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.

Pantless Man Charged with Lewdness, Intoxication, and More

pantless man gets lewdness charges

Photo: Sarah Marie Jones/Wikimedia Commons

Early Saturday morning, Feb. 7, an intoxicated man entered an apartment near a party he had been attending wearing nothing below the waist but a pair of socks. The man was chased by police and arrested for lewdness and other charges.

Several Drinks Too Many

Some parties require the attendees to turn in their keys to ensure no drunk driving incidents, but apparently Austin Jeffery Noble, 21, took this one step further and simply surrendered his pants.

According to a report from KSL News, sometime before 4 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 7, Noble left a party he was attending and wandered into a nearby apartment wearing nothing more than a hooded sweatshirt, bowtie, and socks. Enter the first potential charges for criminal trespass, burglary, and lewdness.

The arrest affidavit states that at this point, he laid down next to a sleeping 17-year-old girl and began touching her inappropriately. Next potential charges of forcible sex abuse. The girl woke up, and after she and her sister confronted Noble, he fled the apartment.

When police showed up, they found Noble still without his pants. A brief foot pursuit occurred (next charge: failure to stop at the command of a police officer) before police caught up with him. Noble claimed that he didn’t remember anything before the foot chase. A breathalyzer test showed Noble’s BAC at .209, more than twice the legal limit, and added on intoxication to his list of charges. Noble was booked into the Davis County Jail.

No Pants Equals Lewdness

According to Utah Criminal Code 76-9-902, lewdness is defined as an act not amounting to rape, sodomy, aggravated sexual assault, or forcible sexual abuse (which is already on the list for Noble) but which will still cause affront or alarm to one who is over 14 years old. This may include an act of sexual intercourse or sodomy (in the presence of the minor), masturbating, or in the case of Noble, exposing the genitals, female breast below the areola, buttocks, anus, or pubic area.

Lewdness is considered a class B misdemeanor on the first or second conviction, punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. However, on the third conviction, or if the person is already a sex offender, lewdness becomes a third degree felony, punishable up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

If you or someone you know has been charged with lewdness, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who knows the law and will look out for your best interests.