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!

Parental Kidnapping in Utah

A father of four in Utah was arrested for parental kidnapping after being on the run with his four children for over two months.

Doomsday prepper

33 year old John Coltharp, a doomsday prepper belonging to a new religious group named Knights of the Crystal Blade was arrested for kidnapping along with his accomplice and leader of the group, 34 year old Samuel Shaffer. Some in the community questioned Coltharp’s kidnapping charges since the children kidnapped were his own and with him for over two months before authorities got involved.

The delay to search

The mother of the children, 28 year old Micha Soble of Springville, Utah started the public search for her children with posts to her personal social media account as well as public yard sale sites throughout Utah over two months after her children were abducted by their father. When questioned as to why she waited so long to find them, she blamed the Utah Court system.

Custody order takes time

In fear of losing her children, Soble asked the 4th District Judge Pullan to grant her a temporary restraining order. Judge Pullan denied the request in September after which Coltharp disappeared with all four children, ages ranging from 4 to 8 years old. Over the course of the divorce and custody hearings, Soble remained in the dark as to where her children were. Finally, near the end of November, Judge Pullan granted the mother full custody and the search for the Coltharp children began.

Parental kidnapping

The Coltharp children were all found after a lengthy search from law enforcement and volunteers, with two of the children hospitalized from exposure to the cold and weather. In this case, the children were in immediate danger and parental kidnapping charges seemed fitting. In many other cases however, Utah residents are confused as to how a parent can be charged with parental kidnapping and not just custodial interference.

Custodial interference

Utah Code 76-5-303 states “A person who is entitled to custody of a child is guilty of custodial interference [a class B misdemeanor] if, during a period of time when another person is entitled to visitation of the child, the person takes, entices, conceals, detains, or withholds the child from the person entitled to visitation of the child, with the intent to interfere with the visitation of the child.” Or “A person who is entitled to visitation of a child is guilty of custodial interference if, during a period of time when the person is not entitled to visitation of the child, the person takes, entices, conceals, detains, or withholds the child from a person who is entitled to custody of the child, with the intent to interfere with the custody of the child.” In the case of the Coltharp children, their father was not granted custody or visitation. His removal of the children and failure to return then then constituted kidnapping.

Child kidnapping by a parent

Utah Code 76-5-301.1 states that “an actor [or parent without any parental rights] commits child kidnapping if the actor intentionally or knowingly, without authority of law, and by any means and in any manner, seizes, confines, detains, or transports a child under the age of 14 without the consent of the victim’s parent or guardian, or the consent of a person acting in loco parentis.” Child kidnapping is considered a first degree felony in the state of Utah and punishable by 15 years to life in prison. It is important for divorced parents to fully understand their court ordered arrangements to ensure they are staying within the law regarding their divorce and custody ruling.

Pill Testing MDMA Club Drugs Could Reduce Overdose Deaths

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, club drugs such as MDMA “tend to be used by teenagers and young adults at bars, nightclubs, concerts, and parties.” There are companies who are attempting to promote pill testing at parties to help reduce the amount of overdose deaths associated with MDMA use.

MDMA

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MDMA drugs such as ecstasy or “Molly’s” have been popular in the party scene since the 1980’s and news stories across the world blame the club drug for a slew of overdose deaths. NIDA reports that MDMA can “cause a number of acute adverse health effects [such as] Involuntary jaw clenching, lack of appetite, mild detachment from oneself (depersonalization), illogical or disorganized thoughts, restless legs, nausea, hot flashes or chills, headache, sweating, and muscle or joint stiffness.” NIDA notes however that “fatal overdoses on MDMA are rare”. So why are so many overdose deaths being blamed on MDMA drugs?

Laced or bad batches of street drugs

What many news stories fail to note about the numerous MDMA overdose deaths is that although the victim was found to have ingested a pill containing 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine or MDMA, there is a high chance the overdose was caused by another ingredient in the pill. While MDMA does have a risk of death through severe reactions such as hypertension, seizures and even hyperthermia, the common cause of overdoses come from it being a higher dose than expected, an altered formula or from it being laced with other drugs such as fentanyl, mCPP, methamphetamine, or even high amounts of caffeine.

Deadly trust exercise

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MDMA drugs are created and distributed illegally, with no quality control being done to ensure the safety of the user. Many teens and young adults buy illegal MDMA drugs from people, giving their full trust in the illegal vendors to not sell them something deadly. While it should be common knowledge to be wary of a drug dealer seeing how their profession is based on deceiving law enforcement, it is possible the one pushing the MDMA at parties isn’t sure what the pills contain either. This can result in loss of life for the user and aggravated criminal charges for the distributor. Beyond law enforcement’s regular attempts to control the amount of club drugs dispersed at parties, what can be done to reduce the overdose deaths of those who take them anyway?

