Salt Lake Criminal Defense Attorney - Clayton Simms

new_clayton_about A criminal charge, whether it is a felony or misdemeanor, can be a life changing event. Clayton Simms is a fierce advocate for people who have been charged with misdemeanor and felony offenses. He represents clients who are facing charges in Salt Lake City and Greater Salt Lake County. In addition, he also represents clients along the Wasatch front. Clayton Simms represents defendants in other crimes Clayton has represented athletes, doctors, lawyers, and other notable people and has been featured on the news. Do you have a legal question? Contact Clayton Simms today!

Utah Man Arrested After Carrying Out Elderly Mother’s Wishes For Green Burial

A Utah man is facing criminal charges for attempting to carry out on his own his elderly mother’s final wishes for a green burial.

Awaiting a natural burial

Photo by: Eli Duke

66 year old Pete Foy Marker of Panguitch Utah was taken into custody when a family member alerted police that Marker’s elderly mother had died from age-related causes a couple weeks prior and that Marker hadn’t followed legal protocol after the death. Marker stated his mother had wanted a more earth-friendly burial known as a “green burial” so he planned on entombing her body in the hills near town. Marker was unable to follow through with his mother’s request due to hunters in the area so he planned on waiting until the season was over. Until then, he wrapped her body and placed it in basement room of his home where coal was stored. Before he was able to return to the woods to bury his mother however, he was arrested.

Green or natural burial

It isn’t surprising that Marker’s mother wanted a green or natural burial as many individuals are opting for earth friendly options if possible. With the surge of people choosing to be more environmentally conscious for various items in life, why wouldn’t they choose to be pro-earth in death as well? The goal of green burials is to return the body to the earth with the lowest impact on the environment as possible (while saving some money in the process). A green burial consists of preparing the body without the use of toxic embalming substances. After which the body is encompassed in a coffin of natural, biodegradable materials and planted in a natural setting. Oftentimes one of these natural coffins will be buried or “planted” with a seed or sapling of a favorite tree or one native to the area, truly giving back to the earth while preserving the natural beauty of the area. While green burials are growing in popularity throughout nation and state, residents are warned there are rules that must be followed to avoid criminal charges.

Reporting a dead body

Photo by: Fe llya

It is not known at this time if Pete Foy Marker of Panguitch was at all responsible for his mother’s death, but regardless he is facing multiple charges related to his actions following the discovery of her body. One law he failed to obey was letting authorities know his mother had died. Utah Code 26-4-7 & 8 states it to be a class B misdemeanor to not report “a deceased body if it appears that death was:

• By violence, gunshot, suicide, or accident;
• Sudden death while in apparent good health;
• Unattended deaths (…);
• Under suspicious or unusual circumstances;
• Resulting from poisoning or overdose of drugs;
• Resulting from diseases that may constitute a threat to the public health;
• Resulting from disease, injury, toxic effect, or unusual exertion incurred within the scope of the decedent’s employment;
• Due to sudden infant death syndrome;
• Resulting while the decedent was in [police or state custody];
• Associated with diagnostic or therapeutic procedures ;(…)”

All signs so far point to the very elderly woman dying naturally in her sleep, but because she was alone in her bed when she passed and no one was around to witness it, is was a crime not to report it.

Desecration of a dead human body

Marker is also facing a third degree felony charges for his decision to conceal the body in his basement before he could have it buried. Utah Code 76-9-704 states “A person is guilty of abuse or desecration of a dead human body if the person intentionally and unlawfully:

• Fails to report the finding of a dead human body (…);
• Disturbs, moves, removes, conceals, or destroys a dead human body or any part of it; or
• Disinters a buried or otherwise interred dead human body, without authority of a court order;
• [or dismembers, damages, or commits sexual act on the dead human body].”

Desecration of a dead human body is a serious charge that is usually seen with individuals trying to conceal a wrongful death or for those who flagrantly show no respect for the dead. Unfortunately for Marker and others who move, conceal, or secretly bury a family member, they are likely to face felony charges for desecration of a dead human body even if they have no criminal intent.

Laws for the dead

Photo by: Matt Walker69

Those wishing to carry out green burials must follow the law regarding proper notification and handling of a dead human body. After reporting the death, family members must obtain a death certificate prior to burial (Utah Code 26-2-13). Then, they may either locate a cemetery that permits green burials or check with local zoning laws if the burial is to be carried out on private property. Failure to follow these laws for the dead can result in charges, putting another negative twist on an already somber event. For more information regarding this and other Utah State laws, contact a reputable attorney.

Unlawful Suppression of Evidence Results in Mistrial

A mistrial has been declared in the case against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy after it was determined the prosecution was guilty of unlawful suppression of evidence, a violation of Bundy’s constitutional rights.

