Felony Charges for Possession of an Escape Tool

No one wants to be incarcerated, and although people may joke about breaking out, actually being in possession of an escape tool can result in felony charges for inmates or visitors.

Escape tools

Photo by: Bill Selak

Time behind bars can drag on for those incarcerated and while they may daydream about attempting an escape, possessing any tool that could be used to institute such an escape is against the law. Utah Code 76-8-311.3 states: “a correctional or mental health facility may provide by rule that no . . . implement of escape [escape plan] . . . may be:

(a) transported to or upon a correctional or mental health facility;
(b) sold or given away at any correctional or mental health facility;
(c) given to or used by any offender at a correctional or mental health facility; or
(d) knowingly or intentionally possessed at a correctional or mental health facility.”

Inmates or visitors

Section 76-8-311.3 warns inmates that “Any offender who possesses at a correctional facility or any detainee who possesses at a secure area of a mental health facility, any . . . implement of escape is guilty of a second degree felony.” That same section warns visitors that if someone “transports to or upon a correctional facility, or into a secure area of a mental health facility, any . . . [escape tool] with intent to provide or sell it to any offender, [they are also] guilty of a second degree felony.”

Get out of jail early

Photo by: Jar

Inmates or their loved ones who wish to shorten the amount of time spent behind bars are encouraged to seek out legal ways to do so. Options such as appealing a case, having an attorney review sentencing for errors, offering information on another case, or showing good behavior while incarcerated are all lawful ways that could shorten a prison sentence. For more information on the possibility of these options with your specific case, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Spanking – Parental Discipline or Child Abuse?

Spanking has a long history of being used as a form of discipline and while still a prevalent form of punishment in several homes throughout the United States, is mistakenly considered by many to be a form of child abuse.

Corporal punishment

Photo by: Wesley Fryer

Spanking is a way in which parents and other authority figures have used to punish children and minors into submission by inflicting physical pain to their body; usually the buttocks. This type of discipline is known as corporal punishment. Corporal punishment was used freely by any adult wishing to discipline a child up until the late 1970’s when spanking by anyone other than parents, such as teachers or school staff, started to receive criticism. 31 states have now banned corporal punishment in schools while the other 19 including Idaho and Arizona are either for it, or not openly against it. Corporal punishment at home is still allowed in all states to some degree.

Parental discipline

Although the number of adults who approve of spanking is on a steady decline nationwide, many parents and guardians still respond to their children’s unruly behavior by giving them a swat on the behind. Spanking is often done with an open hand but can also be done using items such as a belt or a switch, which usually inflicts more severe pain than a hand alone. While not all parents agree on spanking, a large number of adults believe spanking with an object is most certainly unlawful.

Belts and switches

The use of belts, switches and the like in carrying out corporal punishment at home may seem harsh, but they aren’t against the law. In B.T. and S.T. v State of Utah (2017), the parents of four children under the age of 18 were said to have been abused after the parents used belts to spank their children. The courts concurred with the abuse charges, stating “the court cannot envision a scenario where striking or hitting a child of any age, would be appropriate or reasonable discipline.” They also acknowledged that the use of spanking was decreasing in popularity stating that “[w]e’ve evolved beyond it being appropriate to strike a child with an object” and “[t]he simple striking of the child with a belt caused pain and is abuse.”

Justification as defense

Contrary to the court’s original ruling, spanking children with or without a belt is not illegal under Utah law. In fact, Utah Code 76-2-401 states: “Conduct which is justified is a defense to prosecution for any offense based on the conduct. The defense of justification may be claimed: ( . . . ) when the actor’s conduct is reasonable discipline of minors by parents, guardians, teachers, or other persons in loco parentis [unless] the offense charged involved causing serious bodily injury.” The parents the above mentioned case admitted to using a belt to discipline their children, however there were no physical signs of abuse visible from their discipline. The court later reviewed their ruling in which they claimed that hitting a child with an object is abuse and deemed it too vague, giving the examples of how a pillow fight or playing with Nerf swords would fall into the same definition. Utah Code 76-5-109 reiterates that child abuse means “those offenses that cause physical injury to the child” and not for conduct that includes “the use of reasonable and necessary physical restraint or force on a child.”

Ineffective punishment

While spanking may be legal, pediatricians and researchers continue to discourage parents from using it as a form of punishment. Spanking is often done to stop unwanted behavior, such as disobedience and aggression, however current research has shown it to be ineffective, with unwanted behavior escalating instead of diminishing. The American Academy of Pediatrics has also done studies regarding the connection between children who are punished physically and future mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. For those parents who have failed to learn and put into practice a more effective way of disciplining their children, they should ensure that any corporal punishment used in the home does not escalate to the point of child abuse and to consult with an attorney should any charges arise.

Lewdness in Utah

Some individuals can display behavior in public that is obviously inappropriate, but at what point does it constitute lewdness in Utah?


Photo by: Jen

According to Utah Code 76-9-702, A person is guilty of lewdness if the person under circumstances not amounting to [any sexual assault offense], performs any of the following acts in a public place or under circumstances which the person should know will likely cause affront or alarm to, on, or in the presence of another who is 14 years of age or older:
(a) an act of sexual intercourse or sodomy;
(b) exposes his or her genitals, the female breast below the top of the areola, the buttocks, the anus, or the pubic area;
(c) masturbates; or
(d) any other act of lewdness.”

Lewdness is a class B misdemeanor unless the person is a repeat offender or a convicted sex offender; in that case, the charge would be raised to a third degree felony.

Lewdness or just inappropriate behavior?

Although the section of Utah Code defining lewdness explains specific ways in which a person could face charges, it then adds “any other act of lewdness” which definition could leave the door wide open to interpretation. The Court of Appeals of Utah addressed one officer’s interpretation of this law in the late 90’s when a 16 year old juvenile was charged with lewdness after he “grabbed ahold of his crotch and shook it up and down” while standing in front of a parked vehicle occupied by a woman. An officer observed this deliberate act of offensive behavior that lasted for an uncomfortable “ten to fifteen seconds” and arrested the teen for class B misdemeanor lewdness.

Not of equal magnitude of gravity

The Court of Appeals of Utah reversed the charges on the teen, stating that “while {the 17 year old’s] gestures were certainly immature and offensive, they are not of similar gravity as the conduct expressly proscribed by [section 76-9-702]”. With a law that could risk being interpreted too harshly by some law enforcement, it is vital to seek representation from an experienced defense attorney if charges such as lewdness ever arise.