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!

Marijuana Clandestine Lab Busted in 55+ Utah Community

A marijuana clandestine lab was busted in a 55+ community located in Southern Utah and at least one person arrested was as senior citizen.

Semi-retired

Photo by: Mark

63 year old Richard James Hughes, a senior resident in the retirement community of SunRiver St. George was arrested after drug enforcement agents uncovered a marijuana lab Hughes and 38 year old Bradley Cameron Madsen were operating out of Hughes home and garage. Agents delivered a search warrant upon the house while unsuspecting neighbors in the peaceful neighborhood watched in disbelief. Authorities discovered an excessive amount of dried marijuana and equipment likely used to make Dab, a potent butane hash oil with a highly concentrated amount of THC. Dab is used to result in a stronger and more rapid high than normal smoking of marijuana would be able to produce. Hughes and Madsen were arrested on multiple charges including engaging in a clandestine laboratory operation.

Clandestine lab

Utah Code 58-37d-4 states “It is unlawful for any person to knowingly or intentionally . . . engage in compounding, synthesis, concentration, purification, separation, extraction, or other physical or chemical processing of any substance, including a controlled substance.” That section goes on the note that “a person who violates [this subsection] is guilty of a second degree felony punishable by imprisonment for an indeterminate term of not less than 3 years nor more than 15 years.”

Hobby or side job

Hughes’ neighbors were shocked to hear that a fellow resident in the popular retirement community was engaging in illegal activity involving operating a clandestine lab. Some may have wondered if he stumbled into a unorthodox hobby that came with legal hazards or if he picked up a “work from home” job to support himself financially, much like other residents trying to survive in one of the faster growing areas in Utah. Regardless of the reason, according to Utah law, he will have at least “3 years nor more than 15” to figure things out before he is released back into the community.

Contents of Garbage Can Not Protected From Police Searches

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution protects the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures”, but this protection does not always extend to the contents of a garbage can left outside a home in Utah.

Reasonable expectation of privacy?

Photo by: Matthew Paul Argall

When someone throws away an item in a public trash can or dumpster, that individual knows their discarded garbage is no longer their property and that item may be accessible to anybody who happens upon it. When something is thrown away at home, most residents feel confident knowing the privacy they have for their home and property is extended to the contents of their trash as well. Once trashes have been emptied into the outside bin to be collected by city workers, the majority of Utah residents would still feel their privacy were violated if anyone were to go through their garbage prior to it being collected.

Dumpster diving

There are many reasons why individuals would go through the contents of someone else’s garbage can. Some of these reasons are criminal in nature while others are for survival. Those rummaging through the garbage out of necessity may possibly be searching for discarded food of decent quality or scrap metal to exchange for cash. Others collecting trash for criminal purposes may be collecting personal information to aid in identity theft. Whatever the reason, a Utah resident’s trash can is typically considered private and going through another’s trash is frowned upon by law enforcement. Some cities including Orem, Provo, and Taylorsville have cracked down on the trash collecting practice in the past by issuing citations for those caught “stealing” another person’s garbage. This expectation of privacy is often supported by law enforcement, unless they are the ones going through the trash.

Double standard

Although law enforcement expects everyday residents to respect each other’s privacy in regards to their trash cans, officers themselves are not expected to abide by the same standard. In State v. Jackson (1997) a Provo police officer went to the home of defendants, one of which had a prior history of drug charges. Once at the home, the officer saw two garbage cans that had been put out for collection by the defendants. The officer then proceeded to go through the garbage cans, finding small amounts of marijuana as well as drug paraphernalia. After taking these items out of the trash as evidence, the officer was then granted a search warrant for the interior of the home and found other drug-related items. All three defendants whose garbage was “lawfully” searched were convicted of possession and sentenced to three years of probation and a large fine.

Garbage in curtilage of home

Photo by: Shlala

As frustrating as it is that the same trash protected from pubic searches isn’t awarded the same expectation of privacy from police searches, residents might consider the move excusable seeing how the garbage cans were left out by the road. Unfortunately, not all officers wait for the trash to be moved off the property by a suspect. In 2015, Sioux Falls, SD police Officers worked together with the garbage company to collect trash from a possible drug suspect named James Thompson. The garbage collector entered onto Thompson’s property, took the garbage can from the side of the garage and emptied it into the garbage truck while officers watched. Officers then searched through the dumped garbage and found drug paraphernalia. A warrant was then issued on Thompson’s home where other illegal items were located. Thompson moved to suppress all evidence, especially since the garbage cans were removed from off his private property. The courts denied his motion stating that “It is well established that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in trash left for collection in an area accessible to the public.” Had his garbage cans been placed inside a garage or behind a fence, he may have been awarded more privacy over his trash.

Protecting rights to privacy

When it comes to police searches, many residents understand they have rights against unreasonable searches taking place inside their homes or vehicles. When the search occurs outside or within the curtilage of the home, the legality of the searches may be even more difficult to understand. For more information on charges stemming from these and other questionable searches and seizures, contact an attorney to discuss whether or not rights have been violated and all possible options moving forward with the case.

Lawyers Arrested For Money Laundering After Baiting and Suing Porn Downloaders

Two lawyers and a sidekick were arrested for money laundering after authorities unraveled a plot the trio had created to bait illegal porn downloaders in order to turn around and sue them.

Legal knowledge

Photo by: Woody Hibbard

Minneapolis, MN lawyer Paul Hansmeier along with his brother Peter Hansmeier and co-conspirator John Steele used their legal expertise to not only sue individuals for pirating pornography, but to plant the movies on file sharing websites for the unsuspecting individuals to find. Hansmeier and accomplices created or obtained rights to pornographic movies before uploading the files to sites known for pirating movies. They then waited for downloaders to take the bait. Once the movies were downloaded, the trio claimed to be representing the companies who created the movies and sued those caught pirating. After collecting a three grand each settlement from hundreds of thousands of online downloaders, the million dollar illegal business was finally discovered and shut down.

Fraud and money laundering

Photo by: Chris Potter

After extorting the individuals pirating porn for nearly six million dollars, the phony legal team was busted and charged with fraud as well as federal charges for money laundering. Money laundering has been considered a federal offense since the Money Laundering Control Act of 1986 was passed. Section 1956 of the Act states: “Whoever, knowing that the property involved in a financial transaction represents the proceeds of some form of unlawful activity, conducts or attempts to conduct such a financial transaction which in fact involves the proceeds of specified unlawful activity. . . With the intent to promote the carrying on of specified unlawful activity; . . . knowing that the transaction is designed in whole or in part . . . to conceal or disguise the nature, the location, the source, the ownership, or the control of the proceeds of specified unlawful activity . . . shall be sentenced to a fine of not more than $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction, whichever is greater, or imprisonment for not more than twenty years, or both.“ Hopefully with their background in the legal field, the criminal charges brought against the extortionists came as no surprise.