Recreational Drones Spotted Over Utah Prison

Recreational drones have been spotted flying above penitentiaries around the United States, with the most recent spotting occurring over the Draper Utah prison.

Drug smuggling drones

Photo by: Doctor Popular

Photo by: Doctor Popular

A  guard caught sight of recreational drones flying over one of the outdoor yard areas for inmates at the Draper Utah prison . The yard was shut down and all inmates ordered inside while prison personnel made sure that nothing dangerous or illegal was dropped. The concern for recreational drones doing more than viewing may stem from incidents around the United States where similar drones were used to smuggle drugs or tobacco into prisons.

Illegal and improper use

In addition to using drones to intentionally break the law, many hobbyists are not following the guidelines set in place for the unmanned aircraft systems. Like any vehicle or aircraft, recreational drones have rules such as:

• Keeping the drone visible to the operator

• Staying away from people

• staying under the 55 lb. weight limit

• Not flying for a profit and

• Flying safely, not recklessly

Restricted Areas

There are also restricted areas where recreational drone use is prohibited such as:

• National Parks

• Airports

• Military sites

• Above 400 feet

• Prisons

Besides recreational drones being flown over restricted areas, they have also been spotted by firefighters battling wildfires and by residents who are concerned over privacy matters. Recreational drone owners need to remember common sense and common courtesy when operating a unmanned aircraft system.

FAA penalties for recreational drones

According to the Federal Aviation Association, “Hobby or recreational flying doesn’t require FAA approval but you must follow safety guidelines.” They also state that “Unauthorized drone operators may be subject to fines of up to $25,000 and up to 20 years in jail.” For legal counsel regarding illegal use of recreational drones, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Child Pornography in Utah

Photo courtesy of Washington County Bookings Report

Photo courtesy of Washington County Bookings Report

A marine living in St. George, Utah was arrested Monday for possession of child pornography.  24 year old Richard Anthony Vidal turned himself in on Monday after returning from overseas to his home in St. George, Utah. A search of his home and electronics conducted earlier this year revealed numerous pictures and videos of sexually explicit acts being done to young children.  According to the Washington County Bookings report, he was charged with 5 counts of exploitation of a minor, each one a 2nd degree felony sexual offense.

Child pornography use on the rise

With the computer boom in the last 2 decades, there has also been a surge in child pornography viewing.  According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, “the main sex exploitation offense referred to U.S. attorneys shifted from sex abuse (73%) in 1994 to child pornography (69%) in 2006.”  This jump in statistics over a 12 year period is explainable by the not hard to find or create illegal photos and videos being easily accessed and shared from personal computers, laptops, and smart phones.

Addictive as a drug

Fightthenewdrug.com, an online website dedicated to educate and cease the widespread use of pornography states “On the surface, cocaine and porn don’t seem to have a lot in common but studies are showing that viewing pornography tricks your brain into releasing the same pleasure chemicals that drugs do.” Just like any drug, pornography of any kind including child pornography can be highly addicting. What makes people choose to view child pornography originally isn’t always known. What is crystal clear is that once they view child pornography, it is very difficult for them to not view it again.

No one is immune

Photo by: andronicusmax

Photo by: andronicusmax

Those guilty in viewing and sharing child pornography don’t always fit the mold that society has created. Sure there may be jobless, friendless, sorry looking middle age guys living in their parent’s basement that dabble with child pornography, but child pornography addictions affect people from every walk of life.

  • As previously stated, there was the young United States Marine Richard Anthony Vidal. Vidal’s military lifestyle was probably not lacking on discipline and his free time was undoubtedly limited. Vidal will most likely be court marshaled and be given an unhonorable discharge from the Marine Corps.
  •  Grant D. Smith, a Utah college engineering professor was arrested a few years ago after a fellow passenger on a plane saw Smith viewing explicit images of young girls while in route to Boston from Salt Lake City. Not only did Smith lose his job at the University of Utah, he was put on 5 years of probation where he was not to be in contact with any children under 16 including his own, and he had to register as a sex offender.
  • 34 year old pediatrician Taylor Steven Jerman of Clearfield Utah was found to be in possession of child pornography on his home computers. If convicted of the 8 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor during his next hearing in August, he will likely lose his employment and possibly his medical license.
  •  Steven Powell, 65, grandfather to Charlie and Braden Powell who were killed in a murder suicide by their father Josh Powell, and father in law of Susan Powell who has been missing since 2009, was arrested on Monday for child pornography charges…again. Not only has he already lost 4 members of his family, he may serve half a decade of what’s left of his elderly life in prison.
  •  32 year old mother Monique Ruiz of Utah was arrested in January for taking nude pictures of her a 9 year old special needs daughter and sending them to man in Taylorsville, who she met online. The mother is facing several felony charges along with her parental rights.
  •  Average Joe, 20 year old Miguel Gonzalez-Rivera of Saratoga Springs was arrested earlier this month after he unknowingly shared child pornography with an undercover agent online. Gonzalez-Rivera stated that he was accidentally exposed to pornography, yet continued viewing it afterwards willingly. His charges are not set at this time.
Photo by: David Goehring

