Tag: police

Why do attorneys tell people not to talk to the police? What if I’m innocent or just want to help them?

Let’s discuss this principle in the context of DUIs, but the principle applies in any situation in which you could be questioned in regard to any crime.

What is hard for many people to believe is that quite often (more often than decent people want to believe) the police aren’t in fact trying to catch drunk drivers (‘nothing wrong with catching drunk drivers—more power to them for it) but trying to make bogus arrests for DUI, so that the city can collect the fines and so that officers can advance their careers (‘nothing right about that).

You need to know that while all decent and law-abiding people want to help decent and law abiding law enforcement officers do their jobs well, not all officers are decent and law abiding. Unfortunately, 1) it’s impossible to distinguish a good officer from a corrupt one when you’re being questioned, until it’s too late; and 2) corrupt officers exploit innocent people by getting them to talk. This is why the innocent don’t talk to the police (about anything, not just at traffic stops): the more the innocent talk (and the more guilty talk, but that’s not the point here), the more rope they give corrupt law enforcement officers to twist and to hang them with.

Professor James Duane puts it even better here (these are excellent videos, very engaging, and the advice could literally protect you and your loved ones from being abused by corrupt police officers and prosecutors):

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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Mandatory Lethality Assessments on Domestic Violence Calls. In Other Words: Pandora’s Box

The Utah State Legislature passed this into law an amendment to Utah Code § 77-36-2.1, which was effective May 3, 2023. The newly amended code section now requires police officers to conduct “lethality assessments” in response to domestic violence calls under certain circumstances.

My immediate reaction to this news was: Oh, no, but I didn’t share that on my blog because I wanted to ensure I didn’t come to any hasty, erroneous conclusions. Now that I’ve had time to reflect on the subject, my reaction is: Oh, no.

While I have no doubt that the intention behind lethality assessments is sincere, I worry about whether lethality assessments will be conducted to protect domestic violence victims or conducted to protect the police.

If you’re a law enforcement officer who doesn’t want to be blamed for failing to protect a victim or potential victim, then what reason would you have not to “err on the side of caution” when you conduct lethality assessments? Essentially, the thinking goes: “I don’t want to be blamed for failing to protect someone from domestic violence. I don’t want to be accused of being insensitive to the vulnerable. So, if the mere allegation of domestic violence arises, I will punish the accused and I 1) won’t look like I’m soft on domestic violence and 2) will appear to be preventing crime (even if there is no crime).”

I’m concerned that lethality assessments can be abused by those who report domestic violence and those who respond to reports of domestic violence, that lethality assessments, which are intended to be a shield to the vulnerable, would be abused as a weapon against innocent people who aren’t violent and/or who don’t pose a threat of violence.

As a divorce lawyer, I am particularly concerned about the potential for lethality assessments to be abused by spouses and parents who are plotting a divorce or child custody action and who make false allegations of domestic violence to gain an advantage over the other spouse or parent in the divorce and or child custody action. Then, not only do we have to worry about police officers who might err on the side of caution when conducting lethality assessments, but we also have to worry about judges who would do the same (“I have my doubts about the credibility of that lethality assessment in the record. But if I say I don’t believe it, then I might appear indifferent to domestic violence. Or if it turns out that the accused is violent, then I’ll be blamed for ‘ignoring’ the lethality assessment. Better for me to err on the side of caution.”).

I am also worried that, following the mandate to conduct lethality assessments, the domestic violence hustlers will “discover” a raft of domestic violence “risk” or “danger” that had heretofore gone “undetected” based upon the lethality assessments data, and that it will be offered as proof that lethality assessments “work”. I’m worried that people will claim that the self-proclaimed domestic violence victims are proof that they are domestic violence victims because of the lethality assessment, which is nothing other than a record of one’s subjective claims of being a victim.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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What Can I Legally Do if My Child’s Mother Refuses to Use Car Seat When Traveling With Our Little Child?

