ST. GEORGE — Some don’t bargain for the haunting effect that being branded a criminal or a felon can have on their everyday life, along with the collateral costs and lifelong implications. Some offenses you might think are no big deal can carry big-deal consequences.
Criminal charges will oftentimes show up on a person’s record for the length of that person’s life. Those who have been charged with a crime soon realize there’s a lot more to worry about than the arrest itself. The legal obligation to disclose a criminal record can affect a person’s ability to get a job, housing, loans, public benefits and financial aid for education.
After a person has been convicted of a crime, a judge can impose a sentence that may include a jail or prison term, probation, fine, community service, restitution or a combination of all penalties, as allowed by law.
In Utah, crimes are classified into three categories: felonies, misdemeanors and infractions. Most criminal statutes specify how the crime is classified.
An infraction is a minor offense punishable by a fine only, up to $750. Examples include city traffic violations and some disorderly conduct offenses.
A misdemeanor is an offense lower than a felony that can be punished with a county jail term of up to one year and/or a fine. There are three categories of misdemeanors:
- Class C misdemeanor: Up to 90 days in jail — Up to $750 fine
- Class B misdemeanor: Up to six months in jail — Up to $1,000 fine
- Class A misdemeanor: Up to one year in jail — Up to $2,500 fine
A felony is a “major crime” that can be punished with imprisonment and/or a fine. There are four categories of felonies:
- Third-degree felony: Zero to five years in prison — Up to $5,000 fine
- Second-degree felony: One to 15 years in prison — Up to $10,000 fine
- First-degree felony: Five years to life in prison — Up to $10,000 fine
- Capital offense: Life in prison, life in prison without parole or death
But what are some of the offenses and crimes likely to end you up on the wrong side of the law, and just how easy is it to land yourself in jail? You might be surprised.
Hands to yourself
Most of us learn at a young age that keeping our hands to ourselves is the proper thing to do. As we get a little older and wiser, we learn that not keeping our hands to ourselves may be considered assault. However, many people think of assault as some sort of physical altercation involving contact. But that’s not the case.
While assault, as described by Utah Criminal Code Section 76-5-102, does include shoving or punching another person, it also can include “an attempt, with unlawful force or violence, to do bodily injury to another” or “a threat accompanied by a show of immediate force or violence to do bodily injury to another.”
This means a person could be convicted of assault if they tried to throw a rock at someone’s head but missed or even if they got in someone’s face, threatening to beat them up.
In Utah, an assault charge can range from a class B misdemeanor to a second-degree felony.
Theft can describe many different specific types of crime. In Utah, each has its own criminal statute and charges can also range from a misdemeanor to a felony.
No matter what theft crime a person has been charged with, even a misdemeanor theft conviction on a person’s record can have serious consequences for their future.
Unlike a misdemeanor traffic offense, a theft crime is typically considered a “crime of moral turpitude.” In other words, it is often considered evidence of dishonest behavior that might affect future career prospects and state licensing.
Ancient rock toppling
Two men who were at Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park, leading a group of Boy Scouts, didn’t take into account the severity or consequences of their actions until after they toppled an ancient rock formation on Oct. 11, 2013.
Glenn Tuck Taylor, 45, was charged with third-degree felony criminal mischief for pushing over the rock formation known as a “hoodoo.” He pleaded guilty to attempted criminal mischief, a class A misdemeanor, as part of a deal with Emery County prosecutors.
David Benjamin Hall, 42, was charged with aiding or abetting criminal mischief, also a third-degree felony, but charges were later reduced to attempting to aid or abet criminal mischief, a class A misdemeanor.
Are you guiding within the law?
In 2014, Mike Foote, of St. George, said his security clearance with the U.S. Interior Department, allowing him to work within federal and state government agencies, was in jeopardy due to what he calls a “petty hidden law” he broke and for which he received a citation.
“Every sportsman is guilty of this crime,” Foote said. “Most people who are outdoor enthusiast(s) are guilty of this crime.”
Foote said he received a citation for guiding a hunt without a license after receiving gas money from a friend to help the friend navigate the area.
“Now my career that I’ve worked 10 years for is in jeopardy,” Foote said in 2014. “People need to be aware of this law.”
A catastrophic event
Under Utah code 76-6-105, a person may be charged with “causing a catastrophe” if the person causes widespread injury or damage to others or property by use of a weapon of mass destruction, or by explosion, fire, flood, avalanche, collapse of a building or other harmful or destructive force or substance.
According to the law, a person found guilty of causing a catastrophe will face a first-degree felony if the person causes the catastrophe knowingly and by the use of a weapon of mass destruction; a second-degree felony if the person causes the catastrophe knowingly and by a means other than a weapon of mass destruction; or a class A misdemeanor if the person causes the catastrophe recklessly.
In addition to any other penalty authorized by law, a court shall order any person convicted of any violation of this section to reimburse any federal, state or local unit of government or any private business, organization, individual or entity for all expenses incurred in responding to the violation.
Look Ma, no hands
Sometimes it’s fun to try out a new bicycle trick, but be sure you keep at least one hand on the handlebar because … it’s the law.
Under Utah’s Traffic Code, it is a requirement that a rider keep at least one hand on the handlebars at all times when on a bike or a moped.
Additionally, a person operating a bicycle may not carry any item that prevents the use of both hands in the control and operation of the bicycle.
Utah Code Section 10-8-24 — litter in streets — states that municipalities in Utah may regulate and prevent the throwing or depositing of ashes, offal, dirt, garbage or any offensive matter in any street, sidewalk, avenue, alley, park or public ground.
In 2013, legislators gave final passage on House Bill 328 to raise fines for littering from $100 to $200 and from $250 to $500 for subsequent violations, while raising fines for failing to secure loads on vehicles from $250 to $500 for the first offense and from $500 to $1,000 for subsequent tickets.
In addition to the fines, you can also count on doing several hours of mandatory community service.
Careful, your baggies are showing
Possession of drug paraphernalia is a class B misdemeanor offense, according to Utah Code Section 58-37a-5 — Drug Paraphernalia Act.
A conviction for drug paraphernalia results in a mandatory six-month suspension of a person’s Utah driver’s license. If you’re out of state, Utah suspends your driving “privilege,” which often results in a suspension of your home-state license under the interstate compacts.
Those convicted of drug crimes cannot receive student loans, food stamps or public housing in many states.
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The next time you’re feeling a bit mischievous, it might be a wise idea to take a moment and consider some of the consequences along with the toll it may take on your life … then decide if the crime is worth the risk.
- On the record: Beyond arrest, convictions bring life sentence of hardship
- Woman paints faces defacing 8 national parks including Zion, Canyonlands
- Man faces felony charge for allegedly stealing key chains
- One expensive beer tab? Retail theft arrest
- On the EDge: Throw the book at Goblin Valley vandals
- Perspectives: Rock tipping in a land of overreaction; hoodoo hullabaloo in Goblin Valley
- Photography guide convicted: Illegal activity in Zion’s park wilderness
- Woman paints faces defacing 8 national parks including Zion, Canyonlands
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