Small Central Utah Town Setting Records in Drug DUI Arrests

The small, central Utah town of Richfield is setting records for its drug DUI arrests after being well-funded by the state of Utah to get impaired drivers off the street.

Small town – big reputations

Photo by: Ken Lund

Richfield City, the county seat of Sevier County, is smaller than 73 other cities in Utah but that doesn’t keep the town’s web page from boasting that it is: “. . . the hub of Central Utah, [and] the largest city for more than a hundred miles”. With a population of a mere 7,750 residents, nearby towns must be miniscule for Richfield to be able to possess that title. Being the largest town of central Utah is not the only reputation Richfield City has either; they also have a high arrest per resident ratio in regards to DUIs.

DUI rate vs Population

According to the Sixteenth Annual DUI Report to the Utah Legislature, throughout the state of Utah, “10,383 DUI-related arrests were made in FY 2018.” They also note that statewide (which includes larger cities such as those in the Salt Lake Valley) the DUI-related arrest rate is “33.5 per 10,000 population”. In pint-sized Richfield City, the amount of DUI arrests is roughly three times that of the entire statewide average.Some speculate that perhaps Richfield has such a high DUI rate due to the small town/big problems theory that no one has anything else to do besides get inebriated and drive around. In reality, there are several reason why Richfield is leading the pack with DUI arrests.

Combining factors

Photo by: 911 Bail Bonds Las Vegas

Although there’s a chance Richfield has some basic small town problems, one of them does not appear to be more individuals driving impaired. Somehow however, their officers are making more DUI arrests. A few reasons for this may include:

Type of DUI arrest. When people hear “DUI” their first thought is of people driving under the influence of alcohol. Utah Code 41-6A-502 states “A person may not operate or be in actual physical control of a vehicle within this state if the person: . . . is under the influence of alcohol, any drug, or the combined influence of alcohol and any drug to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely operating a vehicle”. The majority of the DUI arrests in Richfield city are not alcohol related. Drug DUI arrests in Richfield from substances such as marijuana, meth, and even prescription drugs are the main source of the town’s two-year DUI record. While alcohol leaves a person feeling tipsy and notably impaired, many drivers falsely assume they are okay to drive a couple hours after getting high or taking meds to manage their pain. A quick swab of the cheek or a blood test done later can confirm arresting officer’s suspicion of drug use prior to driving.

Location, location, location. Richfield is located along the I-70 corridor, a stretch of road linking Nevada to Utah and Utah to Colorado that is known for drug trafficking. Additionally, I-70 runs directly into I-15, another main artery of drug movement that travels from southern California through Vegas and all the way into Canada. The positioning of Richfield in close proximity to these dual drug trafficking corridors could increase the chances of local officers pulling over out-of-town traffickers for simple traffic violations. Additionally, Richfield officers may have a better chance at catching Utahns coming back from visiting marijuana friendly Colorado.

Focused intent. One of the top reasons Richfield may be leading the pack for drug DUI arrests is their focused intent on catching impaired drivers. Last year Richfield chose to focus less on finding drug users and instead put more emphasis on cracking down on those users when they got behind the wheel. Although the focus on DUIs may help keep people safer on Richfield roads, it just so happens to also result in greater incarceration rates than possession charges alone.

Photo by: 401(k) 2012

Financial recompense. Due to the rising DUI arrests as a result of Richfield’s focused intent on drug DUIs, the state of Utah has decided to allot (reward) money to Richfield which will help them keep the momentum going. This extra funding enables Richfield to allow select officers to work longer hours. It would not be surprising to find the overtime officers were drug recognition experts trained at spotting impaired drivers either. While Utah taxpayers may wonder where these extra funds allotted to this small town are coming from, it is the arrestees themselves paying for it as they pay to recover vehicles impounded during an arrest. Regardless of where the funds originate from, the extra money is likely a major motivator in bringing in higher DUI arrests.

Drug DUI attorney

Drug DUI arrests can result in criminal charges ranging from a class B misdemeanor for first-offenders to a third degree felony for repeat offenders or instances where a serious injury occurred.Anyone facing charges for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is encouraged to speak to an attorney regarding their options moving forward and how to best put their illegal action behind them. All other Utah residents should make certain they are not impaired in any way prior to getting behind the wheel – especially when visiting the small town of Richfield City, Utah.

