Salt Lake Criminal Defense Attorney - Clayton Simms

new_clayton_about A criminal charge, whether it is a felony or misdemeanor, can be a life changing event. Clayton Simms is a fierce advocate for people who have been charged with misdemeanor and felony offenses. He represents clients who are facing charges in Salt Lake City and Greater Salt Lake County. In addition, he also represents clients along the Wasatch front. Clayton Simms represents defendants in other crimes Clayton has represented athletes, doctors, lawyers, and other notable people and has been featured on the news. Do you have a legal question? Contact Clayton Simms today!

Minor Traffic Accident Escalates to Assault with a Vehicle

A minor traffic accident in southern Utah quickly escalated to assault with a vehicle after a driver decided he didn’t want to stay at the scene.

Fender Bender

Assault with a Vehicle

Photo by: Charles Wagner

20 year old Ethan Campbell Hansen of St. George, Utah was arrested for multiple misdemeanors as well as four felonies after being involved in a minor traffic accident during holiday festivities last week. The rear-ending accident itself was minor and would have likely ended in a traffic violation for Hansen of following too close. Unfortunately, the fender bender was just the beginning.

Traffic violation vs felony charges

Instead of waiting for police to come investigate the accident, Hansen attempted to flee. Two pedestrians were struck by Hansen’s vehicle, suffering minor injuries, while multiple others were able to get out of harm’s way. It was only then that Hansen decided to stay on scene. After authorities were able to obtain Hansen’s true identity and restrain him, he was booked into Purgatory Correctional Facility. His charges include:

• Two Class C misdemeanors for criminal mischief and leaving the scene of a pedestrian accident;

• Two Class B misdemeanor for interfering with an arrest and failing to disclose identity;

• One third degree felony for assault by a prisoner; as well as

• Three other third degree felonies for aggravated assault with a vehicle (dangerous weapon).

Assault with a vehicle

Photo by: Dean Strelau

Utah Code 76-5-103 states that “aggravated assault is an actor’s conduct that is
i. An attempt, with unlawful force or violence, to do bodily injury to another;

ii. A threat, accompanied by a show of immediate force or violence, to do bodily injury to another;

iii. An act, committed with unlawful force or violence, that causes bodily injury to another or creates a substantial risk of bodily injury to another; and

That includes the use of:

i. A dangerous weapon [any item capable of causing death or serious bodily injury]”

Although no weapons were located on Hansen or in his vehicle, assault with a vehicle has the potential to cause serious injury or death and is categorized along with other weapons when used in an assault.

Go big and go to jail

Photo by: Washington County Sheriff’s Department

With four misdemeanor and four felony charges to face in court, Hansen has the potential to face over 20 years in prison and fines totaling nearly $35,000. No one is sure why Hansen chose to escalate the situation, seeing as he isn’t known to be a violent offender or have any criminal history at all; He may have been simply trying to run away from the problems he caused. Many younger adults are not educated on how to property react to intense situations and fleeing can often seem the best course of action at the time. It is imperative that they are taught the importance of staying on the scene of an accident and not expanding the situation by reacting poorly. Anyone facing charges for a minor or serious offense is encouraged to seek guidance from this point out from a qualified criminal defense attorney.

Sentencing Entrapment and Manipulation

Sentencing entrapment and manipulation are both claims of injustice that can be made by a defendant during sentencing if they feel they were encouraged to commit a serious crime by authorities or if they committed or are facing a higher sentence than necessary.

Sentencing entrapment & manipulation

Sentencing Entrapment

Photo by: Matt Lord

According to the case of Leech v. State, “Sentencing entrapment is said to occur when the State causes a defendant initially predisposed to commit a lesser crime to commit a more serious offense.” Sentencing manipulation on the other hand is defined as “when the government engages in improper conduct that has the effect of increasing a defendant’s sentence.” (United States v Garcia). Although Sentencing entrapment and sentencing manipulation have slightly different meanings, they are often used interchangeably in court.

Drug busts

Sentencing entrapment and manipulation can occur during organized stings or through the encouragement or persuasion of an officer or informant. All too often these cases of inflating offenses involve drugs. When drugs are involved, there are several ways in which a simple drug charged could be blown up to become something more.

• An undercover agent may know a suspect is a known drug user but not a dealer. By asking the suspect to sell drugs to the undercover officer, he can then be charged with not only possession but also distribution.

• The same bloating of charges can occur if someone sells narcotics and the agent asks the suspect to sell more to have them reach a distribution amount that carries higher penalties.

• In the case of Unites States v. Walls, the undercover DEA agent asked the suspect to supply him with crack and was given powdered cocaine instead. After insisting that he wanted crack and not cocaine, the suspect then complied and had it cooked by a third party. When asked in court why the DEA agent requested crack from the suspect and not cocaine, the agent’s reply was: “Well, crack cocaine is less expensive than [powder] cocaine, and we felt like through our investigation, that it takes fifty grams of crack cocaine to get any target over the mandatory ten years.”

