Articles Posted in Utah Supreme Court

by
The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of three counts of possession of a firearm by a restricted person in violation of Utah Code 76-10-503(3), holding that the district court did not err in refusing the instruct the jury on an innocent possession defense. A jury convicted Defendant of violating section 76-10-503(3) after police officers responding to a domestic complaint found Defendant in his backyard carrying a rifle. Before trial, Defendant requested an innocent possession jury instruction, but the district court denied the request. On appeal, Defendant argued that the felon-in-possession statute included an innocent possession defense. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the felon-in-possession statute does not implicitly provide an innocent possession defense; and (2) case law does not require an innocent possession defense. View "State v. Sanders" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of one count of threatening with or using a dangerous weapon in a fight or quarrel, holding that there was no error in the district court's judgment. Defendant, a detective with the Unified Police Department, was bird hunting when he angrily confronted another hunter's group with his service weapon drawn and held at his side. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court erred in treating the relevant statute's exception for persons acting in self-defense and peace officers in performance of their duties as affirmative defenses rather than elements of the offense. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) under Utah Code 76-10-506, self-defense and acting as a peace officer in performance of duties are affirmative defenses, not elements of the offense; (2) the declaration from a juror submitted by Defendant in support of his motion for a new trial was inadmissible under Utah R. Evid. 606(b); and (3) the district court's deadlock instruction was not unconstitutionally coercive. View "State v. Bess" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court dismissing on summary judgment Plaintiff's claims against Box Elder County and the Box Elder County Sheriff's Office, including claims of violations of his rights to due process and bail, holding that the court did not err in dismissing the bail clause claims but erred in dismissing the due process claims. Plaintiff was held in the Box Elder County Jail for seventeen days on a probable cause determination that he was driving under the influence, but no evidence showed that he was actually driving impaired, and Plaintiff was never brought before a judge for his initial appearance or formally charged with any crimes. The district court concluded that Plaintiff had not suffered a flagrant violation of his constitutional rights and that he could not identify a specific municipal employee who had violated his rights. The Supreme Court held (1) Plaintiff's bail clause claims were properly dismissed because Plaintiff failed to demonstrate that the bail clause was self-executing; but (2) the court incorrectly applied the standard for determining when a municipal employee is liable for damages for a constitutional violation in dismissing Plaintiff's due process claims. View "Kuchcinski v. Box Elder County" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's summary judgment decision denying Appellant's petition for relief under the Post-Conviction Remedies Act (PCRA), Utah Code 78B-9-101, et seq., holding that Appellant failed to satisfy his burden of persuasion on appeal. Appellant was convicted of aggravated burglary, theft, and criminal mischief. Appellant later filed a petition for post-conviction relief arguing that he was entitled to relief under the PCRA. The district court granted summary judgment for the State. On appeal, Appellant argued that his due process rights under the Utah Constitution were violated when certain evidence was destroyed in accordance with rule 4-206 of the Utah Code of Judicial Administration. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Appellant failed to comply with any portion of the PCRA that could offer him relief; and (2) Appellant failed to demonstrate that the disposal of evidence violated his state due process rights. View "Sandoval v. State" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the district court summarily dismissing Appellant’s petition for post-conviction relief, holding that the district court erred in determining that, as a matter of undisputed fact and law, Appellant was not prejudiced by his defense counsel’s conduct at either the guilt or sentencing phases of Appellant’s trial. In 1985, Appellant was sentenced to death for murder. In 2011, Appellant’s current counsel located two witnesses who testified in the murder case, and obtained their sworn declarations that the police threatened them if they did not cooperate in the case against Appellant, that their testimony was coached, and that they were instructed to lie under oath about benefits they received from the State. Appellant filed a petition for post-conviction relief based upon these revelations, but the district court dismissed the petition. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for an evidentiary hearing, holding that Appellant demonstrated a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether he was prejudiced. View "Carter v. State" on Justia Law

by