Photo by: David Goehring

Pornography kills

The ad “porn kills” is very accurate. It kills the lives of those affected. Besides the damage that it does to people psychologically, child pornography viewing destroys the guilty individual’s family, employment, criminal record, and reputation. For those who have been caught up in viewing or sharing child pornography and are facing charges for sexual exploitation of a minor, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Criminally Negligent Homicide for Leaving Baby in a Hot Car

There is much debate about whether parents and guardians should be charged with child endangerment for leaving a baby in a hot car and criminally negligent homicide if the child dies. Some cases are easy to note the parent willfully or negligently putting their child in danger. Other cases are more difficult to decide if the parent is guilty of a crime at all.

Photo by: mliu92

Photo by: mliu92

Case of a neglectful parent

26 year old Cody W. Oshley of Cedar City, Utah was arrested on June 26th after he left his 11 month old son in a hot car with the windows up with outside temperatures reaching 100 degrees. Oshley, who was caring for his children while the mother was away, had returned home drunk with his 4 year old and 11 month old in tow. In his severely intoxicated state he forgot to get the baby out of the car. The mother soon returned and found the baby dripping sweat and crying hysterically in the hot car. Luckily the 11 month old was still alive. Oshley was obviously neglectful of his parental responsibilities so therefore in all probability deserves any charges brought upon him. Besides charges stemming from his belligerent and violent behavior with the mother and the police who arrived on scene, Oshley was charged with child endangerment. Had the 11 month old died, Oshley would be facing charges for criminally negligent homicide.

No charges for a horrible mistake

Another case of a baby left in a hot car ended tragically last summer in for a Hurricane, Utah family. April Suwyn, mother to a couple boys and baby girl make a horrific mistake last summer when she left her baby Skyah in the back seat of her car. August 1st 2014 was a very different day that usual for Suwyn. From lack of sleep with a teething toddler, to construction blocking Suwyn from parking near her home, everything that day didn’t go as planned. Suwyn eventually fell into her normal routine while baby Skyah supposedly napped in her crib. What the mother didn’t realize until it was too late, was that Skyah was still strapped into her car seat in the hot car. Just shy of her first birthday, Baby Skyah did not survive. Unlike Oshley, Suwyn ended up not facing any charges for leaving her baby in a hot car. Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap explained the reason for not charging the mother with criminally negligent homicide in this case was due prosecutors understanding the science of “underlying memory lapse.”

Photo by: Allan Ajifo

Photo by: Allan Ajifo


Underlying memory lapse

The areas of the brain that deal with habit and new information don’t always work together smoothly. When something disrupts our daily humdrum, our basal ganglia which handles our habits, tries desperately to get back on track. Stress, a new routine, or something unplanned such as construction or a phone call can snap us out of our predictable day only to have the basal ganglia throw us back into our routine, sometimes missing a step. Unfortunately, sometimes the steps missed are crucial, such as taking a baby out of a car. For parents who had this underlying memory lapse, they did not willfully put their child in danger. Their own brain was working against them.

Half are found guilty

There are steps to take to help prevent leaving a baby in a hot car such as parents putting the diaper bag in the front seat and purse in the back seat. These subtle reminders to the brain can help prevent accidents like that which happened to the Suwyn family. Unfortunately for many parents or guardians who have lost their child due to leaving them in a hot car, not only have they lost their precious child, half of them had charges filed against them. For any parents or guardians who are dealing with charges of child endangerment or criminally negligent homicide contact a criminal defense attorney to discuss if this was negligent or just a tragic mistake.