Prostitution

Photo by: Nils Hamerlinck

Prostitution is another common area where sentencing entrapment and manipulation arise frequently; such was the case of Taylor Hummel of southern Utah. Hummel was actively soliciting sex from adults, but through his internet ad and other communication he never stated he wanted children involved. The undercover agent offered prostitution services to which Hummel agreed. The agent then offered a 13 year old girl to be involved with the sexual exploits as well. Hummel was hesitant but did not decline. When the time for the exchange took place, Hummel mentioned he had reservations about a minor being involved and did not pay for sexual services from her. Although he only sought and paid for adult prostitution (Class B misdemeanor) he was still charged with conspiracy to commit child rape (a first degree felony). Had the offer not been made by an undercover agent, Hummel may never have even thought of including minors in his sexual addictions.

The Big Fish story

For whatever reason or hidden agenda, sometimes the crime that a suspect is recognized as being guilty of is not sufficient. It is then that sentencing entrapment and manipulation occurs by officers who wish to create a more serious offense to snare the suspect with. There are several theories as to why police officers would want to be involved in sentencing entrapment.

• Acknowledgement or a pat on the back from their department and the public if the officer helps bring in a serious offender, or “the big fish”;

• The not-talked-about “quotas” that they are unofficially expected to meet;

• Increased chance of promotions or even incentives such as bonuses for making a certain type of arrest; or possibly

• Overtime pay. Many precincts give their officers overtime pay if they are forced to work past their shift in order to complete the arrest and the paperwork that follows. Additionally, overtime pay is often given to law enforcement to be present or even on-call during a court hearing that results from an arrest.

Outrageous official conduct

Photo by: Martin Fisch

Sentencing entrapment and manipulation has been referred to as “outrageous official conduct [that] overcomes the will of an individual” (United States v Jacobsen). In many cases, if officers would have refrained from getting involved to expand a crime or not created a major illegal opportunity to entrap someone in, that person may have gone on to never committing that crime in their lifetime. Instead, many victims of sentencing entrapment and manipulation will spend a lifetime in jail for the inflated offenses.

Legal counsel

Anyone who is facing charges where they feel law enforcement used entrapment or manipulation to increase their possible sentencing is encouraged to seek legal counsel. If someone has committed a crime, they should only have to face those crimes in court, not the top sentencing, inflated version of it.

Chatty Officer May Actually be performing a Consensual Encounter

Meeting a chatty police officer could mean nothing more than they are approachable or talkative; however Utah residents are warned to use caution as a presumably friendly conversation with police could actually be consensual encounter.

Local festivities

Photo by: Johnny Silvercloud

Communities around Utah are joining together for a slew of holiday festivities tomorrow that guarantee to bring in larger crowds than normal. These large crowds necessitate cities to increase the amount of law enforcement on duty. As everyone- both young and old, rich or poor, normal citizen or officer, come together to celebrate a commonality, it is not unusual for Utah residents to strike up conversations with one another. Unfortunately, as law enforcement on duty continues to perform their job while spending time in the community, they will often use simple conversations as consensual encounters.

Consensual encounter

A consensual encounter is a tactic used by law enforcement to obtain information from a person without having reasonable suspicion to do so. If an officer wants to investigate a person but has not identified a viable reason to do so yet, they may do nothing more than visit with the person for a short while.

Consensual Encounter

Photo by: D_M_D

A consensual encounter does not violate a citizen’s Fourth Amendment rights as it is nothing more than an encounter that ends in a conversation and at no time is the person detained or otherwise unable to leave. It is considered a consensual encounter as long as the officer kept their questioning short and simple and refrained from:

• Drawing their weapon;
• Placing someone in handcuffs;
• Turning on police lights or sirens;
• Physically detaining a person;
• Blocking someone with a patrol vehicle; or
• Speaking with force or intimidation.

Terry stop vs arrest

Photo by: David Poe

If any of the above points end up taking place during a consensual encounter, it then becomes either an investigatory stop or an arrest. An investigatory stop, otherwise known as a Terry stop takes place if a person is detained briefly by law enforcement. In order to perform a Terry stop officers must have a reasonable suspicion that the person has been or is currently involved in criminal activity. This can include instances such as if illegal contraband is in plain view or if police have a hunch the person is armed and dangerous and wish to do a brief pat-down. Terry stop often consist of traffic stops and are to be no longer than 20 minutes. If the officer either has a warrant or develops probable cause during a Terry stop, then an arrest is made. An arrest is a more formal detainment such as being handcuffed and placed in the back of a patrol vehicle and this act should always be preceded by the Miranda Warning.

Questionable stops

All residents are advised to be aware about the possibility of increased consensual encounters during the festivities tomorrow. Anyone who feels they have been unjustly questioned or detained by police during a consensual encounter and are now facing criminal charges, it is encouraged to speak to a defense attorney who will ensure their Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searched and seizures are protected.