Aggravated Assault for Defending Home from Intruder

A Salt Lake City man was arrested for aggravated assault for defending his aging mother-in-law’s vacation home from an intruder.

The stake out

Photo by: Mesa Tactical

Photo by: Mesa Tactical

51 year old Glen Decker and his wife are caretakers of his mother-in-law’s home in Salt Lake City which is used mainly for vacationing. Upon regular inspection of the home, the Decker’s realized that someone had been breaking into the residence. To put a stop to the burglary, the vigilantes armed themselves and hid out in the dark unlocked home; hoping to catch the thieves red-handed.

Bait, set, trap

The potential repeat offenders took the bait of an apparently vacant home and let themselves in unlawfully, only to be confronted by the Decker’s waiting inside. With a gun in hand, Glen Decker ordered the two thieves to stay put until police arrived. The female suspect complied, while the male suspect decided to make a run for it instead. As the intruder tried to flee the home, Decker shot him once in the abdomen. The chase continued outside the home as the runaway burglar made it to his get-away car only to have the vehicle shot at multiple times by Decker. The suspect later checked himself into the hospital in serious condition for a single gunshot wound to the stomach and Glen Decker was arrested for aggravated assault and weapons charges.

Stand, not chase

Photo by: Elliott Brown

Photo by: Elliott Brown

Utah has a stand your ground law detailed in Utah Code 76-2-402 allowing residents to protect themselves or others from danger by using deadly force if needed. What some may not realize is this does not give permission to be confrontational. The stand your ground law only applies if “the person reasonably believes that force is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury”. If a suspect is not posing an immediate threat, there is no justification in using deadly force; stand your ground laws would likely not apply for someone who is chasing an unarmed party.

La casa de mi familia

While Utah may not encourage residents to chase and shoot persons who are committing a non-violent crime, there are laws allowing homeowners (and possibly caretakers) to protect their place of residence from intruders. This is known as Castle Doctrine. Utah’s version of Castle Doctrine is found in Utah Code 76-2-405 which discusses “force in defense of habitation”. This law has certain stipulations that must apply in order to use potential deadly force in defending a home. The resident must believe that force is necessary to prevent a violent intruder or to “prevent the commission of [a] felony” in the home. Also, “the person using force or deadly force in defense of habitation is presumed ( . . . ) to have acted reasonably and had a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or serious bodily injury ( . . . )”.

Aggravated assault

Aggravated Assault

Photo by: Chris Heald

Granted breaking and entering is against the law, it does not allow a person to detain a suspect with physical force or violence. If a violent intruder tries to enter your home, stop them; if they attempt to retreat, let them. It is not up to everyday residents to take the law into their own hands unless they feel they are in danger. When someone’s actions have the potential to cause unnecessary serious bodily harm or death, that person may face charges of aggravated assault. Someone found guilty of aggravated assault faces the same penalties as the individual facing burglary charges. Both are considered third degree felonies punishable by up to five years and prison and a possible fine of $5,000. Anyone facing charges stemming from an attempt to stop an intruder should contact a criminal defense attorney immediately to avoid serving time behind bars with the burglar.

Copper Theft in Utah

Gold or silver jewelry are common items of theft in Utah, but so are pipes, cables, and wires made of copper.

From hobby to crime

Photo by: Sam-Cat

Photo by: Sam-Cat

Beyond the precious metals used for jewelry, other metals such as copper also have a high value. As people became aware of this, they began searching for copper to turn around and sell for profit. Rummaging through trash cans and salvage yards, stripping wires hoping to reveal copper wiring turned into a time consuming yet financially rewarding hobby for many people. Unfortunately, many individuals were so desperate for cash they began stripping wires that were still being used.

Supply and demand

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, repairs and replacements from copper theft costs the U.S. nearly a billion dollars a year. Copper theft has been an ongoing problem for over a decade, with the instances of copper theft rising and falling right along with the price of raw copper. The higher the price for copper, the more thefts tend to accompany. Although there was a definite decrease in instances of copper theft after the drop in copper prices in 2009, copper theft remains a problem today.

More than just theft

The FBI issued a report on copper thefts claiming “copper thieves are threatening US critical infrastructure by targeting electrical sub-stations, cellular towers, telephone land lines, railroads, water wells, construction sites, and vacant homes for lucrative profits. The theft of copper from these targets disrupts the flow of electricity, telecommunications, transportation, water supply, heating, and security and emergency services and presents a risk to both public safety and national security.” Utah is well aware of these infrastructure threats. Back in 2006, over 6 miles of copper was pulled from the ground going to light poles along I-15 in Salt Lake City. As the lights went out, so did half a million dollars of copper wiring.

Illegal and dangerous

Photo by:  Frédéric BISSON

Photo by:
Frédéric BISSON

Copper theft could land the thief with jail time from charges such as theft, burglary, criminal mischief. More serious to criminal charges is the threat to their life. Taking wires that are connected to electrical equipment is extremely dangerous, and if an electrical shock doesn’t kill the person touching the live wires, it will do some irreparable damage. The risk of criminal charges and injury isn’t worth the price of copper. Leave it connected.

Burglary and Robbery

When a thief breaks into a home and the resident is there, the burglary may turn into robbery instead.  Burglary and robbery are often used interchangeably and although they are both property crimes, the two are different according to Utah state law.

Photo by: Tim Samoff

Photo by: Tim Samoff

Burglary defined

Utah code 76-6-202 states that “An actor is guilty of burglary who enters or remains unlawfully in a building or any portion of a building with intent to commit: a felony, theft, […]”. Someone can commit burglary by breaking into a house while the homeowners are away on vacation.  Burglary, or breaking and entering, doesn’t necessarily have to involve the victim themselves, just their home and their belongings.

Robbery in comparison

76-6-301 states “A person commits robbery if: the person […] takes or attempts to take person property in the possession of another from his person, or immediate presence, against his will, by means of force or fear […]”.  Therefore to be considered robbery, a victim must be present at the scene of the crime and feel threatened or forced to give up their belongs by the intruder.  Likewise, robbery doesn’t have to involve a dwelling or building whereas burglary does.

Penalties for burglary and robbery

76-6-202 defines burglary as a 3rd degree felony “unless it was committed in a dwelling, in which event it is a second degree felony.” Robbery, whether it takes place in a dwelling or in public is always a 2nd degree felony as it involves another person directly.  If convicted, burglary and robbery charges can bring lengthy prison time.  Many criminals with a history of theft don’t fully understand the ramifications when they directly involve the victim or intrude on someone’s home. For anyone facing burglary and/or robbery charges, communicate with a criminal defense attorney immediately.