Automobile Homicide

A 14 year old Taylorsville teenager was struck and killed by a car on Halloween night and it is not believed that the driver will face charges of automobile homicide.

Trick or treating nightmare

Photo by: _zhang

Photo by: _zhang

The 14 year old teenage girl was out trick or treating with a group of friends when she entered a crosswalk located on 2700 West just north of Bennion Junior High School in Taylorsville, Utah. As she began crossing the road, a van driven by an adult woman struck and killed her.

Accident versus being negligent

It is improbable that drivers who cause the death of a pedestrian for reasons such as poor visibility due to a dark costume (which may have been the case here) will face charges of automobile homicide. According to Utah Code 76-5-207 and 76-5-207.5, there are two circumstances in which a driver may be charged with automobile homicide following a fatal auto-pedestrian accident, such as:

• If the driver is distracted by a cell phone or other hand-held device or

• If the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

While an investigation is still pending, it doesn’t appear that the driver was impaired in any way and thus she will likely be spared automobile homicide charges for the death of the 14 year old girl.

Criminally negligent

Photo by: Lord Jim

Photo by: Lord Jim

If a driver is found to have been driving while intoxicated or on their phone when an accident occurs, they could face a 3rd degree felony for automobile homicide. That charge would increase to a 2nd degree felony if the driver is perceived as being criminally negligent. Utah Code 76-2-102 defines being criminally negligent as deliberately causing the accident, “recklessly with respect to circumstances […]”, or if the driver should have known that their actions could cause the accident to occur. If a driver is ever facing automobile homicide, it is vital to seek experienced, professional counsel to avoid up to 15 years in prison that can come from a 2nd degree felony.

DUI Automobile Homicide for Man Involved in High-Speed Pursuit

DUI automobile homicide after high-speed pursuit

Photo: Public Domain

A man arrested last May after a crash that killed the three other passengers in his vehicle pleaded guilty to DUI automobile homicide on Friday, March 27. One of the passengers was the driver’s girlfriend, and the others were juveniles.

Attempting to Flee Always a Bad Idea

Trying to flee from police officers always makes things worse. At the very least, it adds additional felony charges onto what might have been simple misdemeanors had the suspect chosen not to flee. However, for Jonathan Ulises Analco-Cruz, 24, attempting to flee led to a high-speed crash that landed him with multiple counts of DUI automobile homicide.

According to KSL News, on May 17, 2014, an officer attempted to pull over Cruz for doing 60 mph in a 35 mph zone at Salt Lake City International Airport. Cruz accelerated with erratic lane changes as he sped toward eastbound I-80, at which point court documents state that the officer ended the pursuit for public safety reasons.

However, near the I-215 interchange, Cruz apparently lost control of his vehicle and rolled it several times. A reconstruction of the incident indicated that Cruz was going 103 mph when he lost control. Cruz was found at the scene in critical condition. His girlfriend, Michaela Martin, 18, was killed on the crash, as were two male juveniles, ages 17 and 14.

Cruz’s blood-alcohol level was 0.21, almost three times the Utah legal limit of 0.08, and THC was found in his system. Court records indicate that an arrest warrant had been issued for Cruz just nine days earlier for failing to pay a fine and driving infractions.

Cruz pleaded guilty to two counts of DUI automobile homicide and failure to stop at an officer’s command, all second degree felonies.

When a DUI Misdemeanor Becomes a DUI Automobile Homicide Felony

As stated at the beginning of this post, attempting to flee is always a bad idea. Had Cruz consented to be pulled over, he would’ve most likely received a speeding ticket and a DUI charge, a class B misdemeanor provided he didn’t injure anyone or hadn’t been convicted before. Class B misdemeanors are punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

Instead, Cruz attempted to flee and killed three people in the process. Now he has three second degree felonies he is facing. A single second degree felony is punishable by up to fifteen years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

The most important thing to remember is not to take your changes attempting to flee from police if you are driving under the influence. However, if you or someone you know has already been charged with DUI automobile homicide charges, don’t leave the potential of losing fifteen years of your life in the hands of a public defender. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who will look out for your best interests.

Open Container One of Charges for Man who Head-butts Patrol Car

open container for head-butting man

Photo: SimplyElke

A man was arrested in Davis County on Wednesday, March 11, after allegedly smashing a window in a patrol car with his head and threatening law enforcement, among other things. While the man received a laundry list of potential charges which aren’t as common—both felonies and misdemeanors—the charge of having an open container in the vehicle is one that occurs a little more frequently.

A Perfect Example of “Disorderly Conduct”

According to a report in KSL News, at approximately 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday night, a Clinton patrol officer stopped Randy Duane Ochsner, 54, and was soon assisted by a Davis County Sheriff’s Office deputy. Believing Ochsner to be driving impaired—but not yet having discovered the open container… or other things in the vehicle which would get Ochsner in trouble—a field sobriety test was conducted during which Ochsner became agitated. After being cuffed against the passenger side of the patrol car, things just got worse.

According to Sgt. DeeAnn Servey, “He became very upset and decided to bash his forehead into the passenger rear window of the Davis County Sheriff’s patrol car, which led to the window completely shattering and several injuries to his face.”

When medical personnel responded, Ochsner was still reportedly belligerent, attempting to kick one of the EMTs and spit on both health care workers and responding officers, the latter of which landed him a “propelling a bodily substance” assault charge.

In addition, while traveling to a local hospital, Ochsner allegedly threatened to shoot one of the deputies in the head. After treatment for his injuries, Ochsner was transported to the David County Jail. A search of his vehicle turned up drug paraphernalia and controlled substances, which lead to possession charges for both.

In addition to those charges and propelling a bodily substance, Ochsner was arrested on suspicion of assaulting an officer, interference with an arresting officer, making terroristic threats, criminal mischief, failure to install an ignition interlock device, being an alcohol restricted driver, driving under the influence with two or more prior convictions within 10 years, and having an open container in the vehicle.

Understanding the Open Container Law

While the least serious of Ochsner’s charges, having an open container is a charge many people come face-to-face with, sometimes simply for not understanding the law. According to 41-6a-526 of the Utah Motor Vehicles Traffic Code, “a person may not drink any alcoholic beverage while operating a motor vehicle or while a passenger in a motor vehicle, whether the vehicle is moving, stopped, or parked on any highway or waters of the state.”

This section of the open container code also states that a person may not have a container with a seal that has been broken or contents partially consumed in the passenger compartment, including a utility of glove compartment, even if they aren’t driving impaired.

Exceptions for both the drinking and possession of an open container are made for passengers in the living quarters of a motor home or camper, a limousine or chartered bus, or in a motorboat. While drinking in a taxicab or bus is still prohibited, possession of an open container in those vehicles is legal.

Breaking this section of the traffic code is a class C misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $750 fine. Even though class C is the least serious of the misdemeanors, it’s still not something to gamble with. If you or someone you know has been charged with being in possession of an open container, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.