Armed Robbery of Salt Lake City Restaurants

Multiple cases of armed robbery with a similar suspect description were reported by Salt Lake City restaurants within a two day stretch prior to the New Year.

String of establishments robbed at gunpoint

Armed Robbery

Photo by: Geoffrey Fairchild

Within a 48 hour window, four different businesses in Salt Lake City, including three restaurants called police to report an armed robbery in which one or two suspects brandishing firearms demanded cash from employees. At the first two locations, a suspect was described as a black man with an accent who was accompanied by another male of Hispanic descent. The next two locations the following day were apparently robbed by a similar black man with an accent who was acting alone. As descriptions of the suspects provided from witnesses at each of the armed robbery locations began to match, authorities noted that the robberies were likely connected.

Robbery vs aggravated robbery

According to Utah Code 76-6-301, “A person commits robbery if:

a) the person unlawfully and intentionally takes or attempts to take personal property in the possession of another from his person, or immediate presence, against his will, by means of force or fear, and with a purpose or intent to deprive the person permanently or temporarily of the person property; or

b) the person ( . . . ) uses force or fear of immediate force against another in the course of committing a theft or wrongful appropriation.” Robbery is a second degree felony.

If a person commits armed robbery with a dangerous weapon, causes serious bodily harm during the course of the robbery, or carjacks or attempts to carjack a vehicle with an occupant inside, it is then considered by Utah Code 76-6-302 to be aggravated robbery, a first degree felony. When caught, the suspects in the string of robberies throughout Salt Lake City will be facing a first degree felony and five years to life in prison.

Surprising cases of armed robbery

Photo by: Luke Larsson

Photo by: Luke Larsson

When a working firearm is displayed in an armed robbery, there is little doubt that a dangerous weapon was used. There are some instances however, where an item was made to appear dangerous, but in fact wasn’t. Some examples include: an unloaded or fake gun; realistic looking blades or knives; an apparently vicious animal; or even an object such as a stick or finger inside a jacket pocket making the appearance of a gun. While these “weapons” may not have been dangerous, the fear in which they instill in the victim is the same as if an actual weapon was used, and the penalties would likewise be the same. This can surprise some defendants who were perhaps not intending to create fear in someone or were not in a sober state of mind to think rationally. For more information on aggravated or armed robbery and the defense options possible with these charges, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Welfare Fraud in Utah

Utah families who are struggling financially may turn to public assistance to help get them through a rough patch; however this system is meant only for those who truly need it and any fraudulent information used to obtain assistance unlawfully may result in welfare fraud.

Public assistance

Photo by: Konstantin Ryabitsev

Photo by: Konstantin Ryabitsev

The State of Utah has a generous welfare program, otherwise known as public assistance, which is defined in Utah Code 35A-1-102 as “services or benefits provide under Chapter 3, Employment Support Act; medical assistance ( . . . ); foster care maintenance payments ( . . . ); SNAP benefits; and any other public funds expended for the benefit of a person in need of financial, medical, food, housing, or related assistance. “

Qualifying factors

Public assistance isn’t for everyone. Many who think they need welfare end up not meeting the requirements. To find out if one qualify for benefits, Utah Code 76-8-1203 states individuals need to provide the following information that will determine whether or not they are eligible for help “including the person’s current:

a) Marital status;

b) Household composition [including immediate family members as well as other persons that make up the household such as roommates or live-in significant others];

c) Employment [even jobs that are paid under the table];

d) Earned and unearned income, as defined by rule [including gambling winnings, alimony, child support, etc.]

e) Receipt of monetary and in-kind gifts that may affect the person’s eligibility; [cash gifts or gifts such as food and household goods that would affect the needs of the client’s family]

f) Assets that may affect the person’s eligibility; [homes, vehicles, stock, gold etc.]”