What can I legally do if my child’s mother picks up our child in an Uber without a car seat? She is 5 years old, about 50 lbs. She is also the custodial parent with full custody rights, so she feels she can do anything she wants. Can I call the cops?

I’m old enough to remember when it was not illegal to wear a seatbelt. I’m old enough to remember when it was not illegal to permit a child to ride in a car without a seatbelt. I remember when there were no laws that children under a certain weight or height must ride in car seats when riding in cars. Most jurisdictions now have laws that require children of a certain age, weight, or height be strapped into a car seat when riding in a car.

So, the first thing you will need to do is find out whether it is illegal for your ex-wife to have your five-year-old, 50 pound child ride in a car without a car seat. You’ve mentioned that your ex-wife will often have your child picked up by Uber (a ridesharing service), and so you will want to ensure that even if there are laws that require a child to ride in a car seat when writing in a car, there are no exceptions for ridesharing services, taxicabs, buses, etc.

If, after conducting your research, you learn that it is illegal for your ex-wife to have your child ride in a car or when using a ridesharing service without having the child strapped into a car seat, then you would be well within your rights to report this to the police. just because you could do this, however, does not mean that you should, at least without first notifying your ex-wife that what she is doing is illegal and places your child in danger, and that if she refuses to comply with the law you will then report her to the police and perhaps even take the matter up with the court to get an order that requires her to secure the child in a car seat when traveling by car under circumstances when the law requires a car seat be utilized.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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Must I hand a cop my license, or just show it?

I get this question a lot, and frankly, I am curious to know the answer myself:  

 If you have a dedicated sleeve in your wallet that holds your driver license (you know, the kind with a window so that you can display your driver license without having to remove it from your wallet), must you remove your license from your wallet during a traffic stop or during questioning when a police officer or highway patrolman tells you you must? 

 I’ve always suspected that the answer is “no” and that if you show your license as it is in your wallet sleeve/window that’s acceptable.  

 Some states actually do have laws that require you to “surrender” your license to the officer/patrolman during a traffic stop, but here is what I could find for Utah (pay particular attention to subsection (1)(b)): 

§53-3-217. License to be carried when driving motor vehicle–Production in court–Violation

 (1)(a) The licensee shall have his license certificate in his immediate possession at all times when driving a motor vehicle. 

 (𝗯) 𝗔 𝗹𝗶𝗰𝗲𝗻𝘀𝗲𝗲 𝘀𝗵𝗮𝗹𝗹 𝗱𝗶𝘀𝗽𝗹𝗮𝘆 𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗹𝗶𝗰𝗲𝗻𝘀𝗲 𝗰𝗲𝗿𝘁𝗶𝗳𝗶𝗰𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝘂𝗽𝗼𝗻 𝗱𝗲𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗼𝗳 𝗮 𝗷𝘂𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗰𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝗽𝗲𝗮𝗰𝗲, 𝗮 𝗽𝗲𝗮𝗰𝗲 𝗼𝗳𝗳𝗶𝗰𝗲𝗿, 𝗼𝗿 𝗮 𝗳𝗶𝗲𝗹𝗱 𝗱𝗲𝗽𝘂𝘁𝘆 𝗼𝗿 𝗶𝗻𝘀𝗽𝗲𝗰𝘁𝗼𝗿 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗱𝗶𝘃𝗶𝘀𝗶𝗼𝗻. 

 (2) It is a defense to a charge under this section that the person charged produces in court a license certificate issued to him and valid at the time of his citation or arrest. 

 (3) A person who violates Subsection (1)(a) or (1)(b) is guilty of an infraction. 

 The way I read subsection (1)(b), “display” is clearly not a synonym for “surrender” or “give” or “take out of your wallet and hand it over to me”. If there are other statutes, ordinances, or regulations that apply in this situation, I do not know what they are. 

