sending of sexually explicit photos, images, text messages, or e-mails by using a cell phone or other mobile device.” While many teens get away with sexting time and time again, it is against the law and will result in criminal penalties if they are caught.

Utah sexting laws

Currently every state has a law that criminalizes sexting that includes images of minors, although many states group sexting in with child pornography or sexual exploitation of a minor. There are three laws in the Utah State Code that teens should be aware of before they send, receive, or share explicit images or videos of other teens.

Sexual exploitation of a minor

According to Utah Code 76-5b-201, “(1) A person is guilty of sexual exploitation of a minor: when the person:

(i) knowingly produces, possesses, or possesses with intent to distribute child pornography; or

(ii) intentionally distributes or views child pornography; ( . . . )

Sexual exploitation of a minor is a second degree felony and charges for sexual exploitation of a minor can be multiplied depending on how many minors are depicted and/or how many times the same minor appears in different pictures or videos.

Giving explicit material to minors

Photo by: Leo Hildalgo
Photo by: Leo Hildalgo

Utah Code 76-10-1206 warns “(1)A person is guilty of dealing in material harmful to minors when, knowing or believing that a person is a minor, or having negligently failed to determine the proper age of a minor, the person intentionally:

(a) distributes or offers to distribute, or exhibits or offers to exhibit, to a ( . . . ), any material harmful to minors;

(b) produces, performs, or directs any performance, before a minor ( . . . ) that is harmful to minors; or

(c) participates in any performance, before a minor ( . . . ) that is harmful to minors.

(2) (a) Each separate offense under this section committed by a person 18 years of age or older is a third degree felony ( . . . )

(b) Each separate offense under this section committed by a person 16 or 17 years of age is a class A misdemeanor.

(c) Each separate offense under this section committed by a person younger than 16 years of age is a class B misdemeanor.”

Distributing porn

Utah code 76-10-1203 states “(1) Any material or performance is pornographic if:

(a) The average person, applying contemporary community standards, finds that, taken as a whole, it appeals to prurient interest in sex;

(b) It is patently offensive in the description or depiction of nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, sadomasochistic abuse, or excretion; and

(c) Taken as a whole it does not have serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.”

If someone shares or otherwise distributes or attempts to distribute pornographic material, adults 18 and older may face a third degree felony for each item of pornographic material shared or produced while 16-17 year olds face a class A misdemeanor, and under 16 year olds face a class B misdemeanor.

Photo by: Maurizio Pesce
Photo by: Maurizio Pesce

What’s posted on the internet stays on the internet

With so many options to “delete” content shared, too many teens have the false sense of security that they can share a picture or video briefly and never have to worry about it again. Unfortunately, what’s posted on the internet stays on the internet. Besides other individuals who screenshot or otherwise save things they’ve been sent online, the internet has a way of somehow storing embarrassing or incriminating pictures forever. It is important to warn teens that sexually explicit images or videos that are shared can resurface and that type of content will result in criminal charges.

Blended Sentencing for Utah Juveniles

There is a steady debate on whether or not Utah teenagers charged with serious crimes should face juvenile or adult penalties yet the answer isn’t always black and white; this is where blended sentencing comes in to offer another solution.

Adult crimes committed by kids

Blended Sentencing
Photo by: Rae Allen

With the threat of rising violent crimes among Utah juveniles and the desire for public safety, it may seem easy to sentence teenagers as adults and let them spend years to decades behind bars. This only solves a temporary problem of young violent offenders on the streets, yet it will create even greater problems of overly crowded prisons and kids who finish growing and maturing while behind bars with little to no rehabilitation.

Blended Sentencing

Blended sentencing is a way for the juvenile courts and adult courts to work together to give teens charged with serious offenses a chance for redemption while still under the control of the juvenile court. The teens are given a disposition order or sentencing through the juvenile court that can include treatment such as education and counseling following vital mental health and behavioral evaluations and testing while also dealing punishments such as detention, probation, and/or community service. The teens will also have a sentence for their crimes through the adult court that is temporarily taken off the table while they are under the jurisdiction of the juvenile courts.

