Strange Utah Laws

Many of the so-called strange Utah laws touted about online turned out to be either outdated or non-existent, however the following were found to be valid laws.

Whale hunting

strange utah laws

Photo by: Issac Kohane

It is illegal to hunt whales in Utah. This is one of the strange Utah laws that is true in a sense, but only on a national level. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) text of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) section 102 (2)(f) “It is unlawful for any person or vessel or other conveyance to take any species of whale incident to commercial whaling in waters subject to the jurisdiction of the United States”. Luckily no body of water in Utah contains any species of whale so breaking this law isn’t likely to happen.

Selling alcohol in an emergency

It is illegal to sell alcohol in an emergency. If a state of emergency is ever declared in Utah, you may want to think twice about running to the store for your favorite brand of alcohol. Legally, alcohol venders may not be able to sell you any but it all depends on whether or not the governor says it’s okay. Utah Code 32B-4-407 states “During a period of emergency proclaimed by the governor to exist in an area of the state, it is unlawful for a person to sell, offer for sale, or furnish an alcoholic product in that area if the director publicly announces and directs that in that area a person may not sell, offer for sale, or furnish an alcoholic product in that area during the period of emergency.”

Marrying family members

Photo by: Evan Forester

Photo by: Evan Forester

It is illegal to marry a close family member or have sexual relations with them. As disturbing as this is, the state of Utah felt the need to cover topics related to marriage or incest multiple times throughout the Utah Code. Section 30-1-1 states “The following marriages are incestuous and void from the beginning, whether the relationship is legitimate or illegitimate:
(a) marriages between parents and children;
(b) marriages between ancestors and descendants of every degree;
(c) marriages between brothers and sisters of the half as well as the whole blood;
(d) marriages between uncles and nieces or aunts and nephews;
(e) marriages between first cousins, [unless] both parties are 65 years of age or older; or if both parties are 55 years of age or older [and] either party is unable to reproduce.”
While Utah Code 30-1-1 fails to mention criminal charges for incestuous marriages, section 76-7-102 adds that incest (regardless of marriage) is in fact a third degree felony.

Large containers of beer prohibited

Another weird law pertaining to alcohol: only retailers are allowed to possess containers of beer larger than two liters. Long -time residents of Utah may be familiar with this law, but those new to the area may wonder why police always break up parties where kegs of beer are located. Utah Code 32B-4-406 (1) (b) states “a person may not purchase or possess beer in a container that exceeds two liters.” The only exception for buying or possessing large containers of beer is when it is between licensed alcohol retailers.

Ultimate fighting

Photo by: Eric Molina

Photo by: Eric Molina

No biting during ultimate fighting matches. Surprisingly, Utah actually allows ultimate fighting matches to begin with but no, biting is not allowed. Neither is “direct, intentional, and forceful strikes to the eyes, groin area, adam’s apple area of the neck, and temple area of the head” according to Utah Code 76-9-705. Additionally “using anything that is not part of the human body, except for boxing gloves, to intentionally inflict serious bodily injury upon an opponent through direct contact or the expulsion of a projectile” and “striking a person who demonstrates an inability to protect himself from the advances of an opponent” are prohibited.

Consult attorney about strange Utah laws

If you are ever unsure about strange Utah laws it is best to consult with an attorney to ensure there any action you take will not have a threat of criminal charges. If you have already been charged with a crime, contact a criminal defense attorney immediately.

Nothing Funny about Clowns Who Make Violent Threats toward Schools

Clowns can either be frightening or humorous but most everyone agrees there is nothing funny about them when violent threats toward schools are made. As disturbing as it may be, are any laws actually being broken?

Common fear

violent threats by clowns

Photo by: taymtaym

Being afraid of clowns is a very common fear, with numerous kids and adults sharing a mutual apprehension about the wigged entertainers with painted faces and tricks up their sleeves. The term for this phobia is Coulrophobia, meaning an abnormal fear of clowns. Several horror-based books and movies play on this phobia as well as many haunted houses which just so happen to be increasing in popularity this time of year. Although many people poke fun or crack jokes regarding this fear of clowns, it stops being comical for everyone when the public actually fears for their safety.

The clown epidemic

In August, there were reports of a clown who was trying to lure children into a wooded area near an apartment complex in Greenville, South Carolina. Following this incident, other disturbing clown sightings started popping up around the nation, including here in Utah in cities from Ogden down to St. George. Most instances are nothing more than clowns in abnormal locations or settings who stare at people creepily, making bystanders nervous. Other instances however have taken it too far by making violent threats directed toward Utah schools.

Violent threats lead to school lock downs

So far none of the violent threats to schools have turned into any dangerous situations. Regardless however, schools and law enforcement have to follow certain protocols in the event of violent threats toward the kids at school. Part of this protocol involves putting the threatened schools on lock down. This causes undue stress for the teachers, students, and parents. It can also end in criminal charges for those clowns involved.

