Reduce the Risk of Additional Charges Following an Arrest

When someone is placed under arrest, they are booked under specific charges pertaining to that arrest. Just as the individuals arrested can fight to have charges reduced or dropped, there is also the chance that extra charges can be added following the arrest.

Failure to comply with arrest and booking

Photo by: Campaign Against Arms Trade

One main cause of added charges following an arrest is due to the behavior of the alleged offender during the time of being arrested and placed behind bars. Being handcuffed and whisked off to jail is a stressful moment that can unfortunately bring out the worst in people. Some individuals make a bad situation worse by:

• Resisting arrest or as Utah Code 76-8-305 states “refusing to perform any act required by lawful order necessary to effect the arrest or detention (…) made by a peace officer”, a class B misdemeanor;
• Attempting to flee police, a class A misdemeanor;
Spitting, urinating, or propelling any bodily fluid at an officer, potentially adding a third degree felony onto the list of charges;
• Physically assaulting an officer while in the custody of law enforcement, a third degree felony defined by section 76-5-102.5. If the charges are enhanced to aggravated assault by a prisoner, then the defendant may face an additional second or first degree felony as stated in 76-5-103.5; or
• Once at the local jail, kicking, punching, or otherwise damaging jail property, resulting in an added third degree felony.

Regardless of whether or not the arrestee feels they should be taken into police custody, they are encouraged to be respectful and cooperative during and after being read their Miranda rights. This does not mean they have to converse with officers regarding details of the arrest however, as that in itself can lead to added charges.

Spilling all the beans

Photo by: Emilio Küffer

While there are some who react vehemently to being placed under arrest, there are others who go too far the other direction by trying to be overly compliant to officers on the scene. In an effort to possibly smooth things over, some arrestees decide to share every single detail related to the charges. Not only can their over-the-top candor cement the charges against that individual, it can help investigators who may already be trying to tie other charges to the defendant. It is best to politely decline any discussion with officers until an attorney is present.

Accumulating charges prior to trial

Another way charges can be added is if more evidence comes to light or if the prosecution attempts to add or enhance charges. For example, if a person is arrested for possession of marijuana, the prosecution could look at the amount of marijuana in question, and attempt to call it enough to charge the defendant with intent to distribute, even if it was initially determined to be only for personal use. If the person drove through a school zone with the marijuana in their car, the prosecution could also add enhanced possession in a school zone charges. Maybe they had kids in the home or car, so by all means throw in some child abuse or child neglect charges on top. Also known as stacking charges, this is a common occurrence and a reason so many individuals get scared into accepting plea deals (a.k.a. pleading guilty to lesser charges) without first obtaining proper counsel for themselves.

Have an attorney ready

Photo by: Kevin Johnston

With so many variables working against someone following an arrest, the best plan to avoid additional charges is to:

• remain calm;
• be prepared with the name of a reputable attorney;
• give the defense attorney’s name to authorities during the arrest;
• Stay quiet until advised otherwise by counsel; and finally
• Trust that a knowledgeable attorney will be able to see through charge stacking to decide the best option possible for each defendant depending on their specific case.

State Forensic Chemist Causes Thousands of Falsified Drug Convictions

A state forensic chemist out of Massachusetts fabricated positive tests, leading to thousands of falsified drug convictions.

Playing with the freedom of others

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Annie Dookhan, a state forensic chemist who worked for the state of Massachusetts for several years until her arrest in 2013 admitted that over the course of her employment, she had sent back tens of thousands of drug tests with positive results that had either not been tested or had been falsified to product a positive test. She was convicted of tampering with evidence, obstruction of justice, and perjury and served. She has since been released after serving half of her five year sentence while those she helped convict are just now seeing the light of freedom.

Free again

More than 21,000 drug convictions in the state of Massachusetts were dismissed following Dookhan’s arrest and those falsely accused were finally released from prison. Unfortunately, many of those falsely imprisoned had already spent several years behind bars prior to Dookhan’s arrest and after while the prosecution worked feverishly to keep as many imprisoned as possible. Although 21,000 individuals are no longer facing drug charges thanks to the high court of Massachusetts, their lives, including personal relationships and employment, may be forever damaged following being falsely imprisoned.

Not a one-time crime

Photo by: meesh

Dookhan isn’t the only state appointed forensic chemist to toy around with the freedom of others by altering test results. A few others include:

• Another Massachusetts forensic chemist named Sonja Farak was prosecuted the same year as Dookhan for stealing drugs from the lab she was employed at and using those drugs while working. Thousands of cases were tainted by the trusted chemist who was working while high.

• Joyce Gilchrist was another forensic chemist out of Oklahoma who, like Dookhan, tampered with evidence leading to false positive DNA test results.

• Kamalkant Shan, a lab tech who was released from his job at the State of New Jersey Police Laboratory in 2016 was caught officially recording that drugs had been tested when they hadn’t.

