All Have the Right to a Trial by Jury

Having a trial by jury is a Constitutional right bestowed upon all persons facing jail time with criminal charges.

Sixth Amendment rights

Trial by Jury

Photo by: Frits Ahlefeldt Hiking.org

According to the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed”.

The default

Although everyone is entitled to a trial by jury, all too often cases are tried by a single judge instead of a panel of peers. Utahcourts.gov states “Depending on the type of action, a case may be tried before a judge (bench trial) or before a jury with a judge presiding. “ The option of a trial by jury is there for everyone, but defendants without proper counsel may be unaware of that right at first and miss their window of opportunity.

Constitutional rights with an expiration

Photo by: Chris Betcher

Photo by: Chris Betcher

A trial by jury is available to those facing jail time due to felonies or misdemeanors; however depending on the charges, this Constitutional right expires if not claimed in a set amount of time. Rule 17 of the Utah Rules of Criminal Procedure explains that:

“(c) All felony cases shall be tried by jury unless the defendant waives a jury in open court with the approval of the court and the consent of the prosecution.

(d) All other cases shall be tried without a jury unless the defendant makes written demand at least 14 days prior to trial, or the court orders otherwise. No jury shall be allowed in the trial of an infraction.”

Trial by jury or judge?

A trial by jury is an option for all defendants facing serious charges, but when is the right time to take advantage of this Constitutional right? Ultimately it is up to the defendant to decide whether a trial by jury is the right call for their case but it is always recommended to be represented by a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney to ensure that the best decision for a trial is made.

Drivers Cautioned of Increased Risk of Auto-Pedestrian Accidents

As thousands of Utah children head to the streets after dark tonight, drivers are cautioned to be extra attentive to the increased risk of auto-pedestrian accidents on Halloween.

Halloween hazards

Photo by: Srdjan Jovanovic

Photo by: Srdjan Jovanovic

Each holiday has hazards that are somewhat distinctive to that holiday alone. Independence Day sees a large amount of accidental fires and burn victims while there is always an uptick of drunk drivers on holidays such as New Year’s Eve. Unfortunately on Halloween there are more auto-pedestrian accidents than any other holiday and most of the victims involved are children.

Increased auto-pedestrian accidents and deaths

A 20 year study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states: “Overall, among children aged 5-14 years, “an average of four deaths occurred on Halloween during [the hours of 4 p.m. through 10 p.m.] each year, compared with an average of one death during these hours on every other day of the year.” According to the CDC, this drastic surge of auto-pedestrian accidents and deaths on Halloween is likely due to these factors:

• Most of the foot traffic is at night compared to daytime when children are usually outside;
• Kids are less likely to cross at crosswalks and will take the fastest route to the next house which can often take them into the roadway on blind corners and between parked cars;
• Many costumes children wear are dark colored making it harder for drivers to see them;
• Children may be too distracted to be aware of vehicle dangers;
• Young trick-or-treaters may be unable to cross the street swiftly enough;
• Masks and other costumes may limit a child’s vision and hearing;
• Young children may not fully understand the danger of cars; and
• Some kids may not realize that they can be hurt, even in a crosswalk.

Criminal charges for drivers involved

Drivers are expected to be extra vigilant when driving on the evening of Halloween. Although most auto-pedestrian accidents are not deliberate, drivers who are involved may end up facing charges for their role, especially if a death occurs. The charges could be both criminal and civil and can range from misdemeanors to felonies, depending on the severity of the incident and whether negligence or impairment was involved. Drivers who are involved in auto-pedestrian accidents are urged to speak with a criminal defense attorney immediately.

Strange Utah Laws

Many of the so-called strange Utah laws touted about online turned out to be either outdated or non-existent, however the following were found to be valid laws.

Whale hunting

strange utah laws

Photo by: Issac Kohane

It is illegal to hunt whales in Utah. This is one of the strange Utah laws that is true in a sense, but only on a national level. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) text of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) section 102 (2)(f) “It is unlawful for any person or vessel or other conveyance to take any species of whale incident to commercial whaling in waters subject to the jurisdiction of the United States”. Luckily no body of water in Utah contains any species of whale so breaking this law isn’t likely to happen.

Selling alcohol in an emergency

It is illegal to sell alcohol in an emergency. If a state of emergency is ever declared in Utah, you may want to think twice about running to the store for your favorite brand of alcohol. Legally, alcohol venders may not be able to sell you any but it all depends on whether or not the governor says it’s okay. Utah Code 32B-4-407 states “During a period of emergency proclaimed by the governor to exist in an area of the state, it is unlawful for a person to sell, offer for sale, or furnish an alcoholic product in that area if the director publicly announces and directs that in that area a person may not sell, offer for sale, or furnish an alcoholic product in that area during the period of emergency.”

Marrying family members

Photo by: Evan Forester

Photo by: Evan Forester

It is illegal to marry a close family member or have sexual relations with them. As disturbing as this is, the state of Utah felt the need to cover topics related to marriage or incest multiple times throughout the Utah Code. Section 30-1-1 states “The following marriages are incestuous and void from the beginning, whether the relationship is legitimate or illegitimate:
(a) marriages between parents and children;
(b) marriages between ancestors and descendants of every degree;
(c) marriages between brothers and sisters of the half as well as the whole blood;
(d) marriages between uncles and nieces or aunts and nephews;
(e) marriages between first cousins, [unless] both parties are 65 years of age or older; or if both parties are 55 years of age or older [and] either party is unable to reproduce.”
While Utah Code 30-1-1 fails to mention criminal charges for incestuous marriages, section 76-7-102 adds that incest (regardless of marriage) is in fact a third degree felony.

Large containers of beer prohibited

Another weird law pertaining to alcohol: only retailers are allowed to possess containers of beer larger than two liters. Long -time residents of Utah may be familiar with this law, but those new to the area may wonder why police always break up parties where kegs of beer are located. Utah Code 32B-4-406 (1) (b) states “a person may not purchase or possess beer in a container that exceeds two liters.” The only exception for buying or possessing large containers of beer is when it is between licensed alcohol retailers.

Ultimate fighting

Photo by: Eric Molina

Photo by: Eric Molina

No biting during ultimate fighting matches. Surprisingly, Utah actually allows ultimate fighting matches to begin with but no, biting is not allowed. Neither is “direct, intentional, and forceful strikes to the eyes, groin area, adam’s apple area of the neck, and temple area of the head” according to Utah Code 76-9-705. Additionally “using anything that is not part of the human body, except for boxing gloves, to intentionally inflict serious bodily injury upon an opponent through direct contact or the expulsion of a projectile” and “striking a person who demonstrates an inability to protect himself from the advances of an opponent” are prohibited.

Consult attorney about strange Utah laws

If you are ever unsure about strange Utah laws it is best to consult with an attorney to ensure there any action you take will not have a threat of criminal charges. If you have already been charged with a crime, contact a criminal defense attorney immediately.