Unconstitutionally Vague Statutes in Utah

A Statute Can Be Held Inapplicable if It is Impermissibly Vague

Under Utah constitutional law, a court will refuse to apply a statute if it is “impermissibly vague.”  A statute is impermissibly vague if it either (1) fails to provide people of ordinary intelligence a reasonable opportunity to understand what conduct it prohibits or (2) authorizes or even encourages arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.  See Bushco v. Utah State Tax Commission, 225 P.3d 153, 171 (Utah 2009).

In Bushco, the Utah Supreme Court found that the Sexually Explicit Businesses and Escort Service Tax was unconstitutionally vague because it defined “escort” as anyone who accompanies another for compensated companionship, which if applied literally would apply to individuals who care for the elderly and tour guides which could not have been the Legislature’s intention.  Id.  The statute also failed to define “companionship.”    As a result, the Court found that the statute failed to provide “adequate information for a person of ordinary intelligence to distinguish between” the types of compensated companionship that would be taxed.  Id.  The Court also found that the ambiguity in the statute permitted arbitrary enforcement.  IdSee also City of Chicago v. Morales, 527 U.S. 41 (1999) (finding that Chicago loitering ordinance was unconstitutionally vague because it failed to adequately distinguish what “loitering is covered by the ordinance and what is not.”).

We Attack Every Aspect of a Case for You

Our lawyers will always look at the constitutionality of a statute that is involved in one of our client’s case.  We leave no stone unturned because we know what is on the line for you.  If a statute is involved in your case and it reads in a way that is confusing, ambiguous, or vague, we will evaluate whether it makes sense to attack it on a constitutional level.

For a free consultation with one of our knowledgeable Utah attorneys, call us at 801.413.1753.

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