Utah Inmates Allowed Release to Attend Family Funerals

Inmates who are incarcerated in Utah may be eligible for early release to attend the funeral of a family member if certain criteria are met.

Incarcerated and isolated

Photo by: marina

Utah inmates, especially those incarcerated several hours away from home often feel cut off with their only communication being in the form of phone calls, edited mail, and the occasional supervised visits (if their family is able to travel). When the death of a family member occurs, inmates may feel at a loss as to how they can be there to console and grieve with their loved ones.

Death of a family member

While most inmates remain incarcerated throughout their entire sentence unless out early on parole, the death of a family member could open a temporary window for an inmate to be eligible for early release. There are certain criteria that must be met in order for the inmate to be released to attend a family funeral however.

Guidelines for early release

According to the State of Utah Board of Pardons and Parole, “The board will not consider inmate requests for early prison release to attend the funeral of a family member unless all of the following conditions are present:

Photo by : Don LaVange

• The inmate is within 120 days of his/her parole or termination date.
• The current incarceration is for a non-violent offense (or offenses).
• The institution does not consider the inmate a disciplinary problem.
• The funeral is for an immediate family member, which may include:
– Parent
– Step-parent
– Spouse
– Child
– Sibling
– Grandparent
– Grandchild
• The inmate or someone on his/her behalf, provides proof of the family member’s death/funeral.
• All phone calls/inquiries related to early release for funeral attendance shall be routed to the H.O.O.D. [hearing officer of the day] who shall review the circumstances and route the matter to the Board after determining that the above-referenced conditions are met. ( . . . ).”

Family members who believe their incarcerated loved one may be eligible for release to attend a funeral are encouraged to check the required conditions and contact the AP&P immediately.

Aggressive Driving Versus Road Rage

Many drivers are guilty of showing hostility to other drivers occasionally but when does aggressive driving escalate to road rage, and what difference does it make legally?

Utah drivers

Photo by: State Farm

Driving can be a stressful event when dealing with other drivers on the road that don’t always make the best decisions. Although bad drivers are literally everywhere, residents of the Beehive State seem to think that the majority of horrible drivers call Utah home. Many Utah drivers will encounter (or cause) at least one incident a day that shows inexperience, poor judgement, disregard for other drivers, or distraction on the road. When these events occur it can be upsetting and how drivers handle their annoyance or anger towards other drivers could make the difference between whether or not they face criminal charges.

Four vehicles – one life lost

Early last month, hundreds of vehicles heading north towards St. George, Utah on I-15 remained at a standstill for several hours, after authorities processed the scene of a road rage incident that claimed the life of innocent driver on the opposite side of the freeway. There is no information on what caused the road rage, but fellow drivers reported three vehicles that were headed southbound on I-15 were being driven aggressively when things quickly escalated. In an attempt to pass a car on the inside shoulder, one of the drivers involved lost control and struck a northbound vehicle, killing 69 year old Michael Prinaris of Henderson, Nevada instantly.

Aggressive driving

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines aggressive driving as “The operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that endangers or is likely to endanger persons or property.” They state that an aggressive driver may display the following behaviors:

• “Following too closely,
• Driving at excessive speeds,
• Weaving through traffic, and
• Running red lights and signs, among other acts”.

Road rage

Photo by: Mike Kline

The NHTSA states, “aggressive driving occasionally escalates to gesturing in anger or yelling at another motorist, confrontation, physical assault, and even murder. ( . . . ) Road rage is the label that emerged to describe the angry and violent behaviors at the extreme of the aggressive driving continuum.” The turning point between aggressive driving and road rage is someone can drive aggressively, possibly putting others on the road in danger while road rage is deliberate actions intended to do harm to another driver.

Aggressive driving a.k.a reckless driving

According to the NHTSA “an important distinction is that aggressive driving is a traffic violation, while road rage, aside from the yelling and gesticulating, is a criminal offence.” While it is true that more serious criminal consequences can occur from committing acts of road rage, the state of Utah actually punishes aggressive drivers as well. Utah Code 41-6a-528 defines reckless driving as when a person operating a vehicle does so “in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property; or while committing three or more moving traffic violations ( . . . ) [within]three miles of less in total distance.” Utah’s definition of reckless driving sounds a lot like what can occur during aggressive driving and that can result in class B misdemeanor charges.

Misdemeanor charges for road rage

Road rage is punishable by whatever criminal act a person performed because they were angry at another driver. Beyond reckless driving charges, road rage can also produce charges of:

• Misdemeanor assault if one driver physically assaulted the other driver;
• Threat of violence; also a misdemeanor charge;
• Possession of deadly weapon (vehicle) with criminal intent, a class A misdemeanor.

Felony road rage charges

Photo by:Beau Giles

Unfortunately for many cases, Road rage can also result in felony charges such as:

• Aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon, a third degree felony;
• Manslaughter, a second degree felony; or even
• Aggravated murder, a first degree felony.

Anyone facing charges related to an aggressive driving or road rage incident should seek the help of an attorney immediately.

Armed Utah Resident Threatens Use of Deadly Force to Stop Men Fleeing Police

An armed southern Utah resident threatened use of deadly force to stop two men from fleeing police.

Armed Utah resident

Photo by: Adam Bailey

A resident in the small town of Leeds, Utah which is located 16 miles north of St. George heard a large noise on his property and went to investigate. The resident discovered two men had crashed into his fence while fleeing from police. The Leeds homeowner who was armed with a personal firearm threatened use of deadly force to keep the men detained by gunpoint until a law enforcement officer was able to take them under arrest.

Helpful, but was it justified?

The homeowner was likely alarmed by the pair of men crashing into his fence, however was he justified brandishing a firearm to keep the men from fleeing again? Fortunately for all parties involved, the pair fleeing police did not attempt to continue running or threaten the homeowner in any way. Authorities arrived shortly after and the two were booked into Purgatory Correctional Facility on a variety of misdemeanor and felony charges. Had the men tried to leave however, would the homeowner have been justified to use deadly force? Is leaving the scene a reason to defend oneself?

Threatening force in defense of person

Utah Code 76-2-402 states: “A person is justified in threatening or using force against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that force or a threat of force is necessary to defend the person or a third person against another person’s imminent use of unlawful force.” Someone crashing into a fence may be startling at first, however unless more aggressive actions were taken, it likely would not necessitate threatening use of using deadly force against the other party for them merely attempting leaving the scene. Luckily in this case, deadly force was not used and the home owner was seen as an outstanding citizen for remaining calm while helping police.

Utah laws regarding firearms

Utah residents are encouraged to study Utah laws regarding firearms, so they will know for certain:

• where they are allowed to carry firearms,
• when they are allowed to brandish a weapon; and
• When they are justified in using deadly force.

Anyone facing charges for improper use of a firearm should seek legal counsel.