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Is it Legal to Record the Salt Lake City Police Department?

Is it Legal to Record the Salt Lake City Police Department?

Violent, sometimes deadly clashes between police officers and civilians have been a major national topic during the past few years.  While some departments have taken steps toward mending community relations, many Utahans are still dissatisfied with the level of transparency surrounding arrests and police stops, especially in places like Salt Lake City, Saratoga Springs, and other cities that have experienced recent police shootings.  With Gallup polls reporting confidence in law enforcement at its lowest point since 1993 — the year after the L.A. riots — many concerned Americans have gained interest in filming police activities.  Here, Utah disorderly conduct lawyer Darwin Overson explains whether it is legal to film the police — and what to do if you get arrested for recording an officer in the Salt Lake City Police Department. Glik Ruling Protects Your Legal Right to Record Members of Law Enforcement The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled that civilians have the right to record police officers in Glik v. Cunniffe (2011), a case which arose after Simon Glik, a resident of Massachusetts, recorded Boston police officers conducting an arrest at a public park. Glik was immediately placed under arrest for recording the incident, and, after being criminally charged with wiretapping and other offenses, filed a lawsuit against Boston and his arresting officers, asserting the police had violated his Constitutional rights by arresting him for filming.  In a victory for civil rights, the court unanimously held that Glik’s rights had indeed been violated, noting that “a citizen’s right to film government officials, including law enforcement officers, in the discharge of their duties in...
Does Utah Have Stand Your Ground Laws?

Does Utah Have Stand Your Ground Laws?

Utah belongs to a majority of states which have “stand your ground” laws.  These laws, which became a subject of renewed controversy after the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin in 2012, grant the right to use potentially lethal force against an attacker or home invader who poses an immediate risk of death or severe injury.  Here, Salt Lake City assault lawyer Darwin Overson explains how stand your ground laws can impact defendants who have been charged with violent crimes in Utah. Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman Spark Controversy over Stand Your Ground Laws Stand your ground laws entered the national spotlight near the end of February 2012, when Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old resident of Sanford, Florida, was fatally wounded by George Zimmerman.  Zimmerman, 29, fired a Kel-Tec PF-9 pistol at Martin’s chest after becoming suspicious that the teen was planning to commit a break-in. Zimmerman was subsequently detained and questioned by police, and eventually, charged with murder.  After a heavily publicized trial which lasted from June 10 to July 13, 2013, Zimmerman was acquitted (found not guilty) by a jury of six. The verdict, which received a tremendous amount of media coverage, ignited a national conversation about the legality of shooting in self-defense.  However, stand your ground laws actually predate the case by several decades.  Utah, for example, has had stand your ground laws since 1994, long before Florida adopted them in 2005.  Utah’s law originated in a bill sponsored by Rep. Steve Barth (D-Salt Lake City), HB13, which was drafted with the intent to help domestic violence victims protect themselves. In July 2009, an incident similar to the Martin...
Faulty Evidence Leads to New Trial for Orem Man Convicted of Murder

Faulty Evidence Leads to New Trial for Orem Man Convicted of Murder

Nearly four years ago, Conrad Truman was charged with the murder of his wife, Heidy Truman, in the couple’s Orem home.  He was convicted and sentenced to 16 years in prison, and the case appeared to be over.  However, the recent emergence of new information has thrown a wrench into key evidence used to convict Truman, leading Judge Samuel McVey to order a new trial, setting aside the original guilty verdict.  Salt Lake homicide attorney Darwin Overson explains how new evidence is turning the Truman case on its head. Conrad Truman Convicted of Wife’s Murder, Sentenced to 16 Years in Prison On October 1, 2012, 911 dispatchers received a frantic call from 32-year-old Orem resident Conrad Truman. “She was in the shower,” Truman panicked, “she came out of the shower, I heard a ‘pop,’ and there’s blood, it’s her blood.” Medical personnel arrived at the house to find Truman’s wife, 25-year-old Heidy Truman, lying dead on the floor of the couple’s kitchen.  The cause of death was a gunshot to the head – and police were certain it was Conrad Truman’s finger that had pulled the trigger. “Conrad threatened to kill Orem officers and EMS workers as they attempted to help his wife,” the police report stated.  “Blood was found on Conrad’s person, and blood was found on the stairs, front entry way to the home, several walls and in the living room on the couches, bedroom wall and bathroom wall.” Police officers were also suspicious of Truman’s conflicting accounts of Heidy’s death.  After initially describing the death as a suicide, Truman then suggested the death was a murder. ...
Salt Lake Prosecutor Calls for Tougher Penalties for Hate Crimes in Utah

