Parent Use of Electronics to Harass a Minor

If a parent has an issue with a juvenile who may be causing their child distress, they should refrain from using the internet, text messages, or other means of electronics to angrily communicate to the youth since it is against the law to harass a minor in Utah.

Mama bear

Do Not harass a minor

Photo by: Max Goldberg

Parents have a way of finding themselves knee deep in the drama their kids bring home and can often get too involved. If a parent is upset with another child or teenager on behalf of their child, there are ways to express their feelings without breaking the law. Speaking to the other child’s parents is a respectable step or informing or school officials is recommended if something upsetting took place on campus or at a school-sponsored function. Often however, parents wish to speak directly to the minor in which they can do easily over the internet or by text message. This action however can land the adult in hot water.

Electronic communication harassment

Utah Code 76-9-201 states “ a person is guilty of electronic communication harassment and subject to prosecution in the jurisdiction where the communication originated or was received if with intent to annoy, alarm, intimidate, offend, abuse, threaten, harass, frighten, or disrupt the electronic communications of another, the person:”

• Repeatedly attempts to contact the recipient via electronic device after being asked to refrain communications,

(or through the use of an electronic device)
• “insults, taunts, or challenges the recipient” in an attempt to provoke violence;

• “threatens to inflict injury, physical harm, or damage to any person or the property of any person;

• Causes disruption, jamming, or overload of electronic communication system through excessive message traffic ( . . . )”

Penalties to electronically harass a minor

Photo by: Alassandro Valli

Photo by: Alassandro Valli

Utah law states it is a class B misdemeanor for an adult to harass another adult via electronic device. If an adult chooses to harass a minor, those charges are increased to a class A misdemeanor for the first violation of electronic communication harassment against a minor or a third degree felony if it wasn’t the first time the adult had decided to harass a minor. This law applies to all adults including overly-protective parents and even older siblings who are 18 years of age or older who may harass a minor on behalf of their younger siblings. For more information on charges stemming from electronic communication harassment, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Popular Online Dating App Bans Use by Teenagers

A popular online dating app has recently changed its policy and is banning all teenagers access to their services.

The danger of online dating for teens

Online Dating

Photo by: Don Hankins

For the last three years Tinder has let adults and teenagers alike create and utilize accounts to connect, flirt, and date others in their area. Until now, Tinder has had two separate platforms; one for adults and another for teens between the ages of 13 to 17 years old. Law enforcement and parents have expressed concerns however over sexual predators who have been gaining access to the juvenile platform where they have been found to prey on the younger users. Now Tinder has chosen to be more responsible with their app and no longer offers online dating services to users under the age of 18.

Access through dishonesty

Banning teenager from using online dating apps and websites may help shield minors from online sexual predators but as with most technology, there is a loophole. While Tinder is linked through Facebook which can help verify a user’s age, a teenager can create a Facebook account with a fake age and gain access to the online dating app. This not only puts the teen at risk but also can hurt adults as well. There have been occurrences where teens have gotten adults in trouble with the law for being untruthful about their online age.

Felony charges for misinformation

Photo by:

Photo by:

Last June two Clearfield, Utah men were arrested when a 13 year old boy posed as an 18 year old on the men-only dating app Grindr and solicited the two adults for sexual relations. After meeting the teen at a hotel where he was staying with his parents, one of the men was arrested on sodomy charges while the other was charged with dealing harmful materials to a minor for exchanging nude photos with the 13 year old.

Ask for ID

Users of these online dating apps are cautioned to be wary and report instances of teens posing as adults. Parents are also cautioned to be mindful of what websites and apps minors are accessing through personal laptops or smartphones. Those facing criminal charges for crimes involving online dating apps are encouraged to seek representation from a criminal defense attorney.

Utah Woman Charged With Child Kidnapping Her Own Grandson

A Heber, Utah woman was arrested and charged with child kidnapping after she took her own grandson and fled the state.

Unauthorized trip with Grandma

56 year old Donna E. Jones was arrested last week after she took her almost 2 year old grandson and fled the state of Utah. Jones, who is the child’s paternal grandmother, was located along with her grandchild over 1200 miles away in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The child’s mother had just been awarded full custody of the child and police have determined that the non-custodial father helped the grandmother in the kidnapping following the court proceedings which were not in his favor.

First degree child kidnapping

Although the grandchild suffered no injuries on his unauthorized trip with grandma and was with a known family member and not a stranger, Donna E. Jones is still facing anywhere from 5 years to life in prison. Child kidnapping is a first degree felony and is defined under Utah Code 76-5-301.1 as when a person “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”. In the case of Donna Jones, she had consent of a parent, just not the parent with custodial rights.

Stranger danger

While the mention of child kidnapping brings to mind a stranger snatching up a child while a parent isn’t watching, stranger abductions really only account for about one-fourth of all child kidnappings. According the National Crime Information Center, almost half of all child kidnapping cases are of children taken by a family member. In the majority of cases, the family member charged with child kidnapping is the non-custodial parent, but could involve other family such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and even siblings.

Prison time for disagreeing with court decisions

Child custody hearings can often leave one parent or other relatives feeling like they got the short end of the stick. Unfortunately, family members may act irrationally for fear of not seeing the children as often as they would like. For anyone facing child kidnapping charges for making a bad decision following a child custody hearing, contact a criminal defense attorney immediately.