 I can’t see a basis for being obligated to hand an officer your license under the general “stopand question (and possibly search) statute: 

§77-7-15. Authority of peace officer to stop and question suspect–Grounds

A peace officer may stop any individual in a public place when the officer has a reasonable suspicion to believe the individual has committed or is in the act of committing or is attempting to commit a public offense and may demand the individual’s name, address, date of birth, and an explanation of the individual’s actions. 

Here’s the law requiring one to have his/her license and registration with him/her when operating a motor vehicle, but it doesn’t require you to hand these documents to the officer: 

41-12a-603.  Operating motor vehicle without license or registration. 

Any person whose license or registration or nonresident’s operating privilege has been suspended or revoked under this chapter and who, during the suspension or revocation drives any motor vehicle upon any highway or knowingly permits any motor vehicle owned by the person to be operated by another upon any highway, except as permitted under this chapter, is guilty of a class C misdemeanor. 

41-1a-214.  Registration card to be exhibited. 

(1)        For the convenience of a peace officer or any officer or employee of the division, the owner or operator of a vehicle is encouraged to carry the registration card in the vehicle for which the registration card was issued and display the registration card upon request. 

(2)        For a vehicle owned by a rental company, as defined in Section 31A-22-311, a person driving or in control of the vehicle may display the vehicle’s rental agreement, as defined in Section 31A-22-311, in place of a registration card. 

This statute provides that one must “exhibit” one’s driver license (“operator’s license”) to a peace officer, but does not require one to deliver it into the officer’s possession: 

41-6a-401.  Accident involving property damage — Duties of operator, occupant, and owner — Exchange of information — Notification of law enforcement — Penalties. 

(3)        Except as provided under Subsection (6), if the vehicle or other property is operated, occupied, or attended by any person or if the owner of the vehicle or property is present, the operator of the vehicle involved in the accident shall: 

(a)        give to the persons involved: 

(i)         the operator’s name, address, and the registration number of the vehicle being operated; and 

(ii)        the name of the insurance provider covering the vehicle being operated including the phone number of the agent or provider; and 

(b)        upon request and if available, exhibit the operator’s license to: 

(i)         any investigating peace officer present; 

(ii)        the operator, occupant of, or person attending the vehicle or other property damaged in the accident; and 

(iii)       the owner of property damaged in the accident, if present. 

And there is this, for drivers of commercial motor vehicles, but it too only provides that one must “display” the license to the officer:

§53-3-404. Requirements to drive commercial motor vehicle

(1) A person may not drive a commercial motor vehicle, unless the person has been issued and is in immediate possession of: 

(a) a CDL license certificate valid for the commercial motor vehicle the person is driving; or 

(b) a valid CDIP license certificate in accordance with Section 53-3-408. 

(2)(a) A licensee shall display a CDL or CDIP license certificate upon demand of a justice court judge, a peace officer, a special function officer, a port-of-entry officer, or a designee of the division. 

(b) It is a defense to a charge under this section that the person charged produces in court a CDL or CDIP license certificate that is issued to the person and valid at the time of the citation or arrest. 

(3) A person may not drive a commercial motor vehicle if the person’s privilege to drive a commercial motor vehicle is: 

(a) suspended, revoked, or canceled; 

(b) subject to a disqualification; 

(c) subject to an out-of-service order; or 

(d) not medically certified as defined in Section 53-3-402. 

(4) A person may not drive a commercial motor vehicle if the commercial motor vehicle is subject to an out-of-service order. 

This statute uses the word “display” only regarding registration and insurance documentation (this statute is lengthy, so I only share excerpts of it):

§41-12a-303.2. Evidence of owner’s or operator’s security to be carried when operating motor vehicle–Defense–Penalties


(2)(a)(i) A person operating a motor vehicle shall: 

(A) have in the person’s immediate possession evidence of owner’s or operator’s security for the motor vehicle the person is operating; and 

(B) display it upon demand of a peace officer. 

