DA Considers Death Penalty in Teen Murder

Wendover Nevada Teen Murder Case

Last week, the 18 year old suspect in the Elk Nevada teen murder case was arraigned on serious charges surrounding the murder of a teenage woman in Wendover. This story has been all over the headlines in the past week as more and more details surrounding this unfortunate story begin to surface. It is now being reported that the district attorney on the case is considering pushing for the death penalty. The DA on the case is Mark Torvinen who told reporters he will decide whether or not to make this a capital case based on all the evidence and all the evidence had not yet been obtained or reviewed. An investigation is ongoing and the case is becoming larger on a local and national scale.

About the Case

The Elko County Murder case involves Kody Patten an 18 year old male, who allegedly confessed to striking teenager Micaela Costanzo, a young woman, with a shovel in the west desert just past the Utah border. Detectives reported that the Defendant hit the victim in the head with the shovel and buried her body. So far the defendant has been charged with 1 count of murder and 1 count of murder with deadly weapon. Authorities found the victim’s body outside of Wendover, Nevada, in a shallow grave. The investigation is still taking place but the alleged defendant has already been arraigned.

Murder Charges in Utah

At our law firm, we represent individuals accused of all types of crimes including the most horrific crimes such as murder, attempted murder, and other first degree felonies. We have a team of lawyers who have represented individuals charged with murder and have even achieved not guilty verdicts in some of these tough cases. If you are facing a serious felony charge, speak with a Provo criminal defense lawyer in our office now to get started on your defense.

Searches in Provo by Private Parties May Require a Warrant

Fourth Amendment Applies Only to the Government

The Fourth Amendment prohibits unlawful searches or seizures in Provo.  A Provo law enforcement officer must receive a search warrant first to search people’s property.  Only in certain circumstances may an officer search without first obtaining a search warrant.

The Fourth Amendment applies only to governmental, not private, conduct in Utah.  Where the actor is an agent of federal, state, or local government, this requirement is met.  Where, however, a private party acting on his own accord acquires evidence that the government later seeks to introduce in a criminal case, neither the Fourth Amendment nor its exclusionary remedy is implicated.

A Private Individual Can Implement the Fourth Amendment

When a private individual acts at the direction of a government agent or pursuant to an official policy in Utah, the search implicates the Amendment.  Thus where a police officer directs an airline or hotel employee to open a travelers suitcase, the Fourth Amendment is triggered.

Two factors considered in determining whether the private party is acting as an instrument of the state are: 1.) the degree of government encouragement, knowledge, or acquiesce with regard to a private actor’s conduct; and 2.) the purpose underlying the private party’s action was pursuing a governmental interests. If the private party acted to promote his own personal or business objectives, the action would be private in nature.

Thus when an airline employee opened a suspicious package and turned the white powder found inside over to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the search was not deemed purely private because: 1.) the employee had previously reported information and turned over packages to the DEA on 11 occasions, sometimes receiving a small payment, and thus acted with the governments acquiescence; and 2.) he testified that he opened the package in order to discover evidence of a crime, with the expectation of a reward from the DEA, and not for any purpose of his employer.  The Fourth Amendment was therefore triggered.

Make Sure Your Property was Searched with a Warrant

Provo law enforcement must have a search warrant to search your property.  A private party must also have a search warrant if he is acting on behalf of law enforcement.  If you have been searched without a warrant then call an attorney from Criminal Defense Provo.  A criminal defense lawyer will help protect your rights and fight to keep materials acquired without a search warrant by police from being used against you in a criminal case.  Call 801.800.8246 for a free consultation.

Invoking Your Miranda Rights

What are Your Miranda Rights?

Many people know a little bit about the Miranda Warnings from watching cops shows on TV. What many people do not realize is that if a cop fails to read you your Miranda Rights prior to interrogating you, any statements you gave may be thrown out by the court at a later time. There are also some exceptions to the general rules so it always helps to consult a Provo criminal defense attorney to discuss your specific case. In some cases, failing to read you your Miranda rights may even leads to a dismissal of the charges against you where it would be difficult for the prosecutor to proceed without being able to introduce evidence of statements made.

