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.

Criminal Defamation Charges for Creating Fake Social Media Accounts

Using the internet to slander or hurt another person such as creating face social media accounts may result in teens facing criminal defamation charges.

Tech age

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Much of the communications going on between teenagers takes place over electronic devices through the use of text messaging as well as social media apps including Instagram, SnapChat, and Facebook. Often when things go sour, teens will take to the internet to simply vent and sometimes to retaliate on those who wronged them. Long ago were the days of whispering gossip in the school halls, as now everything is done from a teen’s cell phone. Malicious posts, IM’s, and even seconds long messages can spread like wildfire on social media, causing a lot of damage in its wake.

Fake social media accounts

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One very damaging way that teens may lash out at one another online is by creating fake social media accounts. These fake social media accounts are created to look as though they belong to the other person, leaving the begrudged peer open to ruin the other’s online reputation. Fake social media accounts are simple to set up and usually free as well. All that is needed is an email address which is also simple to obtain and a fake name, or the exact name of the detested teen. Photos can be easily stolen from the profiles of online accounts and teens then have a way to get revenge on those they loathe.

Digital footprint

Photo by: G =]

What happens on the internet stays on the internet and leaves a digital footprint there as well. Although social media accounts and email servers don’t require identification and can be created using phony information, law enforcement has ways to tie these malicious accounts back to the person that created them. When online communications are being spread at another’s expense, the aggressor could face criminal defamation charges.

Criminal defamation

Criminal Defamation
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Utah Code 76-9-404 states: “A person is guilty of criminal defamation if he knowingly communicates to any person orally or in writing [or online] any information which he knows to be false and knows will tend to expose any other living person to public hatred, contempt, or ridicule. Criminal defamation is a class B misdemeanor”, punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine up to $1,000. Additionally, if any personal information about a minor is shared on the fake social media account without permission, the accused may also face a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of $2,500. Teens who are facing criminal charges for publicly slandering another online are encouraged to immediately seek legal counsel with their parents.

Pool Hopping and Trespassing Charges

Pool hopping is a popular nighttime activity among Utah teenagers, however it can lead to trespassing charges or serious injury.

Pool hopping

Pool Hopping
Photo by: Andy Blackledge

Pool hopping consists of a small to large group of friends who hop from one pool to another, typically late at night. This is done without permission from the owners of the pool and can take place at hotels, community clubs, private backyard pools, or all of the above. One of the goals of pool hopping is to see how many different pools the group can hop before the night is through or until they get caught.

Busted

One of the known thrills of pool hopping is the possibility of getting busted by the pool owners. More often than not, when the pool hoppers are discovered, the owners of the pool simply chastise the youngsters and nothing else. Those kids who get off with a simple warning however should consider themselves lucky. Others who are not as fortunate end up stunned when the pool owners decide to press trespassing charges.

Trespassing

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In the state of Utah, pools are required to be located behind fences that are secured with a lock in order to protect small children who may wander near the open water. Since the pools are so obviously enclosed, the do not require “no trespassing” signs. Teens that make the mistake of climbing over fences or otherwise unlawfully gain entry to a locked pool building are trespassing, even if they do not plan on doing anything other than swim. Utah Code 76-6-206 states: “A person is guilty of criminal trespass if ( . . . ):

“knowing the person’s ( . . . ) presence is unlawful, the person enters or remains on ( . . . ) property to which notice against entering is given by:

(i) personal communication to the person by the owner or someone with apparent authority to act for the owner;

(ii) fencing or other enclosure obviously designed to exclude intruders; or

(iii) posting of signs reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders; ( . . . )”

Trespassing in a pool without permission is a class B misdemeanor unless the pool is located within a home; in that case the charge would be increased to a class A misdemeanor.