Rancher vs the feds

Photo by: Gage Skidmore

Cliven Bundy is a cattle Rancher residing in Clark County Nevada with ties to many local families throughout southern Utah. Bundy has been in a long-standing disagreement with the federal government over the right to have his cattle graze on public land, which is family had been doing for generations. The feds wanted to require a permit and collect yearly grazing fees plus arrears while Bundy claimed requiring a fee for use of the land was erroneous since the land belonged to the state. Over twenty years of debating this right ended when the BLM closed off over 140,000 acres of land and confiscated any trespassing livestock found roaming within the off-limits acreage. Bundy along with friends and family protested the capture of the cattle and after heated negotiations regained control of the livestock. Bundy continued his family traditions of grazing his cattle on public lands.

Arrested on federal charges

Almost two years after the Nevada cattle standoff, Bundy travelled to Oregon where his sons and others had taken over control of a vacant ranger station at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in support of two local ranchers charged with federal arson while protecting their property. On route to that scene however, Bundy was apprehended at the airport and arrested on multiple federal charges related to the Nevada Cattle Standoff. Some of the charges include conspiracy, assault on a federal officer, threatening an officer, as well as firearms charges. His sons and another individual were also arrested for their involvement in both the Nevada and Oregon standoffs. The Bundy sons and others involved in the Oregon standoff went to trial for that incident and were acquitted by a jury of all federal charges. They still faced charges for their involvement in Nevada alongside their father Cliven Bundy. This court experience in Nevada turned out to be very different from the one in Oregon however.

Unlawful Suppression of evidence

Photo by: Allen Allen

During the court proceedings for the Bundy clan in Nevada, the defense discovered multiple items of crucial evidence obtained by the prosecution had been withheld. Suppression of evidence is defined as when a party in a trial unlawfully withholds evidence that could be useful in exonerating the defendant(s) in the case. Some of the evidence items withheld from the defense included video surveillance of Cliven Bundy’s home as well as confirmation on the presence of snipers surrounding the Nevada cattle incident, increasing tensions. The feds denied allegations of unlawful suppression of evidence until proof emerged and they were forced to recant their omissions, claiming their careless handling of evidence was not intentional. The defense, not satisfied that the federal government could make numerous “honest” evidence mistakes in a federal trial claimed six violations to the Brady Rule. The judge agreed and declared a mistrial due to unlawful suppression of evidence or a violation of due process which is a constitutional right.

The Brady Rule

The Bundy family and another man were released on all charges thanks to the 1963 Brady v. Maryland case which was monumental in ensuring all exculpatory evidence, or evidence that might be helpful to the defense, is shared by prosecutors. In the case of Brady, prosecutors had obtained a written confession to a murder by another individual, yet suppressed that evidence and tried Brady of the murder as well. Once the courts realized there was evidence that could have exonerated the defendant of murder charges, they declared his due process rights had been violated and thus the Brady Rule was born. The Brady Rule ensures the due process law protected by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution are withheld and that no state of federal government shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”. Due process is defined as by the United States Courts as “the constitutional guarantee that a defendant will receive a fair and impartial trial.” Anyone who feels they are facing a trial with an unfair advantage due to due process violations should consult with a criminal defense attorney who will ensure all evidence vital to one’s defense is unveiled..

Theft of Motor Vehicle Fuel in Utah

As fuel prices decrease in Utah, drivers may not be paying attention to the quantity of gasoline in their vehicles, unknowingly becoming the victims of theft of motor vehicle fuel.

Low gas prices could equal low awareness

Photo by: bradleyolin

Gas prices throughout Utah have been at a bearable price for some time now with prices estimated to continue a downward trend. This decrease in fuel cost could lead drivers to lower their awareness of how fast they are burning through a full tank. Could it be that drivers feel more at liberty to take the long way to work or an extended lazy Sunday drive or could they actually be working with less gas than they realize?

Just a little off the top

Gasoline is a necessity for anyone with a vehicle and those strapped for cash after the holidays may borrow from others hoping it will go unnoticed. This can happen from a neighbor, a passerby, or even by an employee to a company vehicle. While the theft of motor vehicle fuel at these low prices wouldn’t amount to much of a dollar amount, it can still result in at least a class B misdemeanor for theft.

Theft of motor vehicle fluid

Photo by : FolsomNatural

Another way fuel is stolen is straight from the pump. This can result in theft charges depending on the quantity and value stolen. Utah Code 76-6-404.7 states: “A person is guilty of theft of motor vehicle fuel who:

a) Causes a motor vehicle to leave any premises where motor vehicle fuel is offered for retail sale when motor fuel has been dispensed into:
(i) the fuel tank of the motor vehicle; or
(ii)any other container that is then removed from the premises by means of the motor vehicle; and
b) Commits the act (…) with the intent to deprive the owner or operator of the premises of the motor fuel without making full payment for the fuel.”

Loss of driving privilege

Beyond criminal charges, fuel thieves may also lose their driving privilege temporarily. That section also goes on the explain that “the sentencing court may order the suspension of the driver license of a person convicted of theft of motor vehicle fuel (…) for [no more] than 90 days”. Drivers in desperate need of gasoline are encouraged to seek other legal avenues for obtaining motor vehicle fuel or seek legal counsel if charges ensue.