Salt Lake Prosecutor Calls for Tougher Penalties for Hate Crimes in Utah

Many crimes can be charged as hate crimes in Utah, including simple assault, criminal trespass, theft, and making threats with dangerous weapons.  Though hate crimes are currently subject to sentencing enhancements — a topic we explored in our article on Utah’s hate crime laws — some prosecutors and lawmakers are now advocating for tougher penalties. D.A. Wants Utah’s Hate Crime Law to Include Felony Sentencing Enhancements Nearly 1,300 hate crimes have been reported in Utah during the past two decades, recently including an alleged assault by two Wyoming men, Chad Doak and Eric Johnson, on two gay men, Maxwell Christen and Rusty Andrade, at Club JAM, a gay bar in Salt Lake City.  The week before, Judge G. Michael Westfall rescheduled the trial of a married couple, Mayra Dinora Casas and Mohamed Fathi Mohamed Qanaw, who were charged with assault, robbery, and criminal mischief against a gay resident of St. George. There have been numerous prosecutions of defendants charged with hate crimes, but few convictions under Utah’s existing hate crime law, which Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill described as an “[un]workable statute.” On August 4, Gill appeared on a panel of activists and police officers to discuss Utah’s need for legislative reforms before a crowd of roughly 50 attendees.  At the panel, which was hosted by the NAACP and the Utah Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Commission, Gill described the existing statute as a “toothless tiger.” The “toothless tiger,” which is located at Utah Code § 76-3-203.3, creates sentencing enhancements for misdemeanor hate crimes, allowing a Class C misdemeanor to be charged as a Class B...
Draper Police: More Minors Buying Alcohol Underage as Liquor Stores Fail to ID Customers

Draper Police: More Minors Buying Alcohol Underage as Liquor Stores Fail to ID Customers

Summer is the perfect season to kick back, barbecue, and party with your friends and loved ones.  That’s perfectly fine for responsible adults, assuming they avoid driving under the influence — but for minors who are under the legal drinking age of 21, buying or drinking alcohol can lead to serious consequences. Draper PD Reports Spike in Alcohol Sales to Teens and Minors Buying alcohol should be tough for a teenager, who can expect to be carded at any liquor store.  Yet the Draper Police Department reports that local businesses are now failing alcohol compliance checks — which scrutinize retailers to make sure they aren’t selling beer, wine, or liquor to underage shoppers — at a greater rate than they have in the past. The test itself is simple.  The police send a teenager into a liquor store, and if the store makes the sale, it fails. “We just cannot make it permissible,” Draper Deputy Police Chief John Eining told local business owners, “for our salespeople to sell alcohol to minors.” According to a report by the Utah Department of Human Services, Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, almost 6% of students in Utah take their first drink in sixth grade, when most children are 11 or 12 years old.  Nearly 14% have their first drink in eighth grade, around age 13 or 14.  Over a quarter have it in grade 10, when the typical student is 15 or 16.  And for nearly a third of students, the first drink comes during twelfth grade, when most students are 17 or 18.  Underage drinking was found to be substantially...
Are Salt Lake City Police Required to Wear Body Cameras?

Are Salt Lake City Police Required to Wear Body Cameras?

The deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, and other victims have increased public awareness of police brutality in recent years, leading activists and lawmakers to call for greater oversight of departments throughout the country.  In an effort to help hold officers accountable for violent crimes against civilians by providing clear and objective records of police confrontations, many states, including Utah, have implemented stricter standards for the use of body cameras. Do SLCPD Officers Use Body Cameras, and Does it Reduce Police Misconduct? Hundreds of bills found their way to the desk of Governor Gary Herbert as a result of the 2016 Utah State Legislature; among them, H.B. 300: a bill regulating the usage of body cameras among Utah police officers.  The Governor signed the bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Daniel McCay (R-Riverton), on March 30, 2016.  While the bill doesn’t mandate the use of body cameras within Utah police departments, it does create a set of statewide minimum standards each participating department must adhere to. Among those departments is Salt Lake City, whose police officers have been using body cameras since 2013.  The department started out with a shipment of just 15 cameras, a number which, according to the SLCPD website, swelled to nearly 300 units by the end of the year. Research has shown that body cameras can help to effectively reduce the rate of police misconduct and violence.  A study conducted on the Orlando Police Department by the University of South Florida, which compared 46 officers who wore body cameras against 43 officers who did not, revealed a 53% drop in use-of-force incidents, as...
Is Exploring an Abandoned Building Considered to Be Trespassing Under Utah’s Criminal Code?

Is Exploring an Abandoned Building Considered to Be Trespassing Under Utah’s Criminal Code?

Exploring abandoned properties is a hobby for many Americans, as evidenced by the countless websites filled with photographs of eerie, overgrown factories, hotels, and hospitals.  Urban exploration might deliver a thrill, but it also delivers some legal hazards.  Not only is there a risk of getting seriously injured — there’s also a possibility you could be charged with trespassing for breaking into a deserted or vacant structure. Is it Illegal to Enter an Abandoned Property or Structure? There are plenty of abandoned buildings and properties scattered throughout Utah, as there are in any state.  A website called “Urban Exploration Resource” lists examples in several of Utah’s cities, complete with recommendations for (or against) exploring each property based on how difficult it is to get inside. Yet Urban Exploration Resource is only a drop in the bucket.  If you Google the phrase “urban exploration tips,” you’ll see almost 20 million results offering advice for breaking into abandoned buildings without getting caught.  Any teenager with internet access can easily find loads of information about exactly how, where, and when to explore the abandoned properties in their town. Urban exploration might seem like a harmless pastime — at least, until a rotten floorboard gives way — but that still doesn’t make it legal.  This might be unwelcome news for fans of the hobby, but getting a glimpse of that creepy, crumbling ballroom or operating theatre really isn’t worth the potential legal problems that could result (to say nothing of the potential for serious injury, or a confrontation with a startled squatter). Some people assume that, because a property has been deserted by...
Nevada Recognizes Utah Concealed Carry Permits Under New Gun Law

