Compensatory Service in Lieu of Fine Amounts

Work it off or pay it off, the state of Utah now allows those convicted of an infraction or some misdemeanors to choose performing a compensatory service instead of paying a fine.

Monetary punishment

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Anytime someone is found guilty of a crime, they have to pay the courts a fee as part of the punishment for their crimes. Depending on the severity of the crime, the fee can also be accompanied with jail or even prison time. The greater the charge, the heftier the monetary fine will be. While some residents can afford to dish out money for fines, others have a difficult or even impossible time affording the fine amount.

Another option for restitution

For those unable to bear the financial burden that results from their poor choices, the State of Utah now allows individuals to work off fine amounts with compensatory service instead. HB0248 put into effect last week has adjusted the ways in which someone can pay for their legal mistakes. This bill introduced compensatory service which is “service or unpaid work performed by a person, in lieu of the payment of a criminal fine”. Not all fines can be worked off however. The new compensatory service only applies “when a defendant is sentenced to pay a fine for an infraction, class C or class B misdemeanor”. Only then shall “the court consider allowing the defendant to complete compensatory service”. The option of compensatory service is not available for fines associated with felonies or class A misdemeanors.

Hourly “wage” for service

If someone chooses to work off their fine instead of paying for it, the new section 76-3-301.7 states “The court shall credit timely completed compensatory service reported . . . against the fine or bail amount at the rate of $10 per hour and shall allow the defendant a reasonable amount of time to complete the service.” For more information on potential fine or compensatory service amounts regarding pending criminal charges, speak with your legal counsel.

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

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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

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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.

Theft and Unlawful Use of Finance Cards

Credit and debit cards are an easy way for an individual to access the funds in their account when they need to make a purchase, however finance cards can also be easy targets for theft and unlawful use by others.

Increase in finance card theft

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Viewing any county bookings report in Utah and it is apparent that theft and unlawful use of finance cards continues to be a growing trend among larcenist. Finance cards can be stolen out of lost wallets and purses, with the thief using the card until the victim realizes their card is missing and quickly cancels it. There are also ways individuals can have their finance card info stolen discreetly with the card never leaving their wallet. The individual may not realize their finance card information is stolen until they are contacted by their bank or by the police.

Theft of information

One way the discreet theft and use of finance cards takes place is by the use of credit card skimmers. Skimmers can be placed discretely in card readers such as those found at gas pumps. The small hand held skimmers can also be hidden in the pocket of a store cashier, waiter or waitress. The finance card is discretely swiped through the bugged card reader or through the skimmer and the card is handed back to the victim, who is none the wiser. Theft of finance cards can also take place without the thief ever handling the card itself. Information can be stolen online, through malware or collected through the use of shared personal information over the phone or online.

Type of fraud

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Theft or otherwise illegally obtaining another person’s finance card is considered a type of fraud according to Utah State law. According to Utah Code 76-6-506.3, “Any person is guilty of a third degree felony who:
(1) acquires a financial transaction card from another without the consent of the card holder or the issuer;
(2) receives a financial transaction card with intent to use [unlawfully] . . . ;
(3)sells or transfers a financial transaction card to another person with the knowledge that it will be used [illegally] . . . ;
(4) acquires a financial transaction card that the person knows was lost, mislaid, or delivered under a mistake as to the identity or address of the card holder; . . .
(5) possesses, sells, or transfers any information necessary for the use of a financial transaction card, including the credit number of the card, the expiration date of the card, or the personal identification code related to the card [without the consent of knowledge of the cardholder].”

Unlawful use of card

Beyond felony charges for acquiring someone else’s finance card without their consent, there are other charges if that card is used to make purchases. Utah Code 76-6-506.2 warns that “It is unlawful for any person to:
(1) knowingly use a . . . stolen, or fraudulently obtained financial transaction card to obtain or attempt to obtain credit, goods, property, or services”.
Anyone found unlawfully using a card belonging to someone else will face additional charges depending on the monetary value of what the card was used for. Utah Code 76-7-506.5 notes “Any person found guilty of unlawful [use of a financial card] is guilty of:
(a) a class B misdemeanor when the value of the property, money, or thing obtained or sought to be obtained is less that $500;
(b) a class A misdemeanor when the value . . . is or exceeds $500 . . . ;
(c) a third degree felony when the value . . . is or exceeds $1,500 . . . ;
(d) a second degree felony when the value . . . is or exceeds $5,000.”

Not their lucky day

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Some individuals make an effort to steal another’s financial card information while others just happen upon the opportunity. When someone is going through rough financial times, they may see a lost finance card on the ground or an improperly addressed card in their mailbox and think their monetary luck has struck. Regardless of how the card was obtained, keeping and using a card that belongs to another person will end in criminal charges. For legal aid regarding charges for theft and unlawful use of a finance card, speak to a criminal defense attorney.