Question: How severe can a penalty really be for simply failing to pay child support in the state of Utah?

Short answer: As the case below shows (United States v. Mitrano, First Circuit), you can actually be sent to a federal prison for years. So, if you are past due on your child support obligation in Utah, please call Greg Smith and Associates immediately (801-651-1512). They are highly skilled in the areas of child support law and criminal law.

Sometimes even a very “well educated person” can simply outsmart himself when it comes to criminal law matters. For example, just because a person is a lawyer that does not mean they are qualified to step into all legal areas as Mr. Mitrano had to learn the hard way.

You see, according to the Court, back in 2002, Mr. Mitrano was a patent attorney, and was also a licensed engineer. So, he clearly had a ton of schooling behind him, and that can sometimes go a person’s head. However, divorce law and criminal law are very different from patent law. Sadly, we often see non-criminal-defense lawyers representing people in court on criminal matters, which we feel can be a huge mistake.

The bottom line is this: having a patent law attorney handle a divorce or criminal matter would be like a roofer trying to the job of an electrician. And in this case, Mr. Mitrano simply did not understand the legal wiring, and he really got burned.

As we understood the case, he was ordered by a New Hampshire court to pay weekly child support for his three kids in the amount of approximately $1,400 per week, plus $300 per week toward past medical expenses (over $80,000 per year).

Arguably, Mr. Mitrano wrongly thought (or simply arrogantly brainwashed himself into thinking) that the New Hampshire court simply did not have subject matter jurisdiction, so he could essentially ignore the order. According to the court, up until 2008 he had allegedly not paid any of it (nearly half a million dollars).

Now, just because Mr. Mitrano allegedly owed so much, don’t think this can’t happen to your loved one. After all, even being past due on a few thousand dollars can be very troublesome in a federal court. Typically, these cases are brought in state courts, but eventually, the feds can get involved, and this lawyer was convicted by a jury of willful failure to pay child support, and he was sentenced to a whopping 24 months in federal prison.

The Court of Appeals upheld the conviction, and said that there was sufficient evidence that he was able to pay and willfully refused to do so. The Court said, “It is not a crime to fail to comply with the statute based on a good faith misunderstanding of its requirements. [However,] mere disagreement with the law, however, is not a defense.” Because court after court had told Mr. Mitrano he was wrong (four state courts, and two federal ones), the Court of Appeals felt Mr. Mitrano, a trained lawyer, certainly should have known his arguments were losers, and he should have paid the child support, according to the terms of the New Hampshire order.

Mitrano did not testify at trial. His belief came into evidence through his wife’s, Kelly’s, testimony. She testified that “[h]e always said he didn’t have to pay, that this order is void as a matter of law, and no one agreed with him, but he always said it’s void as a matter of law. He didn’t say he couldn’t pay. He said he doesn’t have to pay.”

He was wrong, and now he is paying a very severe penalty.

If you are past due on child support, call us immediately, and always pay something, never pay nothing. Frankly, we feel that Mr. Mitrano probably really ticked off the prosecutors in this case, so this may have been a case where they felt they needed to show him that the system was in control, not him. A client will often say, “I want a real bulldog defending me, and I don’t want to take any deal! I want a complete dismissal!” Well, Mr. Mitrano acted like a bulldog, and look where he ended up – the pound for human beings. A smart, effective lawyer is better than bulldog any day. When you can win, you should fight like hell. But, when the facts are against you, your attorney needs to help you repent like heavens, so you can avoid getting locked up. The law Mr. Mitrano was convicted on was 18 U.S.C. 228(a)(3).

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