According to the Utah state legal code, minors under 18 years old who are not emancipated and are absent from their legal residence without consent of their parents, legal guardian or custodian are considered runaways. Utah is one of nine states that considers running away from home to be an illegal act.
What Is a Runaway in Utah?
Any minor under 18 who runs away from home without the consent of their parents, legal guardian or custodian is considered to be a runaway in Utah. The state gives the Division of Juvenile Justice Services original jurisdiction over runaways.
In the Beehive State, law enforcement agency personnel can arrest a runaway without the need for juvenile court referral. Juvenile Receiving Centers (JRC) are located across the state and allow law enforcement officers to drop off runaway, arrested and delinquent youths who do not meet secure detention admission guidelines.
Reporting a Runaway
In Utah, running away is against the law. The minor who does so is committing a "status" offense. Utah parents, legal guardians and custodians can call law enforcement to report the runaway and have them picked up.
A police officer can bring the runaway youth to a local Juvenile Receiving Center where they can be reunited with their parent, guardian or custodian under the guidance of a crisis therapist. The therapist will evaluate the runaway’s immediate security and care needs and make service referrals when appropriate.
What Is Harboring a Runaway?
If a person gives a runaway shelter in any building that they own or control, that individual is harboring a runaway. Harboring a runaway is also against the law in Utah.
If the individual giving a minor shelter knows that the minor is, in fact, a runaway, they face class B misdemeanor charges if they fail to promptly notify the minor’s parent or legal guardian, a youth services center or the Utah Division of Child and Family Services.
Reporting Requirements for a Runaway Child
When reporting the minor’s whereabouts to the appropriate authority, the person who gives the runaway shelter must do so by reasonable means of communication—for example, by phone—within eight hours of receiving the minor.
According to Utah Code Section 62A-4a-501(3), the person harboring the runaway does not have to report the child’s whereabouts to the legal guardian if a court order is in place authorizing law enforcement to take the runaway into custody. In this instance, the individual giving shelter to the minor can call a police officer or local detention center, rather than a parent.
What Is an Ungovernable Youth in Utah?
Any minor under 18 years old who does not comply with a parent or legal caregiver’s reasonable requests to the point that they are beyond control of a responsible party is considered ungovernable.
Legislation in Utah gives original jurisdiction over ungovernable youth to the Division of Juvenile Justice Services. This means that law enforcement can arrest a minor for this offense without a juvenile court referral for the charge.
However, runaways and ungovernable minors can be referred to juvenile court, which may order the Division of Juvenile Justice Services to conduct an assessment of the minor in order to determine if the Division will provide youth services in prevention and early intervention, according to Utah Code Section 80-5-401.
- Salt Lake County: FAQ
- Utah State Legislature: 62A-4a-501 Harboring a runaway -- Reporting requirements -- Division to provide assistance -- Affirmative defense -- Providing shelter after notice.
- Utah State Legislature: Section 401 Youth services for prevention and early intervention -- Program standards -- Program services. (Effective 9/1/2021)
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.