Sexual Assault on College Campus

A former Utah State University frat brother pleaded guilty yesterday to two cases of sexual assault that took place on and near the college campus.

Stealing bases

Photo by: Valeria C★Preisler

Photo by: Valeria C★Preisler

27 year old Jason Brian Relopez was arrested after two women came forward stating that on separate incidents Relopez had sexually forced himself on them. Both women made out with Relopez voluntarily, however he was the only one tolerable with taking things to the next level. One incident happened in 2014 during a private study night while the other happened in 2015 at a frat party at the Sigma Chi House.

Marked for life

Relopez, a former student at Utah State University, pleaded guilty to a plea deal that reduced his charges from aggravated rape and sexual assault to attempted rape and forcible sexual abuse. Although the settled charges don’t save him from a first degree felony, there is a chance he may get probation instead. Either way, he will be on the sex offender registry for the remainder of his life.

No means “no”

When engaging in sexual relations with another person, it is always advised to get verbal consent first. The victim from the 2014 incident did state that she told Relopez she did not want to have sex with him. Regarding the sexual assault that took place at the frat house in 2015 however, the victim never told Relopez “no” but she also did not give him consent to make sexual advances on her. Both instances can be considered sexual assault because in both cases, consent was not given. While a verbal “no” is a clear dispute to consent, not saying anything which could happen due to fear or alcohol or drug abuse, should be considered a negative as well.

Sexual assault at college

Photo by: Miles Gehm

Photo by: Miles Gehm

Sexual assault is a serious issue and college campuses are not immune to the problem. There have been recent statistics that state over 20 percent of young college students have been victims of sexual assault. Although a high number of those sexual assaults on campus are noted to be from serial rapists with malicious intent, there are occasional instances when there could be grave miscommunications that end in charges. College parties where young adults mingle with excess amounts of alcohol are times when things could get out of hand unintentionally. Some ways to avoid such horrific errors are:

• Both parties should be clear on their intentions and observe the other person for hints of hesitation.

• Reduce the amount of alcoholic beverages consumed. When people overdrink, they are less likely to read situations correctly.

• If alcohol is on the menu, have a designated sober friend to attend parties with. The person not drinking can help distinguish if things are getting out of control.

• Keep a drug free party zone. Date rape drugs are given such a nickname due to the fact that it makes the other party unable to give consent, even if they voluntarily take the pill to begin with. On a related note, discard unattended drinks.

• Always get consent. Always.

Sexual offenses without consent

Utah code 76-5-406 states that sexual offenses are “without consent of the victim [if] the victim expresses lack of consent through words or conduct; the actor overcomes the victim through ( . . . ) physical force or violence; the actor is able to overcome the victim through concealment or by the element of surprise; the actor coerces the victim to submit by threatening to retaliate ( . . . ); the actor knows the victim is unconscious, unaware that the act is occurring, or physically unable to resist; ( . . .) the actor intentionally impaired the power of the victim to appraise or control his or her conduct by administering any substance without the victim’s knowledge; ( . . . )”

Time of your life, or away for life

College is supposed to be the time of your life. Sexual assault charges such as rape or forcible sexual abuse can bring mean the rest of your life in jail. For legal aid regarding sexual offense charges, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Pipe Bomb Found at St. George Car Wash

A pipe bomb was found strapped to the office door handle of a car wash in St. George Utah earlier this month. It is still unknown why the car wash was targeted with the pipe bomb or who placed it there.

Homemade explosive device

Pipe bomb

Photo by: Andrew Kuznetsov

A pipe bomb is homemade explosive device that is typically made with metal piping filled tight with shrapnel. A pipe bomb in comparison to other explosives is simple to make, yet extremely dangerous not only for the target but also for the person manufacturing it as they have a tendency to explode prematurely. Those who choose pipe bombs as their mode of violence generally have little to no engineering or chemistry background and limited funds necessary to construct a more technical bomb.