Incentive for good behavior

A Second Chance
Photo by: Alyssa L. Miller

After the juvenile disposition or sentencing, teens who respond favorably to treatment and complete their terms in the juvenile system without any problems will not have to face the adult sentence waiting for them. They will finish their time in the juvenile system and be free, reformed adults. If they fail to resolve their criminal behavior and continue to commit other offenses during their juvenile disposition, the adult sentence is then brought back to the table and the teen may face time in adult jail or prison once they are of legal age and no longer in the juvenile system.

Teenagers deserve another chance

The adolescent years are a crucial time of growing and maturing during which most teens are still searching for their own identity while making plans for the future. Their future life as adults should not include incarceration for stupid mistakes they made as kids. Juveniles who are facing serious charges in which they could be charged as adults are encouraged to speak to a juvenile defense attorney about blended sentencing and rehabilitation versus imprisonment.

Criminal Charges for Stalking a Crush

Adolescent relationships are difficult and confusing already without adding the possibility of criminal charges for stalking a crush.

Don’t be creepy

Stalking
Photo by: Jonathan Kos-Read

Teenagers frequently have a hard time approaching and asking out someone they like with fear of being turned down and humiliated. Instead of getting up the nerve to talk to their crush, some may linger nearby–watching, sneaking a picture or two to gawk at with friends, and maybe going as far as sending their crush an anonymous text. While this may seem like innocent behavior from a shy, love-struck individual, the one being stalked may be creeped out and file charges.

Stalking

When a person becomes aware they have someone tailing them, instead of being flattered it can be upsetting. They may notice someone observing them who stays hidden and never makes eye contact which can cause the crush to become fearful of the person’s intentions and therefore scared of being harmed. When the situation makes the crush worried or scared, it can be considered stalking.

Criminal charges

Photo by: Scott Comptois
Photo by: Scott Comptois

According to Utah State Code “a person is guilty of stalking who intentionally or knowingly engages in a course of conduct [such as following, photographing, communicating, threatening] directed at a specific person and knows or should know that the course of conduct would cause a reasonable person: to fear for the person’s own safety ( . . . ); or to suffer other emotional distress.” A first violation of stalking is a class A misdemeanor. Subsequent violations could result in felony charges. Since many cases of stalking among teenager could be the result of an innocent crush, it is important to talk to a juvenile defense attorney to help clear the air and ward off potential charges.

Utah Teens Arrested for Making Terrorist Threats against High School

Two teenagers in Utah were arrested for making terrorist threats after they were overheard plotting an attack on Highland High School.

Talk about terrorist threats isn’t cheap

Terrorist Threats
Photo by: Steve Snodgrass

According to a family member of a witness, two teenagers who attended Highland High School were heard talking about bringing guns to school and opening fire on other students. Police determined the threat was likely a horrible joke and there was no evidence found to verify that the students were even capable of carrying out such a violent act. Regardless, both teens are facing serious criminal charges for their empty threats.

Implied threat to commit

Utah Code 76-5-107.3 states “A person commits a threat of terrorism if the person threatens to commit any offense involving bodily injury, death, or substantial property damage, and: ( . . . ) Cause[s] an official or volunteer agency organized to deal with emergencies to take action due to the person’s conduct posing a serious and substantial risk to the general public.” That section of Utah Code also states that “it is not a defense under this section that the person did not attempt to carry out or was incapable of carrying out the threat.” Also noted is that “a threat ( . . . ) may be express[ed] or implied.”

Angry adolescents or terrorists in the making

Whether or not the students were literally making terrorist threats against the school or just blowing off steam is irrelevant to law enforcement who take any terrorist threat very seriously. The two teenagers mentioned using firearms and not weapons of mass destruction such as bombs or chemical weapons, so the charges against them will likely range anywhere from a class B misdemeanor to a third degree felony instead of the higher second degree felony. Nevertheless, when teens are facing serious criminal charges such as making terrorist threats, parents are always encouraged to consult with an experienced juvenile defense attorney to ensure the best possible outcome for kids who have made a terrible mistake.