Utah Man Who Targeted Latino Victims in Attack Not Charged With Hate Crime

A Utah man who appeared to target Latino victims in an attack is not expected to be charged with a hate crime.

Attack on “Mexicans”

18 year old Luis Lopez and his 51 year old father Jose Lopez were working at their family tire shop when a man walked into their shop’s garage and attacked them with a large metal pole. 50 year old Alan Dale Covington entered the tire shop when according to another member of the Lopez family, Covington asked if the family was part of the “Mexican Mafia”. It was after this Covington came after the son and father swinging. Luis was struck in the face, causing severe injuries to his cheekbone, eye socket and sinus cavity and knocking him unconscious. His father Jose received injuries to his shoulder and arm while trying to protect his son.

Criminal charges

Covington was arrested and charged with multiple counts of aggravated assault which is defined by section 76-5-103 of the Utah Criminal Code as:

(i) “an attempt, with unlawful force or violence, to do bodily injury to another;
(ii) A threat, accompanied by a show of immediate force of violence, to do bodily injury to another; or
(iii) An act, committed with unlawful force or violence, that causes bodily injury to another or creates a substantial risk of bodily injury to another; and [that includes the use of a dangerous weapon]”.

Aggravated assault is a third degree felony unless the victim is seriously injured or knocked unconscious. In this case the charges are enhances to a second degree felony. If a police officer is targeted and is seriously injured, the charges are enhanced to a first degree felony.

Not qualifying as a hate crime

While the penalties for aggravated assault are enhanced for targeting a police officer, targeting a person of a certain race does not qualify for additional or enhanced hate crime penalties. Utah Code 76-3-203.3 states: “A person who commits any primary offense [misdemeanors only] with the intent to intimidate or terrorize another person or with reason to believe that his action would intimidate or terrorize that person is subject [as follows]

(i) A class C misdemeanor primary offense is a class B misdemeanor; and
(ii) A class B misdemeanor primary offense is a class A misdemeanor.”

While this section may begin to add further punishment to hate crimes, it only covers misdemeanor charges. For felony charges such as aggravated assault, there are no enhancements for hate crimes. Utah lawmakers are again pushing to update these laws to incorporate enhanced charges for all crimes.

Mental health and intent

Many believe Covington should face enhanced charges due to the fact that he appeared to target and attack the Latino family based solely on their race. Law enforcement officers noted however that Covington seemed to be suffering from mental illness or a psychiatric episode as he had a prior history of mental illness and also showed an unreasonable fear of Latinos while incarcerated. 76-3-203.3 that enhances punishments for hate crimes states: ”The act must be accompanied with the intent to cause . . . a person to reasonably fear to freely exercise or enjoy any right secured by the Constitution or laws of the state or by the Constitution or law of the United States.” While Covington will face the charges for the attack as soon as he is mentally ready to do so, asking prosecutors to further punish him for his intent while he was mentally unstable could be seen as unfair and unnecessary as he currently faces multiple felonies already. Anyone who may be facing criminal charges where mental illnesses played a role are encouraged to seek counsel from a reputable attorney.

Sentencing Guidelines in Utah

Once someone has pleaded guilty or been found guilty of a crime, sentencing will soon follow which depends on many factors specific to the case as well as Utah law and the sentencing guidelines stated by the Utah Sentencing Commission.

Lesser offenses

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When someone breaks the law, the crime committed could be a minor offense such as an infraction, a more significant offense like a misdemeanor, or even a serious felony offense. What each crime is classified as along with the possible punishment for breaking that specific law can be found in the Utah State Code. Infractions such as most traffic violations do not result time behind bars, just a monetary fine no greater than $750. Misdemeanors are offenses that are considered worse than infractions, but not as severe as a felony and can result in fines and jail time. According to Utah Courts, a misdemeanor offense is broken down into three categories that include:

• Class C misdemeanors such as driving without registration or negligent cruelty to animals, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine up to $750;
• Class B misdemeanors including prostitution and harassment, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a fine up to $1,000;
• Class A misdemeanors such as stalking and reckless endangerment, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine up to $2,500;

Major offenses

A felony is the most severe of crimes and could result in a fine and prison. Felonies are categorized into four groups:

• Third-degree felonies including habitual wanton destruction of protected wildlife and felony discharge of a firearm with no injuries, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of no more than $5,000;
• Second-degree felonies such as burglary of a dwelling and possession of child pornography which carry possible prison terms of 1 to 15 years in prison and a possible fine of $10,000;
• First-degree felonies for example rape and sodomy on a child, punishable by 5 years to life in prison and a fine no greater than $10,000;
• Capital felonies such as murder can result in either life in prison with or without parole and even the death penalty.