(ii) A person is exempt from the requirements of Subsection (2)(a)(i) if the person is operating: 

(A) a government-owned or leased motor vehicle; or 

(B) an employer-owned or leased motor vehicle and is driving it with the employer’s permission. 

(iii) A person operating a vehicle that is owned by a rental company, as defined in Section 31A-22-311, may comply with Subsection (2)(a)(i) by having in the person’s immediate possession, or displaying, the rental vehicle’s rental agreement, as defined in Section 31A-22-311. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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I know a friend on TikTok who has abusive parents. How can I report or get him help?

I know a friend on TikTok who has a lot of severe PTSD and trauma due to several incidents, and he also has abusive parents. How can I report him to child support and get help for him? 

Do you know this only from what you have witnessed through your friend’s TikTok videos? If so, you may want to approach what your TikTok friend claims with a healthy dose of skepticism. Many people seeking large followings on social media tell sensational stories to attract attention (clickbait). 

The reason I suggest you proceed with caution is because once a parent is reported to the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) and/or Child Protective Services (CPS) and/or the police, even if a parent or parents is/are later determined to be innocent of the accusations made against him/her/them, a stigma attaches that in many cases dogs the parent(s) for the rest of their lives. Friends and neighbors shun them, they may lose their positions as coaches and youth Sunday school teachers, they may even lose their jobs—all simply because a vindictive or bored or attention-seeking child reckless made unfounded allegations against his/her parent(s). 

If you know for a fact that a child is being abused (or you have very, very good evidence that it is more likely than not that the child is being abused or in danger of being abused), then you can (and likely should) report your observations or reasonable suspicions to DCFS, CPS, and/or the police. 

Here are some links to help you understand the child abuse and neglect reporting process in the jurisdiction where I practice family law (Utah): 

Here is what Utah’s Child Protective Services website states: 

If you suspect child abuse or neglect is occurring please call our 24/7 hotline at 1-855-323-3237 or contact your local law enforcement agency. 

Utah law requires any person who has reason to believe that a child has been subjected to abuse, neglect, or dependency to immediately notify the nearest office of Child and Family Services, a peace officer, or a law enforcement agency. Abuse, neglect, or dependency of a child can be physical, emotional, or sexual. 

Click here to learn more about the process of reporting child abuse and neglect to CPS and under what circumstances investigations are opened. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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Can an unmarried parent legally keep the other parent from the children without having gone to court?

Can an unmarried parent legally keep the other parent from the children without having gone to court?


In the absence of a court order to the contrary, it is not illegal for one parent to keep the children from the other parent. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true.

This means that—whether the parents are married or not—if:

  • Dad, say, picks up the kids from school and then takes them to his house and does not let Mom see them or pick them up to spend time with her (whether at her house or just out and about), Dad is not doing anything illegal. Even if no one accuses Mom of being a danger to the children, she cannot force Dad to let her see or spend time with the children and if she calls the police for help there is nothing they can do because what Dad is doing is not illegal.
  • Mom and Dad break up and Mom moves out with the baby, and Dad calls the police asking them to help him see or spend time with the baby, the police can do nothing because what Mom is doing is not illegal.

As with many things one can do, just because parents can keep their children from the other parent does not mean parent should do such a thing. Keeping children from their other parent, when the parent is not a danger to the children, is absolutely wrong.

Now if there is a decree of divorce or other valid court order that awards shared custody and/or parent-time to a parent and the other parent withholds the children from that parent in violation of that court order, that can be both prosecuted criminally and penalized civilly as contempt of court.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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What to do before a divorce, if you’re not in the wrong

What advice would you give someone before a divorce, if it’s known it may happen and you’re not in the wrong?

This is a very important question that too few people ask.

