Felony Charges for Teen Who Received Stolen Firearm

A Utah teen is facing felony charges after receiving a stolen firearm in a drug trade.

Risky business

Photo by: Vulcan Rider

18 year old Matthew Ortega was arrested after a stolen firearm he had received in trade of drugs was linked back to him by the gun owner. Ortega, who had acquired the stolen weapon previously, had posted the gun for sale online where it was seen by the original owner. Law enforcement officers were notified and contacted Ortega, who came clean about how he had acquired the weapon. The firearm had been stolen a few weeks before by another individual and although Ortega was not involved in the burglary of the firearm, he is facing theft charges for receiving stolen property.

Receiving stolen property

When someone is the knowing recipient of stolen property, they may be charged with theft according to Utah Code 76-6-408 which states: “A person commits theft if he receives, retains, or disposes of the property of another knowing that it has been stolen, or believing that it probably has been stolen, or who conceals, sells, withholds or aids in concealing, selling, or withholding the property from the owner, knowing the property to be stolen, intending to deprive the owner of it.” Section 76-6-412 adds that “Theft of property and services as provided in this chapter is punishable:

(a) As a second degree felony if the:
(i) Value of the property or services is or exceeds $5,000;
(ii) Property stolen is a firearm or an operable motor vehicle; or
(iii) Property is stolen from the person of another”.

Since Ortega was just the recipient of the stolen firearm (ii) and that firearm wasn’t taken from another person, but from off their property (iii), he is facing a reduced charge of third degree felony theft. This lesser but still felony charge is likely due to the value of the firearm being between “$1,500 [to] $5,000” as stated in Section 76-6-412.

Legal purchases only

Since Ortega is 18 years old and legally an adult, he will face charges in district court and he could face up to five years in prison. Teens and young adults who purchase items from friends or acquaintances should ensure the items sold are the legal possessions of those listing them for sale. If the buyer has a hunch the items are stolen, they should trust that hunch and not participate in the deal. Teens under the age of 18 or those older who are restricted from owning firearms should refrain from buying or otherwise obtaining a gun to avoid related criminal charges. For more information on charges related to firearms, contact a knowledgeable attorney.

Three Teens Harboring a Runaway Friend Arrested

Three 18 year old teens from St. George Utah were arrested for harboring their friend who was listed as a runaway by law enforcement.

Missing person

Photo by: chriscom

In a Facebook plea from her distraught father, 17 year old McKenzie Scholzen was reported missing Monday after leaving home to go on a walk and never returning. Jeff Scholzen, McKenzie’s father stated concern for his daughter’s well-being due to suicidal tendencies. Local law enforcement was informed and began investigating the case while the community shared the father’s online post more than eight thousand times in an effort to locate the missing teen. Three days later, McKenzie was located safe and three older teens were arrested.

Road trip

McKenzie was found in a LDS church roughly 40 miles north of her home but hadn’t been there the entire time. The teen along with three 18 year olds had in fact travelled over 800 miles away to northern California before returning to southern Utah. McKenzie who left of her own free will was placed temporarily with a crisis center before being released to her parents. The 18 year olds who weren’t much older than McKenzie but legally considered adults by Utah law were arrested – Luis Rockwood for a warrant and Diego (Jasper) Wellhoff along with Lydia Probst for obstruction of justice and harboring a runaway.

Harboring a runaway

Photo by: Francois Marcotte

McKenzie went on the road trip willingly with her friends but because of her age as a minor, anyone helping her now faces criminal charges. Utah Code 62A-4a-501 states “a person . . . is guilty of a class B misdemeanor if the person:

(a) knowingly and intentionally harbors a child;
(b) knows at the time of harboring the child that the child is a runaway;
(c) fails to notify one of the following, by telephone or other reasonable means, of the location of the child:
i. the parent or legal guardian of the child;
ii. the division; or
iii. a youth services center; and
(d) fails to notify [one of the above persons] within eight hours after the later of:
i. the time that the person becomes aware that the child is a runaway; or
ii. the time that the person begins harboring the child.”

A class B misdemeanor is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine on top of any other charges faced.

When Juveniles are Charged as Adults

When a teenager commits a crime, their family may be shocked to discover the minor could be charged as an adult.

Juvenile court

Photo by: Francois Marcotte

Most charges brought against minors will be dealt with in juvenile court, where through education, rehabilitation, and treatment there may be a greater chance of earlier reintroduction to the public without extended time under house arrest or in juvenile detention. There are some instances when charges against minors are taken out of juvenile court however, leaving young teens to face similar penalties that adults would.

Serious felonies

Utah Courts states “There are several circumstances under which a juvenile may be tried in adult court. These include cases where the juvenile is fourteen years or older and has been charged with a serious felony.” Utah Code 78A-6-702 lists some of these serious felonies as:

i. “Aggravated arson
ii. Aggravated assault resulting in serious bodily injury to another;
iii. Aggravated kidnapping;
iv. Aggravated burglary;
v. Aggravated robbery;
vi. Aggravated sexual assault;
vii. Felony discharge of a firearm;
viii. Attempted aggravated murder; or
ix. Attempted murder; or
(b) [a felony offense with a dangerous weapon when there is a prior incident involving a felony offense with a dangerous weapon].”

