Utah Funeral Procession Laws

Utah traffic laws apply to the majority of motorists besides law enforcement and emergency services, yet individuals in a funeral procession may also be exempt from following certain rules of the road.

What traffic light?

Photo: RL GNZLZ

Photo: RL GNZLZ

Those who are part of a funeral procession don’t have to yield at stop signs or traffic lights as other motorist do. In fact, they have the right of way on the road over all automobiles except emergency vehicles. Anyone who interferes with an active funeral procession or impedes the memorial services in any way is guilty of a class B misdemeanor.

Laws for the funeral procession

Although the traveling memorial service has the right of way, they also have guidelines they must follow to be allowed some liberties on public roadways. According to Utah Code 76-9-108, “at least one vehicle contains the body or remains of a deceased person being memorialized and the vehicles [included in the procession] are going to or from a memorial service.”

Identify the procession

Funeral Procession 2To help other motorists distinguish the funeral procession, Utah Code 76-9-108 states “the operators of the vehicles [in a funeral procession] identify themselves as being part of the procession by having the lamps or lights of the vehicle on and by keeping in close formation with the other vehicles in the procession.” Just as motorists are taught to be aware and move over when they observe flashing lights that signal the approach of law enforcement or emergency vehicles, if they additionally watch for a string of vehicles with their headlamps and hazard lights on, then they can avoid charges of impeding with a funeral procession.

Leave Medical Marijuana Home When Visiting Utah

Those planning on visiting Utah should expect to leave their medical marijuana at home to avoid criminal charges. Fortunately, there are changes upon the horizon, but as for now, marijuana in any form is still not legal to bring here.

Marijuana RX

medical marijuana

Photo by: Neeta Lind

Last week, 21 year old John Arthur Hernandez visiting from California was arrested in St. George Utah after he brought drugs including medical marijuana into the state. The marijuana was in a prescription bottle approved for Hernandez by a doctor from California, but regrettably Utah does not yet authorize the possession or use of marijuana, even with a valid prescription from another state.

Utah working on legalizing medical marijuana

For those living in or visiting Utah who are suffering from chronic pain or illnesses, legalized medical marijuana looks to be in the near future for the beehive state. Two different bills to make medical marijuana lawful recently passed the Utah State Senate and are now on their way to the Utah House of Representatives. Due to the enormous amount of opposition thus far, SB 73, the bill allowing more of the plant than just the CBD oil, had to be adjusted. That bill now restricts medical marijuana use to only those with chronic ailments such as aids and cancer. Additionally, the medical marijuana is not allowed in a cigarette form; only edible versions and extracts.

Schedule classification

Along with the bills to legalize marijuana, there was also a resolution to reclassify marijuana to a Schedule II drug. Currently the United States Controlled Substances Act classifies marijuana as a Schedule I, the same classification as heroin and cocaine. With the abundance of legal changes likely to take place regarding marijuana, those living in or visiting Utah may not realize that strict criminal penalties are still present. For more information on penalties and legal counsel regarding possession of marijuana either for medical or recreation use, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Child Abandonment for Leaving Children Home Alone

Deciding what age is appropriate for children to be left home alone or with an older sibling is difficult for parents to determine, especially when it could be seen as neglect or child abandonment.

Legal age for being home alone

Photo by: Nagesh Jayaraman

Photo by: Nagesh Jayaraman

While Utah doesn’t have a specific age in which children are old enough to be left home alone, it is recommended by the National SAFEKIDS campaign that parents not leave anyone under the age of 12 home alone, and even then only if they are mature. When leaving children home alone, it is important that the children have key essentials first, such as:

• Mature older sibling or babysitter
• Food
• Shelter
• Clothing
• Emergency contact numbers
• Safe, childproofed home
• Rules for staying safe

Leaving children without the things they need to be safe and healthy is looked at as being negligent, and can lead to neglect or child abandonment charges. Unfortunately for one Utah family, the responsible parent failed to provide for the needs of her children prior to her departure and is now facing prison time.

Utah mom leaves children at motel

Photo by: Oakridge Camp and Retreat Center

Photo by: Oakridge Camp and Retreat Center

A southern Utah mom was arrested last week for charges related to child abandonment after she left her three children alone at the motel where the family was living. The oldest child, a 14 year old, is assumed to have been in charge during her absence. During the time that the mother was away, the two younger children, without proper winter attire, left their older sibling at the motel room late at night to go obtain food. Police officers spotted the improperly dressed, hungry children and followed them back to the motel. There the children disclosed that they had no food and didn’t know where their mom was. Officers later located and confronted the mom about her whereabouts, learning she had been out of state and appeared to be under the influence of drugs. Although a 14 year old should have been old enough to watch their two younger siblings for a short period of time, the mom is facing prison for charges related to child abandonment because she left the children without the clothing and nutrition provisions they needed and no way to contact her or another adult.

Child Abuse

Photo by: Ken Mayer

Photo by: Ken Mayer

The phrase “child abandonment” is often used during parental custody battles, when one parent attempts to prove that the other has no interest in the child(ren). Utah law however, also uses this term to define parents who leave their children in poor circumstances. According to Utah code 76-5-109, child abandonment is when “a parent or legal guardian of a child [human being who is under 18 years of age]:
• Intentionally ceases to maintain physical custody of the child;
• Intentionally fails to make reasonable arrangements for the safety, care, and physical custody of the child; and
• Intentionally fails to provide the child with food, shelter, or clothing […]”

Child abandonment is considered child abuse and is punished as such. Utah Code 76-5-109 also states: “A person who commits child abandonment, or encourages or causes another to commit child abandonment, or an enterprise that encourages, commands, or causes another to commit child abandonment, is:
(a) […] guilty of a felony of the third degree; or
(b) guilty of a felony of the second degree, if, as a result of the child abandonment:
(i) the child suffers a serious physical injury; or
(ii) the person or enterprise receives, directly or indirectly, any benefit.”

Any parents who are facing child abandonment charges after leaving their children home unattended are encouraged to seek counsel from a reputable criminal defense attorney.