Nothing Funny about Clowns Who Make Violent Threats toward Schools

Clowns can either be frightening or humorous but most everyone agrees there is nothing funny about them when violent threats toward schools are made. As disturbing as it may be, are any laws actually being broken?

Common fear

violent threats by clowns

Photo by: taymtaym

Being afraid of clowns is a very common fear, with numerous kids and adults sharing a mutual apprehension about the wigged entertainers with painted faces and tricks up their sleeves. The term for this phobia is Coulrophobia, meaning an abnormal fear of clowns. Several horror-based books and movies play on this phobia as well as many haunted houses which just so happen to be increasing in popularity this time of year. Although many people poke fun or crack jokes regarding this fear of clowns, it stops being comical for everyone when the public actually fears for their safety.

The clown epidemic

In August, there were reports of a clown who was trying to lure children into a wooded area near an apartment complex in Greenville, South Carolina. Following this incident, other disturbing clown sightings started popping up around the nation, including here in Utah in cities from Ogden down to St. George. Most instances are nothing more than clowns in abnormal locations or settings who stare at people creepily, making bystanders nervous. Other instances however have taken it too far by making violent threats directed toward Utah schools.

Violent threats lead to school lock downs

So far none of the violent threats to schools have turned into any dangerous situations. Regardless however, schools and law enforcement have to follow certain protocols in the event of violent threats toward the kids at school. Part of this protocol involves putting the threatened schools on lock down. This causes undue stress for the teachers, students, and parents. It can also end in criminal charges for those clowns involved.

Clown crimes

Photo by: William Gray

Photo by: William Gray

While many clown acts can appear so corny a person might wish they were outlawed, there is nothing wrong or illegal with dressing like a circus performer. Seeing a random clown on the street may seem bizarre if it is not yet Halloween or the person isn’t headed to a child’s birthday party, but there isn’t anything illegal about the person simply dressing “differently”. As long as the person isn’t breaking any laws, they are free to dress in whatever clothes they desire with their face painted as colorful as they wish. If a clown decides to chase children or make violent threats towards a school, that is a different story. Those actions will result in criminal charges such as:

Disorderly conduct. A person dressed up as a clown is allowed to stand or walk along a street just as any other resident is but if they chase after kids they can be arrested for disorderly conduct, a class C misdemeanor. In this regards, disorderly conduct is defined by Utah Code 76-9-102 as “intending to cause public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm, ( . . . ) the person: engages in ( . . . ) threatening behavior.” Kids or adults with or without a clown phobia would most likely feel threatened if they were randomly chased by a scary clown.

Stalking. If a clown chooses to target a person by repeatedly either following them, showing up at their home or work, or otherwise as Utah Code 76-5-106.5 states: “intentionally or knowingly engag[ing] in a course of conduct directed a specific person and knows or should know that the course of conduct would cause a reasonable person: to fear for the person’s own safety ( . . . ) or to suffer other emotional duress”, they can be arrested for stalking, a class A misdemeanor.

Making violent threats. One of the most disturbing things being done by these creepy clowns is the numerous violent threats towards schools across the country. Many of these threats to schools are being made anonymously through social media which thanks to the internet is quickly spreads to students, teachers, and parents, causing widespread panic as well as using up valuable law enforcement resources. Utah Code 76-5-107 warns that if a person “commits a threat of violence [by] the person threaten[ing] to commit any offense involving bodily injury, death, or substantial property damage, ( . . . ), it is a class B misdemeanor” whether or not the threat was expressed or implied. If that person or clown makes a threat of using a weapon of mass destruction, that can be seen as a terrorist threat.

Dangerous for all involved

Photo by: Steven Sanchez

Photo by: Steven Sanchez

While some may see these clown pranks as amusing, it is causing residents to fear for their safety while possibly increasing the danger for those dressed as clowns. The public has already expressed a desire to use force against any clown that makes them feel threatened. With a large majority of the Utah population having concealed carry permits, this may prove a danger for all clowns on Utah streets. The clown pranksters are encouraged for their own safety to refrain from further threatening behavior or plan on seeking legal counsel if caught.

Unlawful Use of a Notary Seal

It may seem nothing more than a stamp and a signature, but those responsible for notarizing documents must follow strict rules for using their notary seal as unlawful or improper use is punishable by law.

