Vehicle Burglary

Vehicle burglaries can occur regardless of how upscale the neighborhood, and many of those car break-ins are done by minors from the same area. Whether done out of boredom or to find loose change, breaking into a car is against the law whether or not anything ends up stolen.

Vehicle Burglary

Photo by: Hey Paul

Unlawful entrance to a vehicle can result in criminal charges even if nothing of value is removed from the vehicle. Utah Code 76-6-204 explains that “any person who unlawfully enters any vehicle with intent to commit a felony or theft is guilty of a burglary of a vehicle.” If a teen opens a car hoping to find loose change or a GPS system and all they find are empty soda bottles and fast food wrappers, they are still entering the vehicle with the intent to commit a theft. Burglary of a vehicle is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a large fine.

Other charges

If upon entering a vehicle illegally the teen finds and removes items of value, they will obviously face charges of theft if caught. The punishment for theft depends on the value of the items stolen. According to Utah Code 76-6-412, the charges for theft can range from a class B misdemeanor for theft of items valued under $500 to a second degree felony is the value of the stolen item exceeds $5,000 or is a firearm. There are other possible charges related to vehicle burglary including:

• Possession of burglary tools, a class A misdemeanor if items were needed to break into vehicles as explain in 76-6-205;

• Criminal mischief if the vehicle or any item inside was damaged as described in 76-6-106 with penalties varying depending on “pecuniary loss” during the vehicle burglary; or even

• Aggravated robbery, a first degree felony if the vehicle broken into was occupied by a driver according to Utah Code 76-6-302.

Teens who may view vehicle burglaries as simple, no-risk crimes should be educated on the potential legal outcome that could result from breaking into a vehicle. Those minors already facing charges should consult with a juvenile defense attorney.

Car Hopping in Utah

Utah teens have several slang phrases that parents are not privy to and these seemingly innocent terms could really be illegal activity such as car hopping.

Teen slang for illegal activities

Photo by: Eryne!

Teens often create slang terms to sound cool amongst their peers and other times the reason for their code talk it is to keep adults in the dark as to what they are talking about. Just as parents should know “Molly” and “dabbing” aren’t reference to a friend or a famous dance move, the phrase “car hopping” does not mean their son or daughter is switching around which friend they are driving with. Ask any teen what car hopping is and they will likely know what it refers to even if they haven’t been involved in the activity themselves.

Car hopping

Photo by: Hey Paul

In the adult world car hopping translates to breaking into cars and stealing anything valuable. Car hopping can be done in broad daylight in the parking lot of a school or the mall, but typically it occurs in residential areas during the early morning hours when the owners of the cars and all of their neighbors are asleep. Car hopping usually doesn’t involve picking locks or breaking windows; all that is needed is a car owner feeling too comfortable with their surroundings and failing to lock their vehicle. The thief then opens the door, rummages for anything of value such as cash (and change), electronics, stereo equipment, purses, wallets, meds, and even personal documents that can be sold or used for identity theft.

Criminal charges

Photo: PixGood

Breaking into cars is not only done by people with “zero chill”, but it can also result in serious criminal charges such as vehicle burglary and theft as well as curfew violations if done between the hours of midnight and 5am (curfew limits vary by city). Parents should encourage teens to respect their curfew and the property of those around them. If a teen finds themselves with others who plan on car hopping, teens are encouraged to say “bye Felecia” and bail.

Misdemeanor Charges for Stealing Road Signs as Souvenirs

Many teens see road signs as souvenirs that can be fun to hang from their bedroom walls, however stealing these signs can result in misdemeanor charges.

Illegal décor

Photo by: thecrazyfilmgirl

It isn’t uncommon to see the rooms of teenagers and even college students embellished with signs taken from Utah roads. While some signs are more popular than others, it seems any road sign in a room can be considered a “cool” thing to have.

Road signs

According to the Utah Driver Handbook, there are hundreds of different signs on the roads. These can include:

• Stop signs;
• Yield signs;
• Railroad warnings;
• Warning signs;
• Regulatory signs; and
• Signs informing drivers they are in a school zone.

These signs are posted for driver safety and instruction and without them, the risk of accident due to driver error increases. These signs frequently go missing however, and often appear in the rooms of local teens. Other signs that may find themselves missing on Utah roadways include street signs that happen to match a person’s name or a mile marker bearing a favorite number or signifying another number of importance to the thief.

Section 420

Photo by: Andrew

One of the most popular signs along Utah highways to go missing is mile marker 420. This number is celebrated among marijuana enthusiasts and is therefore common to wind up stolen repeatedly. Other states including Idaho, Colorado, and Washington have stopped replacing the stolen 420 signs and instead installed mile markers with the number 419.9 to discourage theft. Ironically enough, section 420 of Utah Code Chapter 8 part 4 warns Utah residents that stealing or damaging any road signs, including the 420 mile markers is illegal and punishable as a class B misdemeanor.

Common doesn’t mean legal

While possessing street signs is common, it doesn’t make it legal. Not only could removing or damaging road signs be seen as theft, the missing road signs could cause accidents with injuries that the sign thief could be held responsible for. Teens who wish to decorate with road signs are encouraged to purchase them from vendors and leave those installed on Utah roads alone.

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.

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…

Vandalism
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.

Theft

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.