Charged as an adult

Once it has been determined that the minor is facing one of these serious felonies, the “judge shall consider only the following:

i. Whether the minor [is repeat felony offender with a dangerous weapon];
ii. [if more than one person is involved], whether the minor appears to have a greater or lesser degree of culpability than the co-defendants;
iii. [if the minor’s role in the offense] was committed in a violent, aggressive, or premeditated manner;
iv. [prior legal trouble];
v. Whether public safety and the interests of the minor are better served by adjudicating the minor in the juvenile court or in the district court [and where they are best able to be rehabilitated].

Legal help for families of minors

Many Utah families expect leniency in court for their children and are surprised when teenagers ends up facing charges in district court where there is the possibility of years in prison. For this reason it is imperative to never assume the system will work in the favor of a minor and instead obtain the legal aid of a qualified defense attorney with experience in handling juvenile and district court cases.

Romeo and Juliet Laws in Utah

Older teens who are sexually involved with others near their own age may not have to worry about legal repercussions thanks to Utah’s Romeo and Juliet laws.

Romeo and Juliet laws

Photo by: Rob Zand

Romeo and Juliet laws are in place nationwide to protect teens and young adults from criminal charges for engaging in sexual activity with others. These laws vary depending on how old each person involved is along with the differences between the ages of the two parties. The state of Utah’s consensual sex laws may differ from neighboring states, therefore it is essential for teens and young adults to understand the laws of the states where they live or frequent to ensure their sexual activity is not considered a crime.

Consensual sexual activity

In the state of Utah, if two individuals engage in sexual activity where at least one party is a minor, there may be no legal issues as long as the encounter is consensual. There are some instances where regardless of whether or not both parties concede to the activity, it may be against the law.

When one or both parties are too young. Utah Code 76-5-401.3 explains that “unlawful adolescent sexual activity is punishable as a . . . Class C misdemeanor if an adolescent who is 12 or 13 years of age engages in unlawful adolescent sexual activity with an adolescent who is 12 or 13 years of age [or] . . . if an adolescent who is 14 years of age engages in unlawful adolescent sexual activity with an adolescent who is 13 years of age.”

When there is a significant age difference. That same statue warns that older teens who engage in sexual activity with a younger teen will face more severe penalties than teens closer to the same age. For instance, if a 17 year old engages in sexual activity with a 14 year old, they may face a class B misdemeanor. If the younger party is 12 or 13 year old, the older teen may face third degree felony charges.

When one individual involved is an adult. Once a teen is 16 or 17 years old, they are considered more capable of making decisions regarding sexual activity, even if the individual to whom they are engaging in the activity with is an adult. There is an age limit to this law however. Utah Code 76-5-401.2 notes that sexual activity with a 16 or a 17 year old is against the law if the adult involved is “seven or more years older but less than 10 years older than the minor . . . and the individual knew or reasonably should have known the age of the minor; or 10 or more years older than the minor”.

For more information on Romeo and Juliet consensual sex laws in Utah or for legal help regarding charges related to these laws, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Skirmish between Groups of Teens in West Jordan Ends in Shooting

A skirmish between two groups of teens in West Jordan ended in a shooting last week and felony charges could be pending for one young juvenile.

Fight escalates

Photo by: Peter Anderson

One teen was shot and another arrested after a fight broke out between two groups of teens in West Jordan last Sunday evening. The incident, which is said to not be gang-related started for unknown reasons but quickly escalated to rocks being thrown and a gun being fired. One teen was shot multiple times and luckily did not have life-threatening injuries. Another teen who was said to be a 14 year old male was arrested and could face serious charges for shooting the other teen.

Aggravated Assault or worse

Authorities have not released what charges the teen is facing however it is possible the teen could face felony charges for either aggravated assault or a more serious offense such as attempted murder. Aggravated assault is defined by Section 76-5-103 as “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 of 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 . . . ;
ii. any act that impedes the breathing or the circulation of blood of another person. . . ;
iii. other means or force likely to produce death or serious bodily injury.

Aggravated assault is punishable as a third degree felony unless the victim is seriously injured or loses consciousness during the assault at which point the penalty faced would then be a second degree felony.

Increased charges if proven intent

If the teen pulling the trigger had better aim or had the victim been a foot more to one side, the shooting could have been deadly. Some may wonder if the risk of death from the crime would then constitute attempted murder, a first degree felony. Although shooting another individual is likely to cause death, it should not be considered attempted murder unless the shooter pulled the trigger with the intent to kill as stated in section 76-4-101. This pivotal question of intent is likely to arise during legal proceedings however which could dramatically increase the fine and prison term a defendant is facing. Anyone facing aggravated assault charges are encouraged to seek experienced legal representation immediately.