Sentencing guidelines and matrix

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Although many crimes have already been categorized along with appropriate punishment decided by the Utah Legislature, there are many other factors that are taken into account before a judge will decide on a sentence. The Utah Sentencing Commission has issued a manual complete with guidelines and a matrix that can be followed to ensure that sentencing is fair for each specific case. According to the Utah Sentencing Commission Philosophy Statement, “The Sentencing Commission promotes evidence-based sentencing policies that effectively address the three separate goals of criminal sentencing:

• Risk Management [imposing a punishment or penalty that is proportionate to the gravity of the offense and the culpability of the offender.]
• Risk Reduction [appropriate identification and reduction of an offender’s individual criminal risk factors.]
• Restitution [repayment of damages to the community or to victims resulting from an offense]”

According to Utah Courts, the guidelines and matrix designed by the Sentencing Commission takes into account things such as:

• “Aggravating factors” such as significance of injuries and the relationship between the offender and victim;
• Enhanced penalties such as if a deadly weapon is used or if the offender is a repeat offender; and
• “Mitigating factors” that can include the offender’s behavior since the crime or a clinical evaluation on their mental health during the crime.

According to the Utah Sentencing Commission, “Utah law provides the basis for the sentencing and release of criminal offenders. ( . . . ) The guidelines are an attempt to further structure decision-making relative to sentencing and release, yet still retain the flexibility to deal with individual cases.” Use of these guidelines along with the Utah statutes should ensure anyone facing criminal charges is treated fairly and individually. To ensure this, it is best to have legal representation before and during sentencing hearings.

Traveling Internationally with a DUI Conviction

Having a DUI conviction can result in jail time, hefty fines and a suspended or revoked driver’s license, but in can also affect plans for traveling internationally.

Traveling internationally

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Those with felonies on their record tend to hesitate before traveling internationally as they likely understand their record can follow them wherever they go. Some countries have stricter policies regarding certain crimes and may not be welcoming to those who have been convicted of driving under the influence, even if the charge is a misdemeanor. Most international travel from U.S. citizens happens across borders, which includes the countries of Mexico and Canada. Being close by and sharing a continent may cause people to assume they can travel there freely with a passport, but that isn’t always the case.

Canada

Canadians are known as being overly friendly but this is not the case to those with a DUI conviction. While a DUI in the U.S. may be a misdemeanor, it could be a felony in Canada. If this is the case, sources note there is could be a 10 year limit that a U.S. travelers with DUI convictions are barred from crossing the Canadian border. For those that wish to visit Canada before that long 10 year limit, according to the Canada Border Services Agency, “Depending on the crime, how long ago it was committed, and how you have behaved since the conviction, you may still be allowed to come to Canada, if you:

• convince an immigration officer that you meet the legal terms to be deemed rehabilitated, or
• applied for rehabilitation and were approved, or
• were granted a record suspension, or
• have a temporary resident permit.”

Mexico

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It is a misconception that Mexico is more lax in its policies toward DUI convictions. While Mexico’s policies seem to change frequently, Mexican officials have access to the U.S. criminal database (Interpol). If it will show up on someone’s record in the U.S., it can show up when they try to enter Mexico. While traveling following a misdemeanor DUI conviction usually won’t end in trouble, there have been several people who have been denied entrance to Mexico for a felony DUI conviction on their record. If a felony DUI doesn’t stop someone from entering Mexico, it has the potential to create a hassle for them upon return to the States.

Know before you go

Anyone with a criminal record including a misdemeanor DUI conviction, planning on traveling internationally is encouraged to inquire carefully with the countries they plan to visit before setting off on their travels to ensure they will not face problems during travel. Even if travelers aren’t denied entrance, being held up with immigration officer could be embarrassing and time consuming. For more information, contact U.S. Passports and International Travel.