Felony charges for pipe bomb

When authorities in St. George discover who made and placed the pipe bomb at the local car wash, that person is likely to be looking at felony charges. Although a pipe bomb can be made with random items found in many residents’ garages, the charges for it are the same as having a higher tech explosive. Utah Code 76-10-306 states: “Any person is guilty of a second degree felony who ( . . . ) knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly possesses or controls an explosive, chemical, or incendiary device.  Any person is guilty of a first degree felony who ( . . . ) knowingly or intentionally:
(a) uses or causes to be used an explosive, chemical, or incendiary device in the commission of or an attempt to commit a felony;
(b) injures another or attempts to injure another person or another person’s property through the use of an explosive, chemical, or incendiary device; or
(c) transports, possesses, distributes, or sells any explosive, chemical, or incendiary device in a secure area [such as a prison or police station]”

Up to life in prison

Possession or use of a pipe bomb can bring a prison sentence for a duration of anywhere from one year to life in prison. For information on legal aid for possession of an explosive device, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Bigamy in Utah – Equal Rights for all Marriages

Following the legalization of same-sex marriages, those wishing to practice bigamy in Utah may be wondering if and when there will be equal rights for all marriages.

Marriage equality

Photo by: Kate Hiscock

Photo by: Kate Hiscock

On June 26th, 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriages were to be legal in all fifty states. This ruling from the Supreme Court was celebrated as a huge victory by supporters of the LGBT community. Those in favor of gay marriage argued that no one should be discriminated against when choosing a marital partner; that everyone ought to have the right to wed whom they love. Any other decision by the courts would be unconstitutional.

The new accepted marriage

Now that the constricting barrier of protecting the sanctity of “traditional marriage” has finally been lifted nationwide, other couples choosing non-traditional relationships, such as marrying multiple spouses, wish to have similar rights. Unfortunately for them, the practice of bigamy is a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison; Prison time for trying to legally marry people they love. Traditional marriage may not exist in the way America remember as one man and one woman; perhaps it has been redefined to specify monogamous marriages only. It appears the lines may have been adjusted to fit what is publicly accepted.

Bigamy

Photo by: Keoni Cabral

Photo by: Keoni Cabral

Bigamy is often referred to a second marriage where the spouses are unaware of another husband or wife while polygamy is thought to be a multi-marriage where everyone knows each other. What is known as polygamy is often ordained by a religious leader but without a legally binding contract. Technically, bigamy is the official definition for all types of marriages that consist of more than two partners. This is discussed in Utah Code 76-7-101 which states: A person is guilty of bigamy when, knowing he has a husband or wife or knowing the other person has a husband or wife, the person purports to marry another person or cohabits with another person.”

Cohabitation

Although bigamy is still against the law, there have been small strides that may eventually open doors for spouses practicing bigamy. In December 2013, a federal judge deemed that a portion of Utah Code 76-7-101 that covers bigamy was unconstitutional. The part in question involved bigamy without marriage which was known legally as a married person who “cohabits with another person”. This federal ruling striking down that portion of 76-7-101 came after Kody Brown and his four wives came under attack for their polygamous relationship. The Browns, a polygamous family in Utah, were made famous for their involvement in the hit television series Sister Wives. Although Brown was only legally married to his first wife, the fact that he lived with four wives and had children with all of them deemed them married through cohabitation or common-law. Facing a third degree felony for each extra wife he had, Brown and his wives went to federal court where their polygamous relationship was deemed legal. Eventually Brown may be able to wed his other wives legally.

Child bigamy

Photo by: dani0010

Photo by: dani0010

As the state of Utah shows an imaginable future of decriminizing bigamy, there is one type that has little chance of ever becoming legal. Child bigamy is defined in Utah Code 76-7-101.5 as “An actor 18 years of age or older ( . . . ) knowing he or she has a wife or husband, or knowing that a person under 18 years of age has a wife or husband, the actor carries out the following with the person who is under 18 years of age:

(a) purports to marry the person who is under 18 years of age; or
(b) cohabits with the person who is under 18 years of age.”

Bigamy with minors, which is considered a type child abuse to many, will likely remain against the law indefinitely as a second degree felony.

Bigamy in the future

As many citizens take a more liberal approach to traditional marital relationships, adults wishing to marry multiple other adults may soon find themselves celebrating their own legal victory. Until then, bigamy is still punishable under Utah state law. Anyone facing charges for bigamy or for polygamy involving cohabitants only are encouraged to speak with a criminal defense attorney.