Nevada Recognizes Utah Concealed Carry Permits Under New Gun Law

Reciprocity agreements allow gun owners to carry firearms between states without fear of being charged with gun crimes.  Utah shooting and hunting enthusiasts scored a legal victory in July, when Nevada adopted legislation recognizing concealed carry permits issued in Utah. Is it Legal to Carry a Concealed Weapon in Nevada with a Utah CCW Permit? Some states are more lenient than others when it comes to the restriction of gun rights.  For example, Guns & Ammo ranks New York and New Jersey as some of the toughest, while Arizona and Vermont score high marks. Differences between states’ gun laws — which can be vast, even between neighboring states — sometimes create serious legal problems when it comes to interstate travel.  Just ask Pennsylvania resident Shaneen Allen, who was arrested in New Jersey for a gun she owned legally under her home state’s laws. Allen, a nurse and mother of two with no criminal record, was eventually pardoned by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie after her prosecution, which one attorney described to the Washington Post as “unconscionable,” stirred up legal controversy.  Many cases like Allen’s do not end so fortunately for the defendant, but hers is a situation lawful gun owners in Utah will no longer risk encountering — at least, not when traveling to Nevada. The new law, which was part of a legislative overhaul signed by Governor Brian Sandoval in 2015, took effect in Nevada on July 1, 2016.  It adds 10 states, Utah among them, to Nevada’s reciprocity list, expanding member states from 16 to 26. Nevada’s new gun reciprocity with Utah applies to visitors and residents...
Common Reasons a Request for Parole Might Be Denied

Common Reasons a Request for Parole Might Be Denied

When a person is placed on parole, it means they will be released from prison before serving their full sentence.  In Utah, parole decisions are made by the Board of Pardons and Parole (BOPP), which you can read about in our article on how parole decisions are made in Utah.  Here, we’ll be focusing on some common issues that might cause an inmate’s request for parole to be denied. Why Would the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole Deny an Inmate’s Request for Release? According to the National Institute of Corrections, 161 out of every 100,000 people in Utah were parolees as of 2014.  With a state population of 2.9 million, that’s roughly 4,670 Utahans. While parole is a possibility for many convicted offenders, including some who have been convicted of serious felonies, it isn’t granted to everyone.  The BOPP decides to grant or deny parole on a case-by-case basis by evaluating each inmate across a list of many different standards and criteria.  Depending on how the inmate meets these criteria, his or her request for parole could be denied.  Some common reasons this can happen include: Releasing the inmate would endanger the community. Protecting the general public is a priority for the BOPP.  If the inmate threatened a specific individual, or has a history of violent crimes, parole may be denied in the interest of public safety. The inmate’s crimes have become more serious over time. In cases where the inmate has a history of prior offenses, an escalation in the severity of the offenses is a red flag for the BOPP. The inmate is still in the...
Pokemon GO App Leads to Trespassing Arrests, Criminal Charges for Players in Utah

Pokemon GO App Leads to Trespassing Arrests, Criminal Charges for Players in Utah

The Pokémon GO app for iPhone and Android became an overnight sensation after its release on July 6, racking up millions of downloads in a matter of days.  The game merges real life with virtual reality, steering players toward virtual Pokémon “located” at physical sites around their cities and neighborhoods.  Unfortunately, some of these sites happen to be people’s homes and backyards, leading to a spate of trespassing charges in Utah and across the U.S. Police Departments in Utah, Across U.S. Arresting Pokemon GO Fans for Trespassing Fans love Pokémon GO for its nostalgic nod to the craze that “captured” America during the nineties. However, it hasn’t all been fun and games.  Just ask Ethan Goodwin, a 17-year-old resident of Tremonton, Box Elder County, who received a ticket for trespassing in a warehouse on his quest to catch more Pokémon. “I wouldn’t say it was worth it,” the Utah teen said, “but I would say I’m glad I have the Pokémon I have now.  It’s a dumb game,” Goodwin added, “really, really stupid.” Yet Goodwin is lucky.  Trespassing is a criminal offense under state law, which, under Utah Code § 76-6-206, makes criminal trespass a Class B or, when the property is somebody’s home, even a Class A misdemeanor — the most serious type of misdemeanor that exists within Utah’s system for classifying crimes.  Had Goodwin been prosecuted and sentenced instead of receiving a ticket, he could have been facing fines as great as $2,500, if the property was a dwelling instead of a warehouse.  Had he been just a year older, he could have even been jailed for...