In this action brought by the State seeking to overturn a conviction it recently obtained, the Supreme Court vacated the order of the district court denying the State’s Utah. R. Civ. P. 60(b) motion in the underlying criminal proceeding, holding that the district court had jurisdiction to adjudicate the State’s motion and that rule 60(b) provided the mechanism through which the State may bring its challenge. After final judgment had been entered against Bela Fritz, the State returned to the district court claiming Fritz had misled it about his identity. The State filed a motion under rule 60(b) seeking to vacate the conviction, sentence, and judgment. The district court denied the motion, concluding that following imposition of a valid sentence, a district court loses subject matter jurisdiction over a criminal case and that the State needed to proceed under the Post-Conviction Remedies Act. The State filed this petition for extraordinary relief asking that the Supreme Court direct the district court to exercise jurisdiction over the State’s motion for relief under rule 60(b). The Supreme Court exercised its discretion and granted the writ, thus vacating the order denying the State’s motion and instructing the district court to exercise jurisdiction over the matter. View "State v. Honorable Ann Boyden" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s conviction under Utah’s witness retaliation statute, Utah Code 76-8-508.3, holding that the statute does not criminalize threats a person makes regarding a witness outside the witness’s presence and without an intention to have the threat communicated to the witness. Section 76-8-508.3 makes it a crime to direct a threat of harm or a harmful action against a witness or a person closely associated with that witness as retaliation against that witness. After Defendant was convicted, he challenged his conviction on the ground that the witnesses that were the subject of the alleged threat were not present when Defendant made the threat. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the witness retaliation statute criminalizes only those threats that the threat-maker intended to be communicated to the witness; and (2) therefore, the court of appeals incorrectly interpreted the requirements of the statute. View "State v. Trujillo" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of one count of stalking and one count of threat of violence, holding that neither issue raised by Defendant on appeal was preserved nor amounted to plain error. On September 12, 2014, Salt Lake City filed an information in justice court charging Defendant with threat of violence based on an incident that occurred on September 7, 2014. While that case was pending, the City charged Defendant in the district court with stalking and threat of violence. The threat of violence charge was based on an alleged threat that occurred on September 30, 2014. The stalking charge was based on alleged conduct occurring throughout September 2014. Defendant was convicted on both counts. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court prosecution was barred by the earlier justice court prosecution or, alternatively, that the district court plainly erred in failing to merge the convictions at sentencing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) neither of Defendant’s arguments was adequately preserved in the proceedings below; and (2) because of the unsettled nature of this area of law, any error was not plain error. View "Salt Lake City v. Josephson" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for offering escort services without a valid license, holding that Defendant’s constitutional claims were either inadequately briefed or not properly raised in the district court. Defendant had an escort services license from Midvale City when she met an undercover Salt Lake City police officer in Salt Lake and asked him for a “show-up” fee, but Defendant did not have a license from Salt Lake City at the time. Because State law authorizes any municipality to impose licensing requirements on employees of sexually oriented businesses, the resulting regulatory scheme requires escorts to obtain licenses in each jurisdiction in which they seek to operate. On appeal from her conviction, Defendant argued that the imposition of multiple licensing requirements violates her First Amendment and Equal Protection rights. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Appellant did not preserve her Equal Protection claim in the district court; and (2) Appellant did not adequately brief her First Amendment challenge on appeal. View "Salt Lake City v. Kidd" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals vacating the juvenile judge’s bindover order in this case involving a juvenile’s criminal conduct, holding that it was error to excuse Defendant from preserving his claim of judicial bias. The State charged Defendant with three first-degree felonies in juvenile court. The juvenile judge bound over Defendant, who was sixteen years old when he committed the offenses, to the district court to be tried as an adult. Defendant then pled guilty to lesser charges. While serving his prison sentence, Defendant moved to reinstate the time to appeal his bindover order, which the district court granted. Defendant then argued on appeal that the juvenile judge should have recused herself from his case due to judicial bias. The court of appeals agreed and vacated the bindover order without requiring Defendant to show either that he had preserved his judicial bias claim in the trial court or that an exception to preservation applied. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendant’s judicial bias claim was not exempt from the preservation requirement. View "State v. Van Huizen" on Justia Law