Utah Court of Appeals rules against Utah Escort Ms. Lawless (and yes, her real last name is “Lawless”)

A Utah female escort, Micaela Beth Lawless (yes, last name “Lawless”), lost her appeal before the Utah Court of Appeals  due to not specifying which law she believed was unconstitutional and led to her arrest.

Utah cities targeting sexually oriented businesses

Escort

Photo by: Dennis Skley

In the late 1980’s, major cities in Utah started targeting sexually oriented businesses such as escort services and adult book and video stores. In an effort to reduce prostitution and preserve a clean-cut curb appeal, Utah cities began making it more difficult for sexually oriented businesses to operate, by requiring all employees of the establishment to have a license for that specific type of business and restricting those business a certain distance away from schools, parks, and churches. Those restrictions along with the cost of licensing each employee and the extended waiting period for licenses to be granted, most sexually oriented businesses have a difficult time remaining operational while staying within the laws of the city and state.

State of Utah permitting cities to target escort services

Utah Code 10-8-41.5 permits each individual city to require a license for sexually oriented work such as an escort service. That section reads “A person employed in a sexually oriented business may not work in a municipality:
(a) if the municipality requires that a person employed in a sexually oriented business be licensed individually; and
(b) if the person is not licensed by the municipality.”
The state of Utah and all cities requiring licenses for sexually oriented work are treading a fine line on being unconstitutional. Beyond that, some methods of enforcing said licenses are also questionable.

Entrapment

Micaela Beth Lawless, a lawfully licensed escort in Midvale, Utah was arrested for performing her business in the neighboring city of Sandy Utah where she was not permitted to do so without the required Sexually Oriented Business License for that specific city. Lawless did not openly seek clients outside the city she was licensed in, however she was contacted by an undercover officer and asked to meet in nearby Sandy which borders the city of Midvale to the south and east. Fulfilling the request of a potential client, Lawless drove the minimal distance to a hotel within Sandy city limits where she was apprehended by awaiting law enforcement and charged with practicing a Sexually Oriented Business without a Sandy City license.

Violation of Constitutional rights

Photo by: aaron_anderer

Photo by: aaron_anderer

Lawless originally disputed her charges during a hearing that took place at the Sandy City Judicial Court. She claimed that her first and fourteenth amendment rights had been violated. These amendments are what safeguard each citizen’s freedom of speech and expression; however one feels to express themselves. Additionally the Equal Protection Clause found in the Fourteenth Amendment extends from the federal government to state governments the protection of citizens against discrimination.

 

State or City-Not one in the same

Although Lawless originally argued the unconstitutionality of the state statues listed in Utah Code 10-8-41.5, she then reformed her debate and specified that the Sandy City law governing sexually oriented business licenses is what she found unconstitutional. Her motion to dismiss was denied and she was convicted of the charges. Lawless then appealed her case in the West Jordan Utah Third District Court where she again argued the state statues (that protect the city statues of the same nature) violated her constitutional rights. Unfortunately, because she changed her case with the Sandy Judicial Court to specify the city law versus the state law, her motion to appeal based on the unconstitutionality of the state law was not granted.

“Lack of preservation”

Photo by: Joe Gratz

Photo by: Joe Gratz

In the case of Sandy City v. Lawless, it states: “In the district court, Defendant abandoned her arguments regarding the state statute. On appeal, Defendant attempts to raise her previously abandoned arguments regarding the state statute; she does not brief the question of the Sandy ordinance’s constitutionality. We thus are not in a position to review the issues raised. We therefore affirm.” When debating charges or appealing a conviction, it is imperative that topics do not get muddled along the way; An experienced criminal defense attorney will ensure that vital information is organized and discussed thus not losing opportunities in the court system.

Criminal Records Expunged for Utah Homeless

Photo by: Franco Folini

Photo by: Franco Folini

The state of Utah is trying to help the homeless population get back on their feet by having their criminal records expunged. This pilot program lasted just over a year and was somewhat successful.

Homeless who were eligible

Not all Utah homeless were eligible for this program. In order to quality for having their criminal records expunged:

• They must have faced homelessness for an extended period of time or had recurring bouts of being homeless.

• They had a condition such as a medical or mental health issue that made it difficult to obtain employment or housing.

• The crimes that they needed expunged could only be minor crimes. In accordance with Utah law, certain crimes are not able to be expunged. This includes many sexual and violent crimes and those that are severe felonies such as homicide.

• They could not have too many convictions on their record.

Helping a few

Unfortunately, because of these specific qualifications this program wasn’t able to help the entire homeless community. While the program was able to help a few get their criminal records expunged, there are still several homeless stuck with lengthy criminal records. It was a good start for those who know about it.