Clown crimes

Photo by: William Gray

Photo by: William Gray

While many clown acts can appear so corny a person might wish they were outlawed, there is nothing wrong or illegal with dressing like a circus performer. Seeing a random clown on the street may seem bizarre if it is not yet Halloween or the person isn’t headed to a child’s birthday party, but there isn’t anything illegal about the person simply dressing “differently”. As long as the person isn’t breaking any laws, they are free to dress in whatever clothes they desire with their face painted as colorful as they wish. If a clown decides to chase children or make violent threats towards a school, that is a different story. Those actions will result in criminal charges such as:

Disorderly conduct. A person dressed up as a clown is allowed to stand or walk along a street just as any other resident is but if they chase after kids they can be arrested for disorderly conduct, a class C misdemeanor. In this regards, disorderly conduct is defined by Utah Code 76-9-102 as “intending to cause public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm, ( . . . ) the person: engages in ( . . . ) threatening behavior.” Kids or adults with or without a clown phobia would most likely feel threatened if they were randomly chased by a scary clown.

Stalking. If a clown chooses to target a person by repeatedly either following them, showing up at their home or work, or otherwise as Utah Code 76-5-106.5 states: “intentionally or knowingly engag[ing] in a course of conduct directed a specific person and knows or should know that the course of conduct would cause a reasonable person: to fear for the person’s own safety ( . . . ) or to suffer other emotional duress”, they can be arrested for stalking, a class A misdemeanor.

Making violent threats. One of the most disturbing things being done by these creepy clowns is the numerous violent threats towards schools across the country. Many of these threats to schools are being made anonymously through social media which thanks to the internet is quickly spreads to students, teachers, and parents, causing widespread panic as well as using up valuable law enforcement resources. Utah Code 76-5-107 warns that if a person “commits a threat of violence [by] the person threaten[ing] to commit any offense involving bodily injury, death, or substantial property damage, ( . . . ), it is a class B misdemeanor” whether or not the threat was expressed or implied. If that person or clown makes a threat of using a weapon of mass destruction, that can be seen as a terrorist threat.

Dangerous for all involved

Photo by: Steven Sanchez

Photo by: Steven Sanchez

While some may see these clown pranks as amusing, it is causing residents to fear for their safety while possibly increasing the danger for those dressed as clowns. The public has already expressed a desire to use force against any clown that makes them feel threatened. With a large majority of the Utah population having concealed carry permits, this may prove a danger for all clowns on Utah streets. The clown pranksters are encouraged for their own safety to refrain from further threatening behavior or plan on seeking legal counsel if caught.

Mental Health Issues and Criminal Behavior

As the link between mental health issues and criminal behavior is being researched, disorders such as depression and schizophrenia that were previously taboo to speak about are finally being seen and discussed as actual medical conditions needing attention and treatment.

An empty threat

Photo by: Thomanication

Photo by: Thomanication

On Monday, 35 year old Eagle Mountain resident Christopher Dewitt Craig drove to his 9 year old daughter’s elementary school and demanded the school be evacuated; afterwards telling police there were explosives in his vehicle. Following a delivery of an unknown message to police, Craig was arrested without incident and was booked on charges including: making terrorist threats; disrupting operations of a school; and disorderly conduct. His arrest and bail of $25,000 stands even though authorities didn’t discover a single trace of explosives or any weapons on Craig’s person, in his vehicle, or even at his home.

Downward spiral

Contrary to a public outcry of a suspect making a terrorist threat on an elementary school, the community along with those who know Craig personally are calling the incident sad and tragic; a life that spiraled out of control due to mental health issues. Before plunging into criminal and irrational behavior, Craig had a promising career in basketball; both as a player and then as a coach. He was a star basketball player in the 90’s during his high school years at Horizon High School in Phoenix Arizona, later playing for the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). His path then changed from player to coach after he landed a job as the very young head coach for Utah State University Eastern. After two other coaching positions with the last being at Midland College in Texas, Craig left while suffering with mental health issues including schizophrenia. His life quickly went downhill as he struggled with drugs and extremist thinking. He is now facing the possibility of 15 years or more in prison.

Mental health issues and criminal behavior

Mental Health Issues

Photo by: Alachua County

Having an illness such as schizophrenia does not make a person a violent or dangerous criminal. More often than not, those suffering from untreated mental health issues will do nothing more than struggle privately and isolate themselves, withdrawing from family and friends. Very few sufferers get the medical help they need as they do not speak openly about their struggles. Some choose to end their misery with suicide; other may attempt to numb the pain with substance abuse. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH), “Individuals with overt, mild, or even subclinical mental disorders may abuse drugs as a form of self-medication.” NIH also stated that “Patients with schizophrenia have higher rates of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug abuse than the general population.” Many mental health issues make it difficult to make healthy, everyday choices. Substance abuse can further hinder a person’s ability to think clearly and act accordingly. Mix the two together along with decreased support of loved ones and you have a recipe for disaster that can lead to criminal behavior.


With mental health issues and/or substance abuse, early detection and treatment is key for preventing lives from being turned upside down such as what has happened with Christopher Craig. Fortunately, there are resources available to help those who are struggling with mental illness or drugs; one of those is SAMHSA. According to their website, “The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA’s mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.” They state: “SAMHSA Strategic Initiatives help provide treatment and services for people with mental and substance use disorders, support the families of people with mental and substance use disorders, build strong and supportive communities, prevent costly behavioral health problems, and promote better health for all Americans.” For anyone who is or who knows someone who is struggling mentally or with substance abuse, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. For more information contact the Department of Health in your area. If legal help is needed for criminal charges, contact an experienced defense attorney.