Does this sound familiar?:

  • Your spouse is making false allegations against you. No evidence to support them, yet the police and the courts and child protective services are swallowing it all.
  • You keep asking when justice will be done, when you will be vindicated.
  • You keep wondering when things would get back to “normal”.
  • In the back of your mind you are certain that one day things will indeed get back to normal
  • Odds are they won’t. Especially while your kids are minors.
  • But surely things can’t stay this crazy and out of whack forever, right?
  • Wrong.
  • Things will likely get better but will likely never “go back to normal.”
  • We don’t blame you for thinking we’re exaggerating. The idea that innocence counts for next to nothing is unthinkable. Too terrible to believe. As is the idea that people can slander you with impunity while the police and the courts stand by and either let it happen or even it help it happen. Believe it. It’s true.
  • No really, it’s true.
  • The words of this real divorced spouse and parent sum things up concisely and accurately: I kept wondering when things would get back to normal. I soon realized through brutal experience that it never will, as long as I have kids with my ex that are minors. Or if I am ever around my alone (meaning no other witness could confirm her false claims are exactly that, false). I can’t ever go back to life as it was before divorce. My rose colored glasses are broken forever, The days of not worrying about someone making things up to punish me in divorce or criminal court or DCFS are no more. The “child-like faith” I once had in our legal system is lost for all time, never to return.
  • You can deny it all you want, but it will do you and your kids no good and only lead to more harm and being victimized more, if you bury your head in the sand or in the clouds. That will only add repeated and more severe injury to what started out as insult.
  • We know what you are hoping for, and you’re not there yet. You likely won’t be for much longer time than you think is realistic or fair.
  • Will the day soon come when you can stop worrying about protecting yourself from false allegations or complaints from your ex? No.
  • In fact, that day may never come.
  • We know people for whom it’s been years, in some cases more than a decade, and still, to this day the ex cannot be trusted to be decent.
  • You have to cautious and careful in the event that the snake that bit you once (or dozens of times) before might try to bite you again.
  • We know it’s exhausting and actually driving you near insane (we really do).
  • But you must stay vigilant.
  • You must stay classy. And stay frosty. You must. It’s either stay frosty, stay classy, or be crushed. Crushed emotionally, financially, etc.
  • An ounce of prevention truly is worth several hundred or several thousand pounds of cure.
  • We understand you’re not happy about this.
  • Still, knowing is half the battle. Forewarned is forearmed.
  • Staying blissfully ignorant won’t do you any good and can do you permanent damage.
  • Divorce and false claims of child and spousal and substance abuse, etc. are more prevalent than you think because nobody wants to believe it will happen to them. And those who are victimized are often too embarrassed and depressed to talk openly and honestly about it. Can you blame them?
  • That’s it. No easy solutions. No cheap assurances. But ignore this information, warnings, and protective measures at your peril.

Hang in there. Heed this crucial advice: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” – Winston Churchill

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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There’s No Situation That Can’t Be Made Worse by Calling the Police

There’s No Situation That Can’t Be Made Worse by Calling the Police

By Brian Godfrey

I was talking with someone about divorce and family law situations the other day and the topic of police intervention came up. In course of our conversation someone mentioned the saying “There’s no situation that can’t be made worse by calling the police.” The sentiments expressed in that saying aren’t necessarily disrespectful toward the police. One way to interpret it is summarized in this scene from the 2012 copy movie End of Watch:

“No matter how you plead, cajole, beg or attempt to stir my sympathies, nothing you do will stop me from placing you in a steel cage with grey bars. If you run away, I will chase you. If you fight me, I will fight back. If you shoot at me, I will shoot back. By law, I am unable to walk away. I’m a consequence. I am the unpaid bill. I am fate with a badge and a gun.”

See, when you call the police in, they don’t always show up to make things better for you or to solve all your problems. The job of the police is to write tickets and arrest people who won’t behave. That means that when you involve the police, you can expect—after the citation is issued and after you get arrested, post bail, and get release from jail until you next court appearances—fines and a further loss of your freedom.

