Utah Criminal Statutes and Absurd Results

Courts Not Obligated to Follow Laws Which Produce Absurd Results

In Utah, “[A] court should not follow the literal language of a statute if its plain meaning works an absurd result” because the Legislature “cannot, in every instance, be counted on to have said what it meant or to have meant what it said.”  State in the interest of Z.C., 165 P.3d 1206, 1209 (Utah 2007).  Thus, where the result is so absurd that the Legislature could not possibly have intended it, the Court should not and will not apply the statute in such a manner.  Id. at 1210.

In State in the interest of Z.C. the State charged a 12 year old and 13 year old who had sex with one another for sexual abuse of a child.  Essentially, the State treated both as perpetrators and victims of the crime.  The Utah Supreme Court found that although the plain language of the statute permitted the juvenile to be adjudicated delinquent for child sexual abuse, the filing of a delinquency petition against both participants produces an absurd result not intended by the Legislature.  165 P.3d at 1213-1214.

A Difficult but Good Argument

Although it doesn’t happen too often, there are laws passed that will produce an absurd result.  Attacking a statute on these grounds is difficult, but certainly worth it.  It is a means to resolve a criminal case in favor of a Utah criminal defendant without going through the trial process.  Utah Courts are reluctant make a finding based on an absurd result because it is a de facto attack on the Legislature, but the simple truth of the matter if that the Legislature does mess up and does pass laws which incriminate people for no good reason.

Salcido Law Firm – Battling for You

At the law firm of Salcido Law Firm, our criminal defense lawyers look at and dissect the statutes relevant to your case to see if we can challenge the statute based on it producing an absurd result.

If you have been charged with a crime in Utah, contact us at 801.618.1334 for a free consultation.

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