Notary public

Photo by: edkohler

Photo by: edkohler

A notary or notary public is a person who is licensed and commissioned to sign and seal official papers which are used in legal proceedings. A notary is used as an impartial witness who will ensure proper identification along with required signatures on legally binding documents before placing their notary seal of approval. Notarized documents are often used in many critical events such as:
• Buying or selling a home,
• Establishing power of attorney,
• Creating a will, and
• Adopting a child.
For these reasons, it is not surprising that there are lengthy laws regarding the use of a notary seal and criminal charges when these laws are broken.

Use of a notary seal

Notary Seal

Photo by: Dan Moyle

Title 46 Chapter 1 Sections 1 through 23 of the Utah Code discusses the Notaries Public Reform Act. Here is where all the laws pertaining to a notary public can be found including: required qualifications, prohibitions of use, liabilities of a notary public, and criminal charges for unlawful or improper use. Some of rules regarding the use of a notary seal include:

• 46-1-9.2 “A notary may not ( . . . ) perform any notarial act with intent to deceive or defraud.”
• 46-1-11(1) “A nonattorney notary may not provide advice or counsel to another person concerning legal documents or legal proceedings, including immigration matters.”
A violation of these and other laws regarding the use of a notary seal are punishable as class B misdemeanors. The same criminal charges apply to those who employ the notary or issue the seal to them who break the following laws:
• 46-1-18(3)(b) “It is a class B misdemeanor ( . . . )for: the employer of a notary to solicit the notary to perform a notarial act in violation of [The Notaries Public Reform Act]”
• 46-1-17 “A vendor may not provide a notarial seal, either inking or embossing, to a person claiming to be a notary, unless the person presents a photocopy of the person’s notarial commission, attached to a notarized declaration ( . . . ) “. A vendor who does so is guilty of a class B misdemeanor
A notary public or those employing a notary or issuing a notary seal who are facing any criminal charges are encouraged to seek legal counsel with a reputable criminal defense attorney.

Penalties Increased for Flying Drones over a Wildfire in Utah

Following repeated disruptions to wildfire suppression in southern Utah, lawmakers have increased penalties for flying drones over an active wildfire and authorities now have permission to disable or destroy the pesky unmanned aircraft.

Saddle Fire

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services

A lightning strike on a mountainous ridge southwest of the small town of Pine Valley, Utah started a fire that has now been burning for over a month, threatening residents and destroying nearly 2,300 acres of coniferous trees in the Dixie National Forest. While the blaze was naturally occurring and not human-caused, someone has repeatedly slowed fire control efforts and put homes and lives at risk by flying hobby drones nearby.

Safety risk

Drones above Wildfire

Photo by: Tony Alter

When a drone is spotted near a wildfire, attending fire crews will ground all aircraft needed to fight the blaze. This is due to the risk of the unmanned drones colliding with a human occupied fire control aircraft and damaging a helicopter’s rotor blades or being sucked through the intake. Any collision of the two aircraft would risk the safety of the individuals flying the helicopter along with those on the ground.

Every minute counts

Photo by: Texas Military Department

Photo by: Texas Military Department

Every minute counts when fighting wildfires. When fire suppression aircraft are grounded even for a brief amount of time, wildfires can shift and grow rapidly which further hinders any chance of containment. The containment of the Saddle Fire in southern Utah has seen multiple delays due to drones flying in the restricted area. Following the first delay the fire grew and moved quickly, causing an evacuation order to be issued for the residents in Pine Valley. Following these and many other wildfire suppression delays, laws have now been changed.

Penalties for drones near wildfires

Photo by: Bureau of Land Management

Photo by: Bureau of Land Management

The drone bill HB0126 signed last Wednesday now allow authorities to jam a drone’s signal to bring it down and increase charges to: a class B misdemeanor for flying in a restricted wildfire area; a class A misdemeanor if fire crews have to ground an aircraft; a third degree felony if a drone collides with an aircraft; and a second degree felony if a drone causes a fire suppression aircraft to crash. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert tweeted the following statement following the bill signing: “Today’s special session vote sends a strong message to Utahns that we will not tolerate reckless drone interference near wildfires.”