Poor choice of summer activity

Photo by: Oregon Department of Transportation

Most teens that go pool hopping are unaware of the legal implications that can result of their nighttime activity or of the possible danger involved. Not only can teens face serious trespassing charges, they put themselves in harm’s way by using a body of water at night when it is more difficult for others to notice if someone in the group is in distress. Teens are encouraged to avoid this criminal summer fun and instead seek permission from pool owners if they have a desire to swim. For those who are already facing criminal charges for pool hopping, contact a juvenile defense attorney regarding legal defense for trespassing charges.

Party to a Crime in Utah

Hanging out with the wrong crowd has a potential to lead to trouble for Utah teens, and being an indirect party to a crime may result in charges.

Responsible for the actions of friends?

Photo by: Tony Alter
Photo by: Tony Alter

Each teenager has their own agency and is able to choose for themselves if they are going to be law abiding citizens or not. They may plead with their parents to allow them to hang out with friends who have a tendency to get into trouble; perhaps with the intent on being a good example to those friends. Unfortunately, being with others who are breaking the law could result in criminal penalties, even if a minor is not directly involved.

Criminal conduct

Utah Code 76-2-101 states “A person is not guilty of an offense unless the person’s conduct is prohibited by law” however conduct does not have to be the direct action of a crime. Utah code 76-2-202 adds that besides the individual “who directly commits the offense, [every person] 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.”

Party to a crime

Party to a Crime
Photo by: Tyrone Daryl

Being a party to a crime does not have to involve direct involvement. It could be driving a friend to a place where a crime is going to be committed. It may consist of rallying with a group of friends while planning to break the law, even if the individual decides to back out at the last minute. It can also involve asking someone to do something illegal, whether or not the request was sincere or not.

No criminal intent

There are times when a teen has no desire of committing a crime or being a party to a crime but ends up with others who do. They may have had no previous knowledge of what was in store and would not have been in that situation if they had known. All teens facing criminal charges for being a party to a crime or in the wrong place at the wrong time should have their parents consult with a knowledgeable juvenile defender to discuss defense options.

Fight Nights Remain Popular among Teens and Everyone is talking about it

As a popular, yet absurd way to pass the time, fight nights remain popular among Utah teens and everyone is talking about it, even parents.

Boredom buster

Fight Nights
Photo by: Milos Milosevic

Fight nights became popular after the 1999 film Fight Club that glorified organized violence as a fun activity to pass the time. Nearly two decades later, these violent get togethers continue to be a favorite pastime and the younger generation is keeping it going strong. A group of teens in southern Utah recently participated in a fight club as a way to kick off the summer during senior sunrise.

Organized violence

Most fight nights in Utah are at least somewhat organized as someone thinks enough of it to bring boxing gloves to a get together. There are many times when fight nights are well thought out and planned, with some events demanding an entrance fee to participate or view.

Physical injuries

While physical injury is expected, teens often don’t understand that fight nights don’t always end with a simple split lip or bloody nose. Concussions, knocked out teeth, and broken noses or other bones are common and can have unexpected recovery times and medical costs. Beyond physical injuries, these types of events can also damage a teen emotionally.

Emotional injuries

Photo by: Ian T. Macfarland
Photo by: Ian T. Macfarland

While some fight nights only see contestants fighting who desired to participate, others may involve someone calling another person out and putting them on the spot to fight or flee. Teens who originally had no intention to fight may feel pressured to participate to save themselves from being humiliated. Others who refuse or those who lose mercilessly may be publicly taunted and tormented by their peers.

Criminal charges for fight nights

If physical and emotional injuries aren’t enough to deter teens from participating in fight nights, maybe criminal charges will get their attention. Utah Code 63N-10-306 states that “Club fighting is prohibited. Any person who publicizes, promotes, conducts, or engages in a club fighting match is guilty of a class A misdemeanor.” Those charges could result in a year behind bars and a fine of up to $2,500. Parents who allow or even supervise their teens to participate in fight nights can also face criminal charges. As teens attempt to fill their summer with fun and exciting activities, it is important to discourage organized violence as a way to beat the summer boredom.