Penalties Increased for Killing a Police Dog

A new bill sponsored by Sen. Jani Iwamoto and Rep. Lowry V. Snow was put into effect this month, increases penalties for individuals who are charged with killing a police dog.

Dangerous job

Photo by: Michael

Police dogs have many jobs including detection of drugs or explosives, search and rescue, and apprehension of subjects on the run. Like other officers, their job is dangerous and can often result in death. This year alone, five police dogs have lost their lives – three of those while in the line of duty. In 2017, 24 canine officers were killed with one of those being a beloved member of the Unified Police Department of Greater Salt Lake. Canine police service dog Dingo was killed in July 2017 while trying to apprehend a suspect on the run. The fugitive, 28 year old Torey Massey fired multiple shots at Dingo which later resulted in the death of the police dog. The following month in Washington County, another police dog was shot in the head by a subject attempting to flee police. Unlike K9 officer Dingo, K9 officer Tess miraculously survived.

Killing a police officer

Police dogs face similar dangers that their human partners do while attempting to apprehend dangerous subjects, yet the consequences of taking a police dog’s life have been drastically lenient than those consequences of causing the death of a human police officer. Killing a police officer is considered aggravated murder by Utah law which could land the person responsible in prison for life or even facing the death penalty. Killing a police dog however would result in a third degree felony, the same penalty an individual may face for selling marijuana. A new bill that was recently put into effect in Utah has now increased the penalties for those charged with killing a canine officer.

SB0057 – Causing the death of a canine officer

SB0057 was put into effect Tuesday,

Photo by: Michael

May 8th 2018 and makes drastic changes to Utah Code 76-9-306 regarding injuring or killing a police dog. While previously it was a third degree felony to kill a police dog, that section now states “It is a second degree felony for a person to intentionally or knowingly cause death to a police service canine.” A second degree felony is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, the same penalty for crimes such as robbery and assault with a dangerous weapon.

Human lives vs animal lives

Some residents wonder why causing the death of a canine officer now comes with a stiffer penalty than if someone killed another person by driving while under the influence. There are a few reasons as to why killing a police dog would be punished more severely than drunkenly causing the death of a person.

• One major point is the intent. Section 76-9-306 states the second degree penalty is for those who “intentionally or knowingly” cause the death of a police dog. If a person “cause[s] bodily injury to a police service canine; engages in conduct likely to cause bodily injury or death to a police service canine; or lay[s] out, place[s] or administer[s] any poison, trap, substance, or object which is likely to produce bodily injury or death to a police service canine” then the person responsible would face a third degree felony-the same penalty as automobile homicide.

• Another reason why a police dog’s life may appear to carry more value than a person’s could be due to the K9’s close proximity to a human officer. Police dogs are always accompanied by their handler which means if someone shoots to kill a police dog, they are also putting the human officer at risk of serious injury or death as well. Increasing the penalties for killing a police dog may help keep other officers safe while in the line of duty.

Cooperate and consult an attorney

Running is never a recommended choice is fighting an arrest, as it can result in increased charges or safety concerns for the subject due to use of the unleashed service canine or even deadly force by law enforcement. If police officers attempt to arrest an individual it is best to be cooperative but consult legal representation before answering any questions. For more information on charges resulting from an arrest or an individual’s violent conduct towards officers or police dogs, speak to a qualified attorney immediately.

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

Photo by: 401(k) 2012

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.

Napping Burglar Arrested for Possession of a Dangerous Weapon by a Restricted Person

A Utah burglar caught napping on the job was arrested for multiple charges including possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person.

Napping burglar

Photo by: Ken

37 year old Thomas Luke Shupe was arrested after a woman found Shupe sleeping in her Huntsville Utah cabin after he pilfered it of beer and prescription drugs. Shupe left the scene but was later apprehended by police. While being arrested for the burglary, Shupe was also found to be in possession of a handgun that had been stolen from another cabin. Shupe was on probation following a previous arrest and as a Category I restricted person, should not have been in possession of a firearm. Shupe was arrested for several misdemeanors and second degree felonies including possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person.

Possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person

When someone is convicted of certain crimes, they may temporarily or permanently lose their right to possess a firearm or other dangerous weapon. This is known as being a restricted person. There are several reasons as to why someone would be considered a restricted person and there are varying degrees of severity related to those restrictions. According to Utah Code 76-10-503, “A Category I restricted person is a person who:

• Has been convicted of any violent felony . . . ;
• Is on probation or parole for any felony;
• is on parole from a secure facility . . .;
• [was charged for a violent felony as a minor within the last 10 years];
• is on probation for a conviction of possessing:
(A) a substance classified . . . as a Schedule I or II controlled substance;
(B) a controlled substance analog; or
(C) [their synthetic equivalents]”

Possession of a dangerous weapon by a Category I restricted person is a second degree felony if the weapon is a firearm or a third degree felony for other weapons. “A Category II restricted person is a person who:

• has ever been convicted of a felony; . . .
• [was charged for a felony as a minor within the last 7 years];
• . . . is in possession of a Schedule I or II controlled substance [while being in possession of a weapon];
• Has been found not guilty by reason of insanity . . . or mentally incompetent to stand trial for a felony offense; . . .
• Has been dishonorably discharged from the armed forces;
• Has renounced [their] citizenship . . . ;
• Is a respondent or defendant subject to a protective order or child protective order . . . ;
• Has been convicted of the commission or attempted commission of [domestic violence].”

Possession of a dangerous weapon by a Category II restricted person is a third degree felony if the weapon is a firearm or a class A misdemeanor if another weapon is used.

Know your restrictions

It is important for anyone previously charged with a crime to know their restrictions when it comes to weapons. When purchasing a firearm, a background check is usually performed that will alert gun sellers to anyone who is considered a restricted person. Unfortunately, sometimes there are flaws in the system such as what happened recently regarding the files of those found mentally incompetent not being received by the system that categorizes restricted persons. While these systems usually catch restricted persons attempting to purchase weapons, mistakes can happen which does not excuse a restricted person found in possession of a dangerous weapon. They can still face charges for possession of a weapon by a restricted person. The same goes to anyone who buys, borrows, or steals a weapon from a private party non vendor. Anyone who has been convicted of a crime should be responsible for carefully researching the terms of their probation or release to determine whether or not they will ever be allowed to own a firearm or other dangerous weapon. Restricted persons caught unlawfully with a weapon are encouraged to seek legal counsel immediately.