Welfare fraud

Welfare Fraud

Photo by: Carmella Fernando

When a person does not qualify for benefits, they may choose another route to elevate their financial burden such as help from family, assistance from religious denominations, or changes to employment or living arrangements to accommodate their needs or the needs of their family. Occasionally a person may choose to stretch the truth or flat out lie on the information they disclose when applying for welfare in an attempt to gain access to public assistance they otherwise wouldn’t qualify for. When this is done, or if the person otherwise “uses, transfers, acquires, traffics in, falsifies, or possesses SNAP benefits [or a SNAP card] ( . . . ) in a manner not allowed by law” it is considered welfare fraud, or public assistance fraud, and it is a serious offense.

Criminal penalties

The severity of welfare fraud penalties depends on the total valued amount of the benefits such as cash, food, and medical that were appropriated unlawfully from the public assistance system. According to Utah Code 76-8-1206, it is a

a) “second degree felony if the value is or exceeds $5,000; [which can be anywhere from 1-15 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000]

b) third degree felony if the value is or exceeds $1,500 but is less than $5,000; [up to 5 years and prison and a fine of no more than $5,000]

c) class A misdemeanor if the value is or exceeds $500 but is less than $1,500; [one year maximum in jail and a fine up to $2,500] and

d) class B misdemeanor if the value is less than $500. [up to 6 months in jail and a possible fine of $1,000 or less.]”

Misinformation

Photo by: Jacob Norlund

Photo by: Jacob Norlund

While those who intentionally take advantage of public assistance should expect to face charges of welfare fraud, often it is those who make innocent errors with information that end up in deep water. Some situations which may occur that cause a person to unintentionally commit welfare fraud may include:

• When a qualifying child lives part or full time with the other parent;

• If a significant other moves back into the household;

• A temporary increase of hours at place of employment;

• Side jobs or other self-employed work such as babysitting, house cleaning, and even selling crafts; and

• Using food assistance to pick up grocery items for a friend or non-qualifying relative.

These are just a handful of situations that welfare recipients may find themselves in where they either forget to report it, or are unaware that they are breaking the law. It is important that those who are seeking public assistance are cautious with their answers and ask questions if they are unsure of any rules or if there are terms in which they are unfamiliar with. Additionally, any changes to income or other monetary gains, marital status, household composition or living arrangements, assets, or gifts must be reported immediately. If a person is unsure whether a factor or item should be mentioned, they should report it anyway. For legal counsel regarding charges of welfare fraud, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Prevent Holiday Road Rage – Drivers Cautioned to be Courteous

Drivers who are out shopping for gifts or traveling for the upcoming holidays are cautioned to be extra courteous in an attempt to prevent road rage incidents that can spike this time of year.

Stressful countdown to Christmas

Road Rage

Photo by: Mike Kline

As we enter the last week of shopping before Christmas, those who have left some or all of their holiday shopping until now are probably feeling the crunch as the days left to buy gifts enters the single digits. As these late shoppers weed through what is left of picked over gifts and navigate through the crowded stores, the tension can continue to build, leading to increase in stress and road rage incidents once they hit the road.

Increased traffic, decreased time

With these stressed out holiday shoppers abound, poor weather, and an increase in out of town visitors who are unfamiliar with Utah roads, traffic can quickly become congested which leads to aggressive drivers with short fuses. All it takes is someone not using a blinker or cutting another driver off to quickly send a fellow driver over the edge and for road rage to take place.

Prevent holiday road rage

As road rage claims another victim, a 3 year old boy in Arkansas, authorities are cautioning drivers to be courteous and take steps to lower stress levels while driving. Drivers are encouraged to:

• Plan on extra time for travel. Whether traveling, shopping, or merely trying to get to school or work on time, drivers should give themselves a little extra time to navigate through holiday traffic.

• Practice calming techniques. If sitting in traffic makes a driver’s blood boil, drivers should practice techniques such as deep breathing, listening to peaceful music, or self-coaching to decrease their tension while behind the wheel.

• Do not retaliate. If another driver is being aggressive, don’t try to get revenge for their behavior. Refrain from slamming on the brakes for tailgaters or displaying offensive hand gestures when another driver shows hostile behavior. Retaliating will never help in times like these, and can quickly lead to road rage.

By following the above suggestions, the instances of road rage can be reduced dramatically. Any driver who is facing charges related to road rage should seek the counsel of a criminal defense attorney.