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!

Utah Dog Bite Laws

With thirty percent of Utah households owning dogs, it is important for both dog owners and others to know what their rights are on both sides of Utah dog bite laws.

Dog bite statistics

Photo by: State Farm

Over four million dog bites occur each year around the country and many more go unreported. Dog bites can range from a minor nip that doesn’t break the skin to a severe mauling that results in the victim’s death. Under Utah law, dog owners are responsible for the actions of their pets and may face bodily injury claims and criminal charges if their dog attacks.

Liability of owners

Most dog owners are surprised when their furry friend turns vicious. Many times the owner claims that the dog is “well-mannered” or “would never hurt a fly”. Regardless of the dog’s previous good behavior however, the owner is liable for any harm caused by their beloved pet-even on the first bite. Utah Code 18-1-1 states: “Every person owning or keeping a do is liable in damages for injury committed by the dog, and it is not necessary . . . to allege or prove that the dog was of a vicious or mischievous disposition or that the owner or keeper of the dog knew that it was vicious or mischievous.”

When dogs bite

Far too often dog attacks on persons are seen on the news. Sometimes the dog turns on their own people while other times the victim is a friend, neighbor, or random individual in the wrong place at the wrong time. Dogs are also known to turn on their own kind. Twice this month a dog attack has been reported in Utah that resulted in the death of someone else’s canine companion. In a residential neighborhood in Salt Lake City, a Chihuahua and Shih Tzu were being walked on leashes when they were attacked and killed by two larger dogs who had escaped from their own leashes. Another incident in St. George occurred when two dogs, one described by police as a pit bull breed, attacked a poodle being walked on a leash, resulting in the death of the leashed animal.

Dog at large or at home

Photo by: Richard Gillin

Dog bites may result in criminal charges depending on the circumstances surrounding the attack. If like the above incidents a dog is roaming around unleashed when it attacks an animal or person, the dog owner may face criminal charges for allowing a vicious animal to go at large. Utah Code 76-9-304 states “Any owner of a vicious animal, knowing its propensities, who willfully allows it to go at large or who keeps it without ordinary care, and any animal, while at large, or while not kept with ordinary care, causes injury to another animal or to any human being who has taken reasonable precaution which the circumstances permitted, is guilty of a class B misdemeanor unless the animal causes the death of a human being, whereupon the owner is guilty of a felony of the third degree.” If a person is bitten while in the home of the dog owner, the victim may file a claim for damages and injuries which the homeowner’s insurance or the dog owner themselves would be fiscally responsible for. The owner may not face criminal charges as long as the dog is not at large, is properly licensed, and hasn’t been mistreated or bred for fighting that would increase its likelihood to attack. If a dog attacks a person and not another animal, that animal may be euthanized regardless of its location when the bit occurred.

Defending a bite

Having a dog that used to be well mannered is not a defense, unless the owner can prove their dog was provoked into biting. While most dog bites are accidental, there are occasions where a person may incite a dog into biting them- possibly hoping for a financial payout or to get rid of a “nuisance” neighbor dog. If this is suspected, the dog owner is encouraged to discuss their options with an attorney. Additionally, if a bite occurs but there is no physical harm done to the victim (the bite/nip doesn’t break the skin), it is best to obtain legal counsel to discuss whether or not that fits in the parameters for Utah’s dog bit laws. Different cities and municipalities may have additional laws in place regarding licensing, leash, and bite laws. It is recommended to always check with local codes for the full scope of the law pertinent to the dog and owner’s location.

Increased Charges for Repeated Violation of a Protective Order

A Spanish Fork, Utah man was arrested multiple times on a single day for repeated violations of a protective order.

Violation of a protective order

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35 year old Dustin Larsen of Spanish Fork was arrested for contacting a woman who had filed a protective order against him. Not only did Larsen disobey the command for no contact listed in the protective order, he violated that order more than 150 times. Police arrested Larsen, who later bailed out and continued to go against the court issued no-contact orders. He was arrested again that day on increased penalties.

Repeated violations

The woman on the other end of the protective order reported to police that Larsen had contacted her by phone, text, and even through social media. Each time Larsen tried to contact the woman was a violation of the protective order against him. Since he violated that order multiple times, he could face multiple counts of the same charge. According to Utah code 76-5-108, “Any person who is the respondent or defendant subject to a protective order . . . under [the Cohabitant Abuse Act, Juvenile Court Act or Domestic Violence Protection Orders Act]. . . who intentionally or knowingly violates that order after having been properly served, is guilty of a class A misdemeanor “.

Increased penalties

Photo by: Jesterx67

That section of Utah Code goes on the note that violation of one of the described orders “is a domestic violence offense . . . and subject to increased penalties in accordance with Section 77-36-1.1.” The aforementioned section explains that since Larsen was arrested for violation of a [domestic or cohabitant] protective order punishable as a class A misdemeanor, any subsequent arrest made within five years of that would have an increased charge of a third degree felony. Larsen went on to violate the protective order again the same day of his arrest and ended up being charged with the increased charges on his second trip of the day to the county jail.

Understanding court orders

Anyone who receives a court-issued protective order should read it carefully, perhaps with the help of an attorney to ensure they understand the document completely as well as what penalties they could face for violating that order. It is recommended that individuals facing criminal charges for violation of a protective order and other charges related to domestic violence seek counsel from an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.

When a Family Turns Their Teenager Over to Police

In light of the recent incidents of extreme violence at the hands of teenagers, many ask why parents and other relatives don’t see the signs prior to these events and turn their own children over to police.

Ignorance or denial

Photo by: Emma Craig

Many parents and guardians are unaware their teens are capable of or even thinking of such heinous acts as those that continue to occur throughout the county. Others parents perhaps either ignore the signs and shrug them off as typical teen behavior or try to deal with more severe matters privately in the home. Other families realize the authorities need to be involved and may have a difficult time making that call.

Making that tough call

One grandma in Everett Washington made that call that any parent or grandparent dreads having to make-calling the police to arrest their teenager. The grandmother of the 18 year old ACES High School student was reading his journal when she came across some distressing entries written by her grandson. These entries went into detail on what seemed to be a well thought out, calculated plan to create mass casualties at a local high school. In an attempt to save other students at the school as well as her own grandson who planned to take his life during the attack, the grandmother called 911 to report what she had found and turn her grandson in to the authorities.

Potential crisis averted

Photo by: Phing Chov

Authorities responded to the 911 call and after obtaining a search warrant, found a semiautomatic rifle and some inert grenades among the teenager’s possessions. Just one day prior to the deadly school shooting across the country in Florida, the 18 year old Washington teenager was apprehended by police while at school and his potential plan of shooting up his high school was foiled. 18 year old Joshua O’Connor was charged with attempted murder for his plan and preparations to carry out a deadly mass shooting and assault for fighting officers when handcuffed.

Legitimate threat or angry teen talk

While most of the Everett, Washington community is breathing a sigh of relief, others wonder if attempted murder charges will stick when no actual action towards violence was taken. O’Connor’s attorney has already noted that he should not be condemned for his personal writings in his private journal. While it could be true that he was merely venting to himself and never truly planned on carrying out the attack, the threat to human life seemed credible to authorities and O’Connor may face several years in prison.