• In 2016 a forensic chemist working for the Utah Department of Public Safety was arrested for sexual crimes against children. Although none of his crimes occurred at his place of employment, it could show him unreliable to produce honest work, leaving many cases to be questioned.

The above names are just a few of several state employed workers who, of their own accord, may have had a hand in placing innocent persons behind bars.

Incentive for state forensic chemists

Photo by: Idaho National Laboratory

Although no one is exactly sure why state forensic chemists such as Dookhan tampered with evidence, the incentive could be nothing more than exceeding their quota. Dookhan was seen as an exceptional employee by returning three times the amount of drug tests than other chemists do on average. While Dookhan wasn’t reward monetarily beyond her annual six-figure income, the fame and acknowledgement from coworkers and supervisors may have been enough to drive her to over-succeed. Another possible reason for falsifying test results could be pure laziness. Performing the same tests, day in and day out may get repetitive and tedious. Perhaps those who chose to “dry-lab”, or produce test results without performing a tests, failed to perceive a major concern to cut corners on testing as the tests appeared insignificant to ensure a guilty verdict. For whatever reason, forensic chemists should be upheld to a higher standard since they are partly responsible for the freedom or imprisonment of others. In order to ensure that, laboratories that are funded by federal or state governments should be properly accredited.

Don’t rely on drug tests

Many of those convicted ended up admitting guilt after having their test results come back positive. When faced with what should be hard evidence, the wisest choice may appear to plead guilty and take a plea deal if possible. This is a decision that is best dealt with while being supported by an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Communications Fraud and Theft from a Utah School District

A southern Utah man was placed being bars Friday for communications fraud as well as theft after he installed audio and video equipment for a school district that was inferior to what they had purchased.

Not what they ordered

Communications Fraud

Photo by: MiNe

An investigation into Dustin Taylor, a former manager of a St. George company that sells audio and video systems began last year after the Washington County School District as well as a local theater company discovered that although they had ordered high quality equipment for their facilities, what ended up being installed was far lower value. Police discovered Taylor had been running his own business on the side and had allegedly taken the better equipment before installing it for a job contract through his side business. Taylor was arrested for communications fraud as well as multiple charges of theft.

Communications fraud

Utah Code 76-10-1801 states “Any person who has devised any scheme or artifice to defraud another or to obtain from another money, property, or anything of value by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, promises, or material omissions, and who communicates directly or indirectly with any person by any means for the purpose of executing or concealing the scheme or artifice is guilty of:

a) A class B misdemeanor when the value of the property ( . . . ) is less than $500;

b) A class A misdemeanor when the value ( . . . ) is [between $500 and $1,500];

c) A third degree felony when the value ( . . . ) is [between $1,500 and $5,000];

d) A second degree felony when the value of the property ( . . . ) exceeds $5,000.

The monetary loss of the customers who were defrauded by Taylor was estimated to be around $34,000.

Theft by deception

Not only did Taylor deceive customers by installing inferior equipment, but he took the high quality equipment from the company he was working for to install elsewhere without their knowledge. As Utah Code 76-6-405 states, he “obtain[ed] or exercise[d] control over property of another person: by deception; and with a purpose to deprive the other person of property.” The charges for theft by deception depend on the value of the item stolen and are identical to the charges by value for communications fraud. In Taylor’s case, the value of the audio and video equipment that Taylor had appropriated and resold or had in his possession was estimated to be as high as $89,000. This resulted in multiple theft charges; each being another second degree felony. Each second degree felony charge for communications fraud and theft is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine of $10,000.

Reduced sentencing for first-time offender

Photo by: Mark Strozier

Photo by: Mark Strozier

It is unknown whether Taylor intentionally concocted a plan to deceive the school district and other companies or if an opportunity to make more money fell into his lap and he thought no one would be the wiser. Either way, what he did was against the law and he risked spending nearly a lifetime in jail, especially if his sentences were to be run consecutively. Fortunately, Taylor had a clean record and was an outstanding citizen prior to his theft and communications fraud charges. This was likely his saving grace.

What a deal

As part of a plea deal that reduced his charges to third degree felonies, Taylor was sentenced for up to five years in prison and a fine of $5,000 for communications fraud and five years each for multiple theft charges as well. The judge also ordered these to be run consecutively. Following this sentencing, the judge changed the sentencing to a single term of a five months and then even further reduced the prison term to 60 days for the 39 year old father of four. After his two months in jail which began Friday, Taylor is ordered to be on probation for three years and offer 100 hours of community service. He was also ordered to write letters of apology to the customers he victimized. For multiple second degree felonies to end in a single two month prison sentence is incredible. The probable explanation for the judge’s mercy, beyond the obvious help of an experienced defense attorney, is likely due to Taylor’s lack of a criminal record prior to the communication fraud and theft charges. For anyone facing charges that seem too immense to handle, don’t lose hope until discussing what a criminal defense attorney can do for you.