The Police Must Advise You of Your Rights

Simply stated, your Miranda rights are as follows:

  1. You have the right to remain silent.
  2. Anything you say may be used against you at court.
  3. You have the right to a lawyer.
  4. Your lawyer can be present during questioning.
  5. If you can not afford to hire a lawyer, one will be appointed to you.
  6. You have the right to terminate questioning by the police.

These are important rights and all too many cases, individuals who are arrested waive these rights unnecessarily. In some instances, improper pressure is put on the people in custody and they mistakenly believe they have to communicate and cooperate with law enforcement. The best practice is to invoke your rights and ask to speak with a lawyer prior to giving any statements to authorities.

Provo Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you have been arrested, if the police want to question you, we can help. Before you do anything, speak with a Provo defense lawyer at our office today. We provide free consultations and can help ensure your rights are protected. Call us at 1-801-900-3717 today.

Provo Council Kills Daytime Truancy Ordinance

Provo’s Proposed Daytime Truancy Ordinance

The Provo City Council has recently been considering  a new ordinance severely affecting the rights of minors.  A council member proposed a city ordinance making it a Class B misdemeanor crime for children ages 6 through 17 to be truant.  A police officer would have the authority to stop a child if the child was in a public place and issue a citation to the child for not being in school.  This daytime truancy ordinance would criminalize any child who was not in school.

Provo Residents’ Outcry

Many Provo residents, and other Utah residents as well, were highly alarmed at the proposal’s far-reaching grip.  People were afraid the ordinance would allow police officers to stop homeschooled children and issue them citations.  Also, Provo is home to Brigham Young University and some students at the university are under the age of 18.  Police officers finding a college student in a public place who looked under 18 could issue a citation.

The Provo City ordinance would give the police broad powers to stop any person who looked under 18 years old and question them during school hours.  The ordinance would restrict the movement of children and usurp the authority of parents to decide what is best for their children.  The alarming ordinance would add a burden to police officers by making them criminalize someone as young as 6 years old.

Peaceful Protest Kills Proposal

Fortunately though, the proposal has been killed because of peaceful protesters raising an outcry to the bill.  Yesterday approximately 250 protesters, some of them children, gathered at the Provo City Building to oppose the ordinance.  The protesters peacefully demonstrated their displeasure with the proposal.  Because of these protesters, along with others who sent hundreds of emails and phone calls to the Provo Mayor, the proposal was killed even before the council discussed it during the council meeting last night.

Provo Attorneys Will Protect Juvenile’s Rights

While this daytime truancy ordinance is dead, truancy laws still exist.  If your child has truancy crimes or other juvenile crimes pending, call the attorneys of the Criminal Defense Provo law firm at 801.800.8246.  Our experienced lawyers will protect unjust decisions against juveniles by the juvenile courts.  Minors have rights under the law just like adults and the lawyers at Criminal Defense Provo law firm will protect those rights.

Utah Justice Courts Come Under Fire

Provo Criminal Defense Lawyer Protecting Your Rights in Justice Court

In a report on KSL tonight, the Utah Justice Court system is questioned.  The report suggests that some justice courts are more interested in collecting money for the municipality than providing a means of justice.

You can watch the video report and read the written report here.

Justice Courts are certainly money machines for cities and counties and in our experience they do sometimes act outside of constitutional and statutory bounds, but for the most part justice court judges are concerned about protecting the rights of the accused.  Unfortunately, there are a few bad apples which give the entire system a bad rap.

De Novo Appeal as a Matter of Right

Fortunately, if a Justice Court acts inappropriately you have a right to appeal de novo.  What this means is that if you do not like the result of your case you simply appeal it to the District Court and you can start over.  When you appeal to the District Court you can have a new trial and a new jury.  Anything and everything that happened in the Justice Court simply goes away as though it never occurred.

Making a Record in Justice Court

The KSL report suggests that one remedy to the problems associated with Justice Court is to put a recorder in every Justice Court so that everything the judge says is digitally recorded.  This will force judges to keep themselves in check and to make sure that everything they do is legal.  This has probably not occurred yet because of the right to a de novo appeal.

Protecting the Rights of Justice Court Defendants

If you are facing a DUI, drug charges, or other offense in Justice Court it is best that you have an attorney to protect your rights.  The law firm of Provo Criminal Defense will protect you and if the Justice Court does anything improper we will appeal to the District Court to make sure that wrong is remedied.  Call us anytime at 801.800.8246.