Police Can Make Mistakes In Developing Reasonable Suspicion

Before a law enforcement officer can stop a driver he must first have reasonable suspicion that the driver has committed a criminal offense.  When it comes to driving that means that any minor traffic violation warrants a stop based on reasonable suspicion.  Although this is troubling in and of itself, it is even more troubling that if a police officer makes a mistake in developing reasonable suspicion, there is no remedy for the unwarranted stop.

In State v. Applegate, 2008 UT 63, the Utah Supreme Court addressed this very issue.  In that case the defendant had been driving a car with Colorado license plates and an officer had observed her driving this car for approximately five months.  The officer pulled her on grounds that the vehicle should have been registered in Utah within 60 days.  After pulling her over he developed reasonable suspicion that she was impaired.  He conducted field sobriety tests and arrested her for driving under the influence.  A subsequent chemical test revealed that she had meth in her system.  Marijuana was found in her vehicle.

She challenged the search by arguing that the officer did not have reasonable suspicion because she was not the owner of the vehicle, and therefore, she was not in violation of not having registered the vehicle in Utah.  Since she wasn’t violating any traffic laws, the stop was illegal.  The Utah Supreme Court did not agree.  The officer was not required “to rule out innocent conduct prior to the stop.  Instead, he was only required to reasonably suspect that [the driver] was violating any one of the multitude of applicable traffic… regulations.”  Because the officer suspected that the driver was violating the law, that was enough.  So basically, law enforcement doesn’t even have to be right, they just have to have a hunch that someone is violating a law.

Perhaps you have been arrested as a result of a traffic stop.  Call our criminal defense lawyers for more information about whether the officer involved in your case had the requisite reasonable suspicion to stop your vehicle.

Fines for Poaching in Utah County

Wanton Destruction of Wildlife | Poaching

The legal term for poaching is “wanton destruction of wildlife” and the offense can range between a minor misdemeanor and a serious felony.  Whether it is a felony or misdemeanor all depends on the value, as proscribed by statute, of the protected wildlife that was captured, injured, or destroyed.  Basically if the aggregate value of the protected wildlife is $500 or more, it is a felony; more than $250 but less than $500, a class A misdemeanor; $250 and less, a class B misdemeanor.  Likewise, if it is a trophy animal, it is an automatic felony.

Values of Protected Wildlife

The value of trophy animals are: $30,000 for bighorn, desert, or rocky mountain sheep; $8,000 for deer; $8,000 for elk; $6,000 for moose or mountain goats; $6,000 for bison; and $2,000 for pronghorn antelope.

For non-trophy animals the values are

  • $1,000 for bison, bighorn sheeps, rocky mountain goats, moose, bears, peregrine falcons, bald eagles, and endangered species;
  • $750 for elk and threatened species;
  • $500 for cougars, golden eagles, river otters, and gila monsters;
  • $400 for pronghorns and deer;
  • $350 for bobcats;
  • $100 for swans, sandhill cranes, turkey, pelican, loon, egrets, herons, raptors, Utah milk snake, and Utah mountain king snakes;
  • $10-$25 for different types of fish; and
  • $15 for game birds.

The Dr. Martin MacNeill Murder Trial

The Dr. Martin MacNeill murder trial in Provo, Utah, has been getting a lot of national attention over the past several weeks. It seems at the moment, this is the most followed trial in the national press. It is not often a Provo, Utah case gets this much attention but when one considers the allegations, it is easy to understand why. This case involves the now infamous Dr. accused of killing his wife. The cause of death was originally determined to be cardiovascular disease but after daughter’s of the Dr. pushed the issue, charges were brought and now Dr. MacNeill is facing a murder charge. For those of you who have not been following the case, here is the summary to date:

Background of Allegations

The prosecution alleges Dr. MacNeill was living a double life. On the surface he appeared to be an accomplished physician and lawyer but behind closed doors he was engaged in multiple affairs and fought regularly with his wife the former beauty queen. Dr. MacNeill allegedly convinced his wife to undergo a face lift. Soon after the procedure, Mrs. MacNeill was founds dead in her bathtub with several medications including oxycodone in her system. Initially, the autopsy concluded the cause of death was cardiac in nature but was later amended to include drug toxicity and was categorized as undetermined. Daughter’s of Dr. MacNeill apparently believe he killed their mother and pushed the issue with prosecutors.

Trial Procedure

Currently the trial is in full swing with experts and several witnesses testifying for the prosecution. Dr. MacNeill’s daughters testified and were cross examined by the defense. Additionally, Dr. MacNeill’s mistress testified on behalf of the prosecution. Recently, the judge ruled former inmates with D.r MacNeill may testify as to statements the Dr. may or may not have made while he was previously incarcerated. Several other motions have laid the out the rules for what testimony is admissible etc.


Check back for updates as we will continue to post as new developments in the case come up. It will be interesting to see how the defense responds to the testimony of the former inmates and whether or not a jury will find their testimony credible. It will also be interesting to see what witnesses are called on behalf of the defendant and what tricks, if any, the defense has up their sleeve.

