Shots Fired During Domestic Dispute at Southern Utah Home

An early morning domestic dispute at a southern Utah home ended in shots being fired and the SWAT team being dispatched.

Discharge of a weapon

Photo by: Washington County Sheriff's Office

Photo by: Washington County Sheriff’s Office

Over three hours before sunrise on Sunday morning, residents of the quiet Tonaquint Terrace neighborhood in Southern Utah were awakened to the sound of gunshots coming from the home of John Christian Cole. Within minutes, the SWAT team had Cole’s house surround and nearly five hours after law enforcement was called, Cole was arrested without further incident.

Escalated marital spat

Investigators have determined that Cole was quarrelling with his wife when their domestic disputed escalated and he discharged a firearm. No one was reported to be seriously injured, including the couple’s two children who were also inside the residence at the time of the shooting. Among his charges however was listed a domestic violence simple assault, so it is assumed there might have been a minor physical altercation before or after Cole fired those shots in his home.

Felony charges following domestic dispute

Domestic Dispute

Photo by: madstreetz

According to the Washington County Sherriff’s Office bookings report, Cole was charged with simple assault; felony discharge of a weapon; possession of marijuana; and two counts of domestic violence in the presence of a child which were deemed aggravated since a dangerous weapon was used. Cole faces two misdemeanor charges as well as three third degree felonies which can each carry a five year prison sentences.

Anger management and proper storage of firearms

As with most arguments between spouses, things have the potential to intensify rapidly and it is always wise to have a strategy in place to allow each individual the time and space needed to regain a cool head; this is especially true when children are present. Additionally, properly storing firearms out of direct reach, unloaded, and under lock and key may deter any rash decisions to include said firearms in a domestic dispute. For those seeking counsel following poor decisions during a domestic dispute, contact a qualified criminal defense attorney who is experienced in handling domestic violence cases.

Exercising the Right to Protest in Utah without Breaking the Law

The right to protest is one that residents in Utah and throughout the country have been exercising a great deal lately, and it is important for protesters to know how to exercise that right without breaking the law.

Right to protest

Right to Protest

Photo by: Jean-Philippe Bourque

Within a little over a week, Americans have participated in three different events where citizens were exercising their right to protest.

• January 20th, 2017. Inauguration Day “anti-Trump” protests began peacefully yet ended in over 200 protesters being arrested and several police officers being injured. Additionally, glass store fronts were smashed and a limo was set on fire. The damage by the protesters exceeded 100 thousand dollars.

• January 21st, 2017. Women’s March on Washington. With nearly half a million citizens supporting the cause of women’s rights and exercising their right to protest, there was not a single arrest made during that demonstration.

• January 27th, 2017. March for Life. A protest that like the other demonstrations, also brought in hundreds of thousands of individuals exercising their right to protest, ended with less than ten arrests; those arrests made were from individuals opposing the protest.

These three different events where citizens used their right to free speech to rally together on behalf of a cause all began legally, but only one of the demonstrations ended in mass arrests, property damage, and injuries.

The First Amendment

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The First Amendment specifically mentions the word “peaceably” regarding the right to protest. It does not excuse violence, property damage, or other dangerous behavior.

Rules of protesting

Photo by: Yannick Gingras

Photo by: Yannick Gingras

All citizens should practice their right to protest and are protected while exercising that right, but there are rules associated with all public behavior. Not only are demonstrators to refrain from protesting on private property without permission or a permit, they must abide by certain restraints regarding time and location. Additionally, if a protester demonstrates their cause while assaulting others, damaging property, or inciting a riot, they are subject to criminal penalties. Those who face charges following a protest are encouraged to seek legal counsel.

Lesser Included Offense – Plea Bargain Option or Backup Charge to Ensure a Conviction

When someone is charged with a crime such as a felony, that charge is often accompanied by a lesser included offense of that greater crime.

Lesser included offense

Photo by: winnifredxoxo

Photo by: winnifredxoxo

A lesser included offense is a crime wherein the elements, or specific aspects needed to prove guilt of that crime are included within the greater crime being charged. In order for a lesser included offense to be valid, it must be impossible for the greater crime to be committed unless the lesser offense is as well. For instance, a class A misdemeanor assault would be the lesser included offense for third degree felony assault as it is impossible for someone to use “force or means likely to produce death or serious bodily injury to another” if they never caused any “substantial bodily injury”.

Use in traffic violations

Lesser included offenses come up frequently with traffic violations. An example would be if a person is arrested for reckless driving and exceeding the maximum speed limit by up to 25 mph. The first being a class B misdemeanor (greater offense), while the latter is a mere infraction (lesser included offense). Utah Code defines reckless driving as someone who “operates a vehicle in a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property”. Exceeding the speed limit in certain areas of circumstances can also fall under the same definition, but without a criminal charge attached.

One or the other

Photo by: Kyle Pearce

Photo by: Kyle Pearce

When a lesser included offense accompanies a greater offense, often the defendant cannot be convicted of both charges. Such would be the case with voluntary manslaughter and murder. If the defendant was found guilty it would be for either one or the other; not both. This can also apply to drug charges. Someone can be arrested for possession and possession with intent to distribute yet if the intent to distribute charge sticks the simple possession charge is void as it is already encompassed within the greater charge.

Lesser related offense

There are some lesser charges that are related in nature, yet not included in more severe crime. These are known as lesser related offenses. Possession is a lesser related offense to distribution and often goes hand in hand, yet possession is NOT a lesser included offense of distribution. Someone can be a middle man in a deal, never having the illegal drugs in their possession, and face distribution charges without the possession charges. If they did possess the drugs and sold them, then the possession charge would be a lesser related offense.

Use in plea bargains

Photo by: Karen Neoh

Photo by: Karen Neoh

A lesser included offense can be beneficial in defense cases as it can give the defendant an option to plead guilty to a lighter crime and have the more serious charge dropped. This is sometimes the case when there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the lesser crime but the defense may not want to risk the chance of the defendant being found guilty of the higher crime, so they accept the lesser offense in exchange for dropping the greater one.

Prosecution’s use of lesser charges

The defendant isn’t the only one that has the potential to benefit from lesser included offenses. The prosecution will often add a lesser included offense to ensure that the defendant will be found guilty of something. This backup charge helps the prosecution ensure a conviction when they may doubt whether or not the more serious charge would stick. Since they can be used for or against the defendant, it is always wise to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to help guide you through the court proceedings and know when to accept or fight lesser included offenses.