Pill testing

Pill testing, otherwise known as adulterant testing has been becoming popular in Europe as well as Australia and is slowly gaining ground in the U.S. Pill testing can be done using a kit purchased online at sights such as Walgreens and even Amazon. Pill testing can also be done through a professional laboratory. The at home kits are done by scraping a portion of the pill off into the testing liquid and looking for color changes that signify another substance. While many ingredients can be detected through one of the several pill testing kits on the market, they don’t catch everything which can still put users at risk. Laboratory testing is the most thorough method of decoding a pill’s synthetic “makeup”. This can be time consuming and expensive as well as putting the one wanting the test at risk of arrest for possession. Often the option to take club drugs is last not known until the event anyway.

Pill testing on site

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For those who find themselves at a party where club drugs are circulating and they haven’t had the opportunity to test the illegal drug before consumption, there are harm reduction groups that want to offer pill testing on-site: at parties, clubs, raves, etc. Knowing the drugs are inevitably going to show up at the scene anyway, these groups want to offer on-site testing of pills to help reduce the amount of overdose deaths by letting users know exactly what they are taking. Unfortunately, many club owners or party hosts do not want to have this service offered as it could make them or their customers a target from police backlash. There is fine line between enabling drug users and ensuring they get high safely and it is time for everyone to work together to save lives while continuing to educate on the harmful effects of illegal street and club drugs.

Sentencing Guidelines in Utah

Once someone has pleaded guilty or been found guilty of a crime, sentencing will soon follow which depends on many factors specific to the case as well as Utah law and the sentencing guidelines stated by the Utah Sentencing Commission.

Lesser offenses

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When someone breaks the law, the crime committed could be a minor offense such as an infraction, a more significant offense like a misdemeanor, or even a serious felony offense. What each crime is classified as along with the possible punishment for breaking that specific law can be found in the Utah State Code. Infractions such as most traffic violations do not result time behind bars, just a monetary fine no greater than $750. Misdemeanors are offenses that are considered worse than infractions, but not as severe as a felony and can result in fines and jail time. According to Utah Courts, a misdemeanor offense is broken down into three categories that include:

• Class C misdemeanors such as driving without registration or negligent cruelty to animals, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine up to $750;
• Class B misdemeanors including prostitution and harassment, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a fine up to $1,000;
• Class A misdemeanors such as stalking and reckless endangerment, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine up to $2,500;

Major offenses

A felony is the most severe of crimes and could result in a fine and prison. Felonies are categorized into four groups:

• Third-degree felonies including habitual wanton destruction of protected wildlife and felony discharge of a firearm with no injuries, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of no more than $5,000;
• Second-degree felonies such as burglary of a dwelling and possession of child pornography which carry possible prison terms of 1 to 15 years in prison and a possible fine of $10,000;
• First-degree felonies for example rape and sodomy on a child, punishable by 5 years to life in prison and a fine no greater than $10,000;
• Capital felonies such as murder can result in either life in prison with or without parole and even the death penalty.

Sentencing guidelines and matrix

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Although many crimes have already been categorized along with appropriate punishment decided by the Utah Legislature, there are many other factors that are taken into account before a judge will decide on a sentence. The Utah Sentencing Commission has issued a manual complete with guidelines and a matrix that can be followed to ensure that sentencing is fair for each specific case. According to the Utah Sentencing Commission Philosophy Statement, “The Sentencing Commission promotes evidence-based sentencing policies that effectively address the three separate goals of criminal sentencing:

• Risk Management [imposing a punishment or penalty that is proportionate to the gravity of the offense and the culpability of the offender.]
• Risk Reduction [appropriate identification and reduction of an offender’s individual criminal risk factors.]
• Restitution [repayment of damages to the community or to victims resulting from an offense]”

According to Utah Courts, the guidelines and matrix designed by the Sentencing Commission takes into account things such as:

• “Aggravating factors” such as significance of injuries and the relationship between the offender and victim;
• Enhanced penalties such as if a deadly weapon is used or if the offender is a repeat offender; and
• “Mitigating factors” that can include the offender’s behavior since the crime or a clinical evaluation on their mental health during the crime.

According to the Utah Sentencing Commission, “Utah law provides the basis for the sentencing and release of criminal offenders. ( . . . ) The guidelines are an attempt to further structure decision-making relative to sentencing and release, yet still retain the flexibility to deal with individual cases.” Use of these guidelines along with the Utah statutes should ensure anyone facing criminal charges is treated fairly and individually. To ensure this, it is best to have legal representation before and during sentencing hearings.