In other words, calling the cops can and usually will result in something far worse than the original situation.[1] Take heed when calling the police, and take even more heed of the things that you say to the cops or around the cops because “Everything you say can and will be held against you in a court of law” isn’t just something cool they say in the movies. You might actually have every single word you utter used against you. In fact, plan on it. Not all cops are bad people or people on power trips, but in our experience, sadly, most are. And cops are certainly not be trifled with and the police shouldn’t be called to settle disputes that grown adults can and should resolve without them.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

[1] Unless you’re a woman accusing a man (falsely or not) of domestic violence. In that case, you’re usually going to get exactly what you want, i.e., getting the man thrown out of his own house, if not also arrested and charged (or at least prime-positioned for slapping him with a civil protective order). But I digress.

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To whom do you turn to when the police won’t protect you from your ex?

I am a domestic relations attorney. With this in mind, and if you are convinced that you don’t have enough evidence to obtain a restraining order, my answer to your question is:

You move.

Easier said than done, I know, but it’s still easier (and less discouraging, futile, and frustrating) than trying to force law enforcement officers to help you.

Even if you obtained a court order (ooooooh, a court order!) that “compelled” law enforcement officers to help you, chances are that the court would not enforce the order, if the law enforcement officers to whom it is directed refuse to help you.* Then factor in the time and effort (and money, if you hire an attorney to help you obtain the order) that goes in to seeking such an order, and it makes more sense to invest that time, effort, and money into doing something that works, something that has a much higher potential for success (if by “success” you mean getting away from your stalker/harasser/tormentor to safety and peace).

*Of course, this kind of law enforcement officer is too smart to blatantly refuse to help you. Instead, you’ll get the bureaucratic/administrative run around and the cops will play dumb (“this is a civil matter, ma’am”), so that they maintain plausible deniability. If that doesn’t work, they’ll threaten to arrest you (“disorderly conduct” and “disturbing the peace” are popular threats, as is “false report”) if you try to insist upon them enforcing your order.

Frequently, the best course of action is not to seek vindication through the legal system, but to extricate yourself from it. No, I am clearly not urging to violate the law, I am showing you that the legal system often disappoints. So if you can help yourself better than the legal system can help you (without being an outlaw, of course), then help yourself.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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What is the safest way to break up with an abusive partner?

What is the safest way to break up with an abusive partner? I heard many horror stories and afraid I might be next.

While there is no one “proper” way to break up with an What is the safest way to break up with an abusive partner,

Robert McQueeney’s answer on this thread is a good one:

The safest way? When the opportunity presents itself, never put material belongings over your life. Just leave. Don’t waste time packing everything, just take what you need and go, immediately. Grab any important papers, of course.

Ghost your way out of there. Change jobs, change locations, shucks, change states if you have to. Change your phone, ghost your way out of any social media.

Don’t say anything to him, get real devious with your life, it may well depend on it. Don’t try to get any satisfaction of telling your partner to their face that you are out of there. Just leave and do it quickly and expediently.

Furthermore, I’d add two things:

  1. Don’t expect the legal system to be much, if any, help to you in the process. The legal system was not designed to help you in this situation as well and as fast as you can help yourself. Don’t try to vindicate yourself through the legal system. Work out your problems without involving the legal system any more than you must. It’s slow, expensive, and not consistently fair. Don’t break the law, but don’t expect the legal system to help you. Help yourself.
  2. Be prepared to pay the costs associated with breaking free. You may have to leave personal property behind because it may prove too hard to slip away with the stuff that’s rightfully yours. If you have to change your job and residence, you may take a hit on your pay and end up in crappier lodgings as you re-build. Understand that this is for most the cost of freedom and peace of mind—and that’s worth the cost.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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What do the police think of lawyers?

What do the police think of lawyers?

Generally, we don’t like or trust each other. And for good reason.

I’m an attorney. I don’t like most law enforcement officers because the often lie and use their position of authority and their gun and handcuffs to intimidate and bully people.

Police don’t like most lawyers when they help criminals and other bad people (people who are guilty) get away with crimes and other bad acts.

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