When it comes to gun crimes in Utah prosecutors are rarely willing to be lenient. Stealing a firearm is no exception. In fact, theft of a firearm is a second degree felony. It does not matter how much the gun was worth, from whom it was stolen, from where it was stolen, or whether it was even usable (contrast that with the fact that a stolen vehicle is only a second degree felony if it is operable see Utah Code 76-6-412). If it is a firearm, and if the defendant stole it, it is a second degree felony which carries up to 15 years in prison.
The reasoning behind such a stringent penalty is likely the because stolen firearms are more likely to be used in violent crimes. It also brings anonymity to the thief’s use of the weapon because the firearm is likely registered in someone else’s name, making it more difficult for law enforcement to track the weapon to a legitimate owner.
All that the prosecutor needs to prove to convict a defendant of theft of a firearm is that the defendant obtained or exercised control over the gun with the intent to deprive the weapon’s owner of the gun.
In our experience most theft of a firearm cases are directly connected with the use of controlled substances. The firearm may be stolen to resale so that the defendant can get money to buy more drugs. It may be stolen to use as a means of protection. In some instances we’ve also seen a firearm stolen along with other stolen property simply because the defendant was at the time impaired by a controlled substance. Whatever the reason, the theft of a firearm is one of the most difficult cases for defense attorney to negotiate on with a prosecutor simply because of the way prosecutor offices approach such cases.