Utah Appellate Highlights, Utah Supreme Court, July 2017

State v. Robertson
2017 UT 27 (May 15, 2017)

Utah Code § 76-1-404 incorporates the “dual sovereignty doctrine” that permits subsequent criminal prosecutions by different sovereigns, even for the same offense.  The court articulated the test for determining whether two offenses are the same offense, and held that section 404 prohibited prosecution of the defendant for sexual exploitation of a minor where the federal government had already convicted the defendant based on the same conduct.

2010-1 RADC/CADC Venture, LLC v. Dos Lagos, LLC
2017 UT 29 (June 2, 2017)

The court here affirmed a decision allowing the joinder of a co-holder of a promissory note after the statute of limitations had expired because there was identity of interest between the plaintiffs and the debtor did not suffer any prejudice.  Although the court recognized that privity of contract is not alone sufficient to create identity of interest, here, where RADC and Utah First were co-holders of a single note, and the action was to recover the entire amount on the note, there was sufficient identity of interest for relation back.

State v. Outzen
2017 UT 30 (June 7, 2017)

The court held that “[a] person violates Utah Code section 41-6a-517 if he or she operates or is in actual physical control of a motor vehicle with any measurable amount or metabolite of a controlled substance in his or her body.”  Section 41-6a-517 does not require an additional finding of impairment, the statute does not create a status offense that violates the Eight and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, and the statute does not violate the Utah Constitution’s uniform operation of laws provision.  Id.

Eagle Mountain City v. Parsons, Kinghorn & Harris, P.C.
2017 UT 31 (June 7, 2017)

The Utah Supreme Court announced a “strong presumption that legal malpractice claims are voluntarily assignable.”  It explained that the public policy rationales relied on in other jurisdictions to support non-assignability are largely inapplicable or are not persuasive in this state given developments to Utah’s Rules of Civil Procedure and Rules of Professional Conduct.  The Court did not foreclose the possibility that certain assignments of malpractice claims would present such public policy concerns such that they would not be valid.  However, this case did not present any circumstances to rebut the strong presumption in favor of validity.

Butt v. State
2017 UT 33 (June 19, 2017)

In this appeal of denial of a post-conviction petition challenging a conviction for dealing in materials harmful to minors, the supreme court held the defendant had been deprived of effective assistance of counsel where his attorney failed to raise a First Amendment defense.  Discussing the First Amendment at length, the supreme court concluded that the drawings sent to defendant’s daughter were not obscene, because the drawings were not aimed at appealing to a prurient interest in sex of a minor.

State v. Mooers
2017 UT 36 (June 27, 2017)

The Utah Supreme Court held that an order of complete restitution as part of a plea in abeyance was a final, appealable order and the court of appeals had jurisdiction to hear such an appeal.  The court emphasized the difference between a complete order of restitution and court-ordered restitution, the former being the entire amount necessary for complete restitution, and the latter taking into account the defendant’s circumstances and ability to pay.  The court stated that a court must make separate determinations for the two kinds of restitution, and that to merge them into one order constitutes error.

Case summaries for Appellate Highlights are authored by members of Snow Christensen & Martineau’s Appellate Practice Group.  For more information, visit our Appellate Highlights page.