Unlawful Detention in Utah

It’s Not Kidnapping

You know that Utah prohibits kidnapping like all states but Utah also has a law against unlawfully detaining someone.  The crime of “unlawful detention” has several elements:

  • the actor (also known as the defendant or the suspect);
  • intentionally or knowingly;
  • without authority of law;
  • against the will of the victim;
  • detains or restrains the victim;
  • under circumstances not constituting kidnapping, child kidnapping. or aggravated kidnapping.

Each of the above elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt and it is the prosecutor’s burden to show that proof.  The third element is a little confusing because it is unclear what it means.  Does it mean that there must be a specific state law giving authority to a person or does it mean that there must not be a state law prohibiting the act?  These are questions that the jury is expected to answer in deciding whether a defendant is guilty or not guilty.

An Example of A Jury Finding Not Guilty on Unlawful Detention

We recently had a jury acquit our client on these charges based on the following scenario:

Our client and his neighbors were having a neighborhood garage sale and they took out their property the night before so that it would be ready in the morning.  Our client decided to sleep in his car with his dog in order to keep an eye on the property.  Late that night a suspicious car parked at the top of the street and flashed it’s lights.  Suspecting that the car could be signalling someone else to engage in criminal activity, our client investigated.  He drove his car up the road and as he approached the other car started to leave.  Our client pulled his car up along side the other car and opened his door so that the car could not pass.  Our client then got out of the car and began asking the occupants questions about what they were doing in the neighborhood.  Once he determined that they were not doing anything illegal he walked away from there car and they left.  The jury found that this was unlawful detention and acquitted our client on the charge.

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