Drone Delivery to Inmates at Utah Correctional Facilities Prohibited

Due to a bill passed earlier this year, inmates at any of the correctional facilities throughout Utah are prohibited from receiving packages by drone delivery.

H.B. 59

Photo by: John

With the numerous laws that are passed or amended each year in Utah, some are seen as needed, others may be seen as unfair, and then there are a select few laws that leave residents wondering why caused such a regulation from being necessary. H.B. 59 that was passed along with several others this year dealt with unmanned aircrafts, otherwise known as drones, and whether or not they were allowed to be used to deliver items to inmates at correctional facilities. The section amended was Utah Code 72-14-102 and 304 which now states: “An individual may not operate an unmanned aircraft system:
(a) To carry or drop any item to or inside the property of a correctional facility;
(b) In a manner that interferes with the operations or security of a correctional facility.”

A law that may be seen as obvious, H.B. 59 passed in the2018 General Session following a growing problem of illegal package deliveries near prisons.

Illegal contraband drops

In years past, there have been some inmates and their helpers on the outside that have used different methods to try and sneak things into correctional facilities. This can include illegal contraband hidden inside packages, books, and cards. Unlawful items have also been smuggled in with an inmate upon arrest or by another person visiting the inmate at the correctional facility during a scheduled visitation time. Now with the increase in technology, there is a new scheme that has been used to sneak illegal contraband into prisons – drones. Drones have been used across the country to drop items beyond the fence where inmates may have access to them. Drones do not have to approach closely, but can soar several hundred feet above the ground and drop items such as tobacco products, drugs, porn, cell phones and even weapons without being spotted by prison guards. Utah lawmakers wanted to criminalize the practice before it started in Utah, hopefully to prevent any incidents from occurring. Utah Code 72-14-304 that was amended by H.B. 59 now lists the penalty for flying drones near prisons as a class B misdemeanor or a third degree felony if items are dropped on the property of the correctional facility.

Permitted items sent to inmates

While most law abiding citizens wouldn’t dream of using a drone to send items to incarcerated loved ones, this amended law may cause them to wonder exactly what they are allowed to bring or send to those behind bars. One important thing to note is that no item is allowed to be brought into a correctional facility by a visitor of an inmate. Even personal items such as purses, wallets, or jackets are to be left in vehicles or in rented lockers. There are things that may be sent to inmate however. Those who wish to have items delivered to inmates do so through a carefully regulated system put in place by the Utah Department of Corrections.

Letters– Regarding letters sent by mail, UDC states “Inmates may begin receiving mail as soon as they arrive in prison. Multilayered cards, crayon and marker drawings are not allowed.”

Photos– If a friend or family member wants to send pictures to inmates they note: “Inmates are allowed to have 25 photos in their possession; the photos can not be larger than 8X10, may not be Polaroids and must not be pornographic in nature. Inmates may not have photos of or including themselves.”

Books– “Books may only be purchased through the prison Commissary and are sent directly to the prison by the book vendor. Each book is inspected before being delivered to an inmate.”

Magazines – “Family and friends may get a magazine subscription for an inmate by filling out a subscription form listing the inmate, his or her offender number and the facility address. Magazines are then mailed directly to the inmate by the publisher.”

Packages– When a family member goes to camp or on a church mission, their family can send care packages with personal items and comforts from home. Inmates are not allowed these same types of luxuries. UDC warns that “Inmates may not receive packages except when authorized for medical reasons.”

Money – If there is something that a Utah state inmate needs that family or friends would like to help them receive, they may put money onto an inmate’s account. UDC explains that this can be done by mail, telephone, internet, or kiosks through a “third-party provider (Access Corrections) [that] handles deposits to inmate accounts.” Then inmates may use the deposited funds to purchase items from the Commissary.

For more information on regulations surrounding Utah Correctional Facility, contact the Utah Department of Corrections. For help following charges related to illegal drone use, speak with an attorney.

Felony Theft after Returning Found Property

A Draper, Utah man was arrested for felony theft after returning some property that he found in the middle of the road.

Debris from unsecured load

Felony Theft

Photo by: OiMax

47 year old Kent Spencer Dean was driving down 12300 South in Draper when he noticed a large power saw lying in the roadway. Not wanting an accident to result from the large item in the road, he quickly picked up the saw and placed it in the trunk of his car. Dean planned on finding the owner of the saw and returning it but first had to hurry to prior engagements he had including attending his daughter’s dance recital and a play with his family in Ogden.

Punishing a caring citizen

The 50 pound power saw that Dean had picked up belonged to the fire department and had fallen off an engine just moments before Dean noticed it in the road. Witnesses saw the event unfold and took down Dean’s license plate number for police. As Dean was going about his busy evening he received a phone call from the Draper Police Department inquiring about the saw. After stating what had happened while learning who the saw belonged to, Dean made arrangements to return the saw to the fire department later that evening. When he arrived, the fire department thanked him while the police department arrested him for felony theft of lost property.

Theft of lost property

Photo by: Nate Grigg

Photo by: Nate Grigg

The Draper Police Department was made aware of the circumstances surrounding Kent Dean’s temporary possession of the fire department’s saw and his plan of returning the lost item, however they were unwilling to drop the charges for felony theft of lost property. According to Utah Code 76-6-407, “A person commits theft [of lost property] when:
(1) He obtains property of another which he knows to have been lost or mislaid, or to have been
delivered under a mistake as to the identity of the recipient or as to the nature or amount of the
property, without taking reasonable measures to return it to the owner; and
(2) He has the purpose to deprive the owner of the property when he obtains the property or at any
time prior to taking the measures designated in paragraph (1).” (Emphasis added)
Sadly, it seems the Draper police assumed Dean intended on keeping the heavy, bulky saw; perhaps in the event that he one day might need to remove the roof off a vehicle.

Felony theft

While being accused with theft was bad enough, the charge was unfortunately increased to felony theft due to the high monetary value of the fire department’s saw. Utah Code 76-6-412 states that “Theft of property and services as provided in this chapter is punishable ( . . . ) as a third degree felony if: the value of the property or services is or exceeds $1,500 but is less than $5,000;” The saw was valued at around $2,000. For trying to be a good citizen by removing a large item from the roadway that had a high chance of causing an accident, Dean could face up to five years in prison as well as a $5,000 fine.

Ignore or Act?

Photo by: Ms. Phoenix

Photo by: Ms. Phoenix

Kent Dean could have avoided felony theft charges had he chosen to leave the power saw in the road, blocking a lane of traffic on a busy street. Instead he chose to protect other drivers from a hazardous situation, which in turn may have also prevented the fire department from facing their own charges of having an unsecured load, a class C misdemeanor. Hopefully the criminal charged brought against Kent Dean will not dissuade another citizen from making the right choice if the event that they are ever faced with a similar situation.