Statute of Limitations for Criminal Cases in Utah

What is the statute of limitations for criminal cases in Utah and how does it differ for misdemeanors and felonies?

A quiet case doesn’t mean a closed case

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Sometimes when a crime has occurred, the person suspected of the crime is questioned, arrested, and soon after faces their day in court. Other times, the case can drag on as law enforcement and prosecutors gather evidence and testimonies in order to build their case against the suspect. When there has been no activity or questioning related to the case for weeks or months at a time, it may give those involved a false sense of security that they have somehow dodged an arrest and are in the clear. Imagine their surprise down the road when the investigation picks up speed and they end up facing charges after all. This may not seem fair and those facing delayed charges may wonder why so much time is able to pass while they remained in legal limbo. Surprisingly however, Utah law grants law enforcement and prosecutors a lengthy window of time to file criminal charges, with some cases being granted no limit on time.

Time limit for criminal charges

Most cases have a set amount of time that they can remain in “waiting” for prosecutors to conjure up charges. This time limit to file charges is known as the statute of limitations. According to Utahcourts.gov, “A statute of limitations is the time allowed to file a court case. Statutes of limitation apply in both civil and criminal cases. The statute of limitations for some cases is as short as six months, while some serious criminal offenses have no limit and can be files at any time, even decades after the crime occurred. Most statutes of limitation range from one to eight years.” Once the statute of limitations for that crime is over, any suspects in the case will be free any possibility of facing charges as Utah Courts declare “. . . the defendant cannot be prosecuted for that offense.”

Criminal statute of limitations

Photo by: Marcin Wichary

The waiting game is difficult, especially when one is waiting to see if their life will drastically change due to criminal charges. If someone knows what type of charge they could be facing, they may be able to have an idea of how long the case could legally sit open prior to charges being made. Some of these statutes of limitations can be found in Utah Code. Section 76-1-302 states:

• “any infraction shall be commenced within one year after it is committed”;
• “a misdemeanor other than negligent homicide shall be commenced within two years after it is committed;”
• A felony or negligent homicide shall be commenced within four years after it is committed, except that prosecution for:
o Forcible sexual abuse [or incest] shall be commenced within eight years after the offense is committed, if within four years after its commission the offense is reported to a law enforcement agency”.

No time limits for some charges

There are some offenses where “. . . prosecution . . . may be commenced at any time” according to Utah Code 76-1-301. These offenses include:

(a) “Capital felony;
(b) Aggravated murder;
(c) Murder;
(d) Manslaughter;
(e) Child abuse homicide;
(f) Aggravated kidnapping;
(g) Child kidnapping;
(h) Rape;
(i) Rape of a child;
(j) Object rape;
(k) Object rape of a child;
(l) Forcible sodomy;
(m) Forcible sodomy on a child;
(n) Sexual abuse of a child;
(o) Aggravated sexual abuse of a child;
(p) Aggravated sexual assault
(q) Any predicate offense to a murder or aggravating offense to an aggravated murder;
(r) Aggravated human trafficking or aggravated human smuggling . . . ;
(s) Aggravated exploitation of prostitution involving a child.

Section 76-1-302 adds that prosecution on some of the major offenses “. . . may be commenced at any time if the identity of the person who committed the crime is unknown but DNA evidence is collected that would identify the person at a later date. [This] does not apply if the statute of limitations on a crime has run as of May 5, 2003, and no charges have been filed.”

Legal counsel prior to charges

While the above statute of limitations can give a person an idea of how long a case will remain open, there are other factors that can change the time limit given on a case. Some statute of limitations don’t begin when the offense was committed. Others may have the timer paused along the way. When legal trouble is imminent or on the distant horizon, it is always wise to have a reputable legal defense in your corner. An experienced criminal defense attorney can aid a client in knowing exactly what charges could be faced, the statute of limitations for those charges, and when the statute of limitations clock starts and finishes for each specific case. For all criminal matters, contact a defense attorney today.

New Firework Laws in Utah

As Independence Day celebrations draw closer, residents should be informed of the new firework laws put into effect this year as well as restrictions specific to their area.

Less days for fireworks

Photo by: David Joyce

Prior to the 2018 legislative session, fireworks were allowed to be discharged 14 days in July: July 1st through July 7th and July 21st through July 27th. The amended laws approved by Utah lawmakers have now reduced lawful firework days to only eight days: July 2nd through July 5th and July 22nd through July 25th. The allowable firework days for New Year’s Eve and Chinese New Year remain the same. Although fireworks are allowed throughout Utah on the eight approved days in July, that does not mean they are allowed everywhere.

Restricted firework areas

The state of Utah is currently seeing record high temperatures mixed with low humidity and accompanying winds. These conditions increase the likelihood of wildfires even without the use of recreational flaming explosives. In order to prevent firework use from adding to the growing number of wildfires presently active throughout Utah, there are areas where fireworks are not permitted. Statewide, fireworks are prohibited on state owned as well as federal land. Additionally most areas outside city limits or within close proximity to washes, wooded areas, or other locations where the chance of a brush fire is increased may have restrictions for firework use.

Penalties unlawful discharge of fireworks

Utah Code 53-7-225 states “A person is guilty of an infraction punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, if the person discharges a class C common state approved explosive:

(a) outside the legal discharge dates and times . . . or

(b) in an area in which fireworks are prohibited”.

Residents should consult with their state and city laws prior to firework use to ensure their holiday festivities are in accordance with local laws.

Utah Man Booked on Felony Child Abuse Charges for Throwing Corrosive Substance on Young Children

A Utah man was booked into Cache County jail on felony child abuse charges after he threw a corrosive substance on two young children, resulting in burns to their skin.

Chemical burns

Photo by: Michael Coghlan

32 year old Jason Keith Summers of Smithfield, Utah was arrested after he entered onto a neighbor’s property and threw a substance thought to be sulfuric acid on two young children playing in the yard. Sulfuric acid is a common ingredient in drain cleaner and fertilizer which can not only cause burns and tissue damage but also blindness. Both children suffered chemical burns to their skin, one who had the chemical thrown on his face required additional treatment from a specialized burn center. After trying to flee custody, Summers was finally booked into jail on multiple charges including second degree felony child abuse.

Child Abuse

Utah Code 76-5-112.5 states: “Unless a greater penalty is otherwise provided by law:

(a). . . a person is guilty of a felony of the third degree if the person knowingly or intentionally causes or permits a child or vulnerable adult to be exposed to, inhale, ingest, or have contact with a controlled substance, chemical substance, or drug paraphernalia;

(b) . . . a person is guilty of a felony of the second degree, if:

(i) the person engages in the conduct described [above]; and

(ii) as a result of the conduct . . . , a child or vulnerable adult suffers bodily injury, substantial bodily injury, or serious bodily injury”.

History of drugs and violence

Perhaps in defense of his actions, Summers alerted police that he had used drugs the day of the chemical attack and law enforcement agreed Summers appeared under the influence of something. Court records further indicate Summers has a lengthy history of aggressive behavior while under the influence of illicit substances. While drug use may cause individuals to behave in ways they normally wouldn’t, they are still ultimately held responsible for their actions. Hopefully a treatment plan to overcome addiction will be included with the punishment handed down to Summers so he can stop the cycle of drug use and criminal actions.