Damage to or Interruption of a Communication Device in Utah

Some crimes sound fairly minor, but they can wreak havoc on a person’s criminal record. Damage to or interruption of a communication device sounds like a lesser crime but is a class B misdemeanor and can be a common occurrence in domestic disputes.

Communication Device

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Utah Code 76-6-S108 defines a communication device as “. . . any device, including a telephone, cellular telephone, computer, or radio, which may be used in an attempt to summon police, fire, medical, or other emergency aid.. . Emergency aid means aid or assistance, including law enforcement, fire, or medical services, commonly summoned by persons concerned with imminent or actual:
• jeopardy to any person’s health or safety; or
• damage to any person’s property.”

Domestic disputes

There are many instances in which someone may damage or interrupt a communication device without malicious intent. For example, during an argument, a husband may decide their wife is losing control and may get violent. Husband tells wife that he is going to call the police. Wife realizes she is sounding out of control, but knows her temper is in check, so she grabs the phone and keeps it away from husband, wanting to explain the situation. Later, the police show up and arrest wife for damage to or interruption of a communications device.

Interruption of a communication device

Photo by: Matt Reinbold

Regardless of the person’s intentions, section 76-6-S108 states: “a person is guilty of damage to or interruption of a communication device if the actor attempts to prohibit or interrupt, or prohibits or interrupts, another person’s use of a communication device when the other person is attempting to summon emergency aid or has communicated a desire to summon emergency aid, and in the process the actor:

a) uses force, intimidation, or any other form of violence;
b) destroys, disables, or damages a communication device; or
c) commits any other act in an attempt to prohibit or interrupt the person’s use of a communication device to summon emergency aid.”

Damage to or interruption of a communication device is a class B misdemeanor which could result in a fine of up to $1,000 and a jail term of no more than six months.

Legal counsel

While there are many instances of damage to or interruption of a communication device that are done with ill intent, there are also many times when it is just a misunderstanding with no knowledge of the severity of the situation. For any charges related to a domestic disturbance that may or may not have been misinterpreted, it is important to contact a criminal defense attorney prior to police questioning.

Marital Violations in Utah

Utah has some well-known laws regarding marital violations, yet there are others that may surprise even long-time residents.

Offenses against the Family

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Utah is known to be a family-friendly state and as such has certain laws in place to protect families by criminalizing “Offenses against the Family” as described in Chapter 7 of the Utah Criminal Code. This chapter includes laws pertaining to abortion, failure to support a family, sale of children, as well as marital violations.

Marital violations

Many of the listed marital violations found in Utah Criminal Code are understandably punishable by law, however there are some that are notably dated. Bigamy, child bigamy, and incest are all felony marital violations that are noted by the general public as being punishable criminal offenses. The other two sections listed as marital violations pertain to adultery and fornication-two areas that may not be viewed by everyone as being criminal in nature.

Adultery

According to Utah Code 76-7-103 “A married person commits adultery when he voluntarily has sexual intercourse with a person other than his spouse.” While most agree with this definition of adultery, many are shocked to hear that it is against the law in Utah. That section regarding marital violations goes on to note that “Adultery is a class B misdemeanor” which Utah Courts state is punishable with a county jail term of “up to six months in jail [and] up to $1,000 fine or compensatory service.

Fornication

Photo by: Pete Birkinshaw

The following section goes one step further by not only punishing unfaithful spouses, but consenting adults who consummate their relationship prior to marriage. 76-7-104 states: “Any unmarried person who shall voluntarily engage in sexual intercourse with another is guilty of fornication. Fornication is a class B misdemeanor.” This law which was enacted in the 1973 General Session was likely approved by a generation where such actions were abhorrable.

Socially unacceptable, not criminal

Just because something seems wrong, does not mean it is necessarily criminal. While most Utah residents frown upon cheating spouses, not all agree that couples should save themselves for marriage. Some issues are better left for couples to decide for themselves.