Family and friends in the homeless community

For Utah residents who have family members or friends who are part of Utah’s homeless community, trying to help them get back on their feet can seem improbable the majority of the time. If the state of Utah decides that this program was beneficial enough to keep, there may be hope for other homeless to get their criminal records expunged in the future. For more information on the process for having criminal records expunged for all Utah residents, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Questionable DNA Evidence Gathering Upheld by Supreme Court

Questionable DNA evidence gathering upheld

Photo: Public Domain Pictures

Most people know that if a crime has been committed and fingerprints are left behind, detectives can inspect those fingerprints to determine if you are a match and therefore committed the crime. Other evidence commonly gathered may be blood, saliva, or semen. However, a recent case in Maryland brought the issue of DNA evidence gathering under the spotlight. In the case, after a suspect voluntarily came into a police station for questioning on a rape case, the police swabbed the armrests of the chair he was sitting in for skin cells to test DNA, leading to his conviction. The man took his case to the Maryland Court of Appeals, which upheld the conviction. He appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), but they denied the request for review.

The Case was Closed, but was it Lawful?

According to an article in ARS Technica, in 2006 a Maryland woman was raped in home. Police interviewed approximately 20 suspects over the course of two years in an attempt to locate the perpetrator. Each of the suspects voluntarily provided DNA samples to the police, but none of them matched the genetic material from the crime scene.

However, Glenn Raynor, a former classmate of the victim and man who matched the physical description of the suspect, refused to provide a sample of his DNA. However, he did voluntarily come into the police station, spoke with police, and stated that he was not the rapist.

After Raynor left, police swabbed the armrests of the chair where he had been sitting. They were able to gather skin cell DNA evidence which they used to link Raynor to the crime scene. In his trial, Raynor moved to suppress the DNA evidence, claiming it was a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure without a warrant. In order to obtain a warrant, there must be probable cause, and Raynor claimed they didn’t have the probable cause necessary.

The DNA evidence was allowed in the case, and Raynor was sentenced to life in prison. He took the case to the Maryland Court of Appeals, which upheld the conviction on a 4-3 vote, and on Monday, March 2, without any comment, SCOTUS refused to review the case.

Concerns Regarding Questionable DNA Evidence Gathering

In addition to Raynor taking his case to the Supreme Court, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) also filed an amicus [friend of the court] brief, urging the Supreme Court to accept the case.

According to an article on the EFF website, they are claiming that DNA evidence used in cases like Raynor v. Maryland are violating people’s Fourth Amendment right to privacy regarding their personal genetic material.

“As human beings, we shed hundreds of thousands of skin and hair cells daily, with each cell containing information about who we are, where we come from, and who we will be,” EFF Senior Staff Attorney Jennifer Lynch said. “The court must recognize that allowing police the limitless ability to collect and search genetic material will usher in a future where DNA may be collected from any person at any time, entered into and checked against DNA databases, and used to conduct pervasive surveillance.”

They went on to say that just because the cost of DNA evidence analysis technology is dropping doesn’t necessarily mean that it should be used more. They pointed to the fact that in some cases, DNA “can allow police to identify a person’s relatives, turning family members into inadvertent ‘genetic informants’ on each other.”

In 2013, in a similar case from Maryland, the Supreme Court ruled by a 5-4 vote that police may take a DNA sample from someone who has been arrested without the need for warrant. However, Raynor’s attorney, Byron Warnken, said the same shouldn’t apply to his client because Raynor was not under arrest at the time.

In the Maryland Court of Appeals, the dissenting judges said the case of Raynor v. Maryland set a dangerous precedent.

“The Majority’s approval of such police procedure means, in essence, that a person desiring to keep her DNA profile private, must conduct her public affairs in a hermetically sealed hazmat suit. Moreover, the Majority opinion will likely have the consequence that many people will be reluctant to go to the police station to voluntarily provide information about crimes for fear that they, too, will be added to the CODIS database…. The Majority’s holding means that a person can no longer vote, participate in a jury, or obtain a driver’s license, without opening up his genetic material for state collection and codification. Unlike DNA left in the park or a restaurant, these are all instances where the person has identified himself to the government authority.”

However, the majority for the alluded to the concept that leaving behind DNA is like leaving behind a fingerprint and is therefore fair game.

“In the end, we hold that DNA testing of the 13 identifying junk loci within genetic material, not obtained by means of a physical intrusion into the person’s body, is no more a search for purposes of the Fourth Amendment, than is the testing of fingerprints, or the observation of any other identifying feature revealed to the public—visage, apparent age, body type, skin color.”