Utah County District Attorney Doesn’t Give Pleas in Abeyance

A plea in abeyance is when an individual who is being charged with a crime is given a chance to enter into an agreement with the prosecuting attorney so that if the defendant completes certain terms during a defined time period, the case will be dismissed.

For example, let’s say that you are being charged with domestic violence assault in the Utah County Justice Court and it is the first time you have ever had to face criminal charges in your life.  Normally, in another county, you would be eligible for a plea in abeyance.  In such a case you would pay a “fee” (not a fine), take an anger management class, and not get in trouble for 12 months and then the case would be dismissed and you could get the arrest record expunged right after that.  Sounds pretty good and pretty fair, doesn’t it.

For whatever reason, the Utah County District Attorney’s Office doesn’t offer pleas in abeyance.  So in the case of the first time domestic violence charges, you would not get the benefit of being able to get that case dismissed after 12 months.  Instead, you would be forced to either take a plea to a lesser offense, plea straight up, or go to trial and take your chances with a jury.

While you certainly don’t have a right to enter into a plea in abeyance agreement with a prosecutor, Utah County is certainly out of the norm.  Most counties offer pleas in abeyance.  It is a just way to approach the criminal process.  Someone who made a mistake and is not a repeat offender should be given a second chance but should also be held accountable.  That is exactly what a plea in abeyance does: it keeps offenders responsible but gives them the ability to work through it in a way that will not ruin their future.

Utah DUI Sentencing Matrix

The Utah DUI Sentencing Matrix is a chart published by the Utah State Judicial Counsel demonstrating the guidelines for DUI sentencing. If you have been charged with a DUI in Utah County and are curious as to what your possible range of penalties could include, knowing and understanding the DUI sentencing matrix in this state can be extremely helpful. Here are a few of the highlights anyone charged with a DUI in Utah should know:

  • A first offense is charged as a class B misdemeanor unless it involves (1) bodily injury; (2) a 16 year old or younger passenger; or (3) passenger of 18 and driver is over 21. If there is serious bodily injury or death, it may be charged as a felony.
  • A second offense within 10 years is also charged as a class B misdemeanor unless any of the exceptions stated above apply.
  • A third offense is charged as a third degree felony but can be enhanced if (1) the DUI results in serious bodily injury or (2) a prior conviction for automobile homicide.

Possible Jail Time Under Sentencing Matrix

Of course a big concern for anyone charged with a DUI in Utah is whether or not they will have to serve any jail time and if so, how many days. The DUI Sentencing Matrix calls for the following:

  • A first offense carries at least 48 hours of jail or the applicable amount of time in community service hours or electronic home confinement.
  • A second offense carries at least 10 days in jail or the applicable amount of time in community service hours or electronic home confinement.
  • A third offense carries at least 62.5 days in jail but the court may order electronic home confinement.

Additional Considerations

Besides the penalties described above, there are additional considerations that may have an impact on where you fall under the DUI sentencing guidelines in Utah. For instance, if you have a high BAC, .16 or higher, you may be required to have an ignition interlock installed and will have supervised probation. There is a lot on the line when it comes to being charged with a DUI in Provo so help from a Provo DUI Defense Attorney can be incredibly valuable. We can provide a copy of the DUI Sentencing Matrix in Utah, for this, more information, or to speak with a qualified DUI Defense Lawyer in our office today, call now.

Wasatch County Prosecutor Files Charges in Cold Case

In December 1995,  17-year-old Krystal Beslanowitch’s body was found in the Provo River near Midway, Utah. She was found naked and it was determined that she had been bludgeoned to death by a rock. The police were unable to connect the girl’s death to any suspects and the case went cold until earlier this week when Joseph Simpson was charged with first degree murder of Ms. Beslanowitch.

Simpson, a former resident of Utah who now lives in Florida was charged with the murder earlier this week and will be extradited from Florida to stand trial in Heber. He has already been convicted and served time for a murder in Farmington, Utah in 1987 and was then released on parole in 1995. The murder took place about 8 months after he was released from prison. The new charge was brought against Simpson after some new DNA evidence linked him to the case.

Don’t Let Tailgating Turn Into a DUI

This weekend is the much anticipated Holy War rivalry between the Brigham Young University and University of Utah football teams. This year the game will be played in Provo, at LaVell Edwards Stadium and while BYU is notoriously known as the driest campus in the nation, there are still those who like to tailgate like the rest of the world. So while you won’t be able to get drunk at the stadium that doesn’t mean you won’t be drunk enough to get pulled over on your way home, so make sure that if you plan on drinking to get the game kicked off right then have a designated driver in mind.

DUI penalties are very harsh in Utah and even if you are being charged with your first DUI you could still be facing jail time. Plus if you are convicted of a DUI you will automatically have your driver’s license suspended for 120 days as well as an alcohol restriction and interlock requirement imposed on your driver’s license. So if the possibility of saving lives isn’t enough to keep you from driving drunk just realize the mountain of legal consequences that could be coming your way if you get caught driving under the influence of alcohol. Spend your post game either celebrating or soaking your sorrows but don’t spend it in jail.

Expunging Criminal Records in Utah County

The criminal justice system has continued to grow larger and larger since its inception. What was once the wild wild west, a generally lawless place where people dealt with their problems themselves, has become an overcriminalized society with a law on the books that  in some form covers nearly every part of our lives. Due to this increase in the size of the criminal code a lot of people in our communities have criminal charges or convictions on their record. It may have been for something stupid that happened when they had a temporary lack of judgement, or it could be something that really isn’t even considered that criminal by most people, or was a complete mistake and a plea deal was entered just to save time and money. Whatever the circumstances, the takeaway is that a lot of people have a dark spot in their past that they are embarrassed about and would like to get rid of.

The Expungement Process

The legislature is aware that there are a lot of people that would like to get rid of their criminal history and because of that the expungement process has been created. Expungement basically just means having something erased from your criminal history. An individual who qualifies for an expungement can have their arrest or conviction removed from their criminal history through a fairly simple process of obtaining a certificate of eligibility and submitting paperwork to the court to have an order entered by the judge.

Expungement Attorney in Provo, Utah

If you have a criminal arrest or conviction on your record that you would have removed then call us today to find out if you’re eligible for an expungement. Depending on the type of charge you were convicted of and the amount of criminal convictions you have you may or may not be eligible so call us today for a free consultation.

Three Tips for Dealing with a Domestic Violence Case in Utah

Domestic violence cases are some of the most common criminal charges brought in Utah County.  Below we offer three tips for dealing with domestic violence charges

Respect the Pretrial Protective Order

After an individual is arrested for domestic violence he will be released from jail with a pretrial protective order; or, if the defendant does not bail out from jail he will see a judge to determine the bail amount and whether the pretrial protective order should be entered.

At the initial court appearance, the court will likely issue a pretrial protective order which prohibits the defendant from having any contact with the alleged victim in the case if the alleged victim shows up and argues for the order.  The victim is given an opportunity to attend and argue in favor of or against the pretrial protective order.  It has been our experience that in most cases the alleged victim does not even show up for the initial appearance and so the judge dismisses the pretrial protective order or does not enter one. It has also been our experience, however, that if the alleged victim attends and wants the order, the judge will issue it.

Make sure you comply 100% with the pretrial protective order because if you don’t, violating the order is a criminal charge in and of itself.

Consider Your Spouse’s Frame of Mind

If you are married, your spouse may be able to help your case if he or she does not wish to testify against you.  In the majority of cases we’ve seen we most alleged victims are repentant of having called the police because domestic violence did not actually occur or because it was not serious enough to call the police.  In those types of cases your spouse should get her own attorney to let the prosecutor know he or she will be exercising the spousal privilege and will not testify.

In cases where the victim spouse is out for blood, it makes sense to simply steer clear and not attempt to reconcile and to simply defend yourself against the claims.

Lawyer Up

Most importantly, get an attorney.  Without appropriate legal representation there is a good chance your case could become dire.  Call us anytime at 801.800.8246 for a free consultation with one of our Provo Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Theft of Services | Provo-Orem Area Theft Attorney

The Common Crime of Theft in Utah Valley

Most people are familiar with shoplifting.  Shoplifting is one of the most common crimes that occurs in the Utah Valley area.  Provo-Orem criminal defense attorneys frequently receive call from individuals who have been charged with shoplifting.  Often times those calling are first time offenders who have no criminal history.  Similar to shoplifting charges, individuals in the Utah Valley area are charged with theft of services.  Provo-Orem criminal defense attorneys frequently handle theft of services charges.

Service Theft – A Different Kind of Shoplifting

Utah Code § 76-6-409 describes the crime of theft of services.  It states someone is guilty of the offense when a person “obtains services which he knows are available only for compensation by deception, threat, force, or any other means designed to avoid the due payment for them.”  An individual can also commit theft of services if “having control over the disposition of services of another, to which he knows he is not entitled, he diverts the services to his own benefit or to the benefit of another who he knows is not entitled to them.”

The types of services covered by this statute include, but are not limited to, “labor, professional service, public utility and transportation services, restaurant, hotel, motel, tourist cabin, roaming house, and like accommodations.” It also includes things like sporting events.  Essentially, a theft of services charge seeks to cover intangible services of value.  For example, when someone rides a UTA bus, trax, or frontrunner without paying, that person commits theft of services.  The public transportation ride was not a tangible item but it was a service from which the person obtained value.  Provo-Orem criminal defense attorneys can help those charged with this crime.

Protect Yourself with a Theft Lawyer

If you are charged with theft of services, contact a Provo-Orem area theft attorney from Criminal Defense Provo.  The criminal defense lawyers at Criminal Defense Provo are knowledgeable and will help you resolve your theft charges.  Lawyers are available to speak with you so call a Criminal Defense Provo lawyer for a consultation today.  A lawyer can be reached at 801.800.8246.