Raid on Spanish Fork Home Results in Drug and Weapons Charges

A raid on a Spanish Fork home Monday has resulted in several drug and weapons charges for two individuals living at that residence including one who is a restricted person.

The drug house

Photo by: Kelly Parker McPherson

A home in a quiet neighborhood in Spanish Fork, Utah was raided days after one of the home’s residents was picked up on drug charges. During the raid, law enforcement officers located drugs, guns, ammo, and cash from what appears to be a drug distribution business run out of that home. Found were distributable amounts of heroin, meth, marijuana dab, and cocaine on the premises. Additionally, several weapons along with thousands of rounds of ammo were also located as well as over three grand in cash.

Drug possession and distribution

24 year old Jennifer Lynn Coplen was arrested with possession and producing a controlled substance as well as intent to distribute. Coplen is not facing any charges for the weapons found at the home. The other individual living at the home was 28 year old Rolf Michael Pawelek. Like Coplen, Pawelek was also charged with possession and intent to distribute. Pawelek however, was also listed as a Category II restricted person and as such will be facing charges for the weapons found at the residence.

Possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person

Photo by: Lisa Zins

Utah Code 76-10-503 explains that certain individuals are prohibited from possessing a dangerous weapon. Someone listed as a “Category I restricted person is a person who:

(i) Has been convicted of any violent felony . . . ;
(ii) Is on probation or parole for any felony;
(iii) Is on parole from a secure facility . . . ;
(iv) Within the last 10 years [was charges as a minor with something that would be a violent felony as an adult] . . . ;
(v) Is an alien who is illegally or unlawfully in the United States; or
(vi) Is on probation for a conviction of possessing [controlled substances or synthetic equivalents]”.

A Category II restricted person includes those “who:

(i) Has been convicted of any felony;
(ii) Within the last seven years [was charges as a minor for something that would have been a felony as an adult];
(iii) Is an unlawful user of a controlled substance . . . ;
(iv) Is in possession of a dangerous weapon and is knowingly and intentionally in unlawful possession of a Schedule I or II controlled substance;
(v) Has been found not guilty by reason of insanity . . .;
(vi) Has been adjudicated as mentally defective . . . ;
(vii) Has been dishonorably discharged from the armed forces;
(viii) Has renounced the individual’s citizenship after having been a citizen . . . ;
(ix) Is a respondent or defendant to a protective order . . . ;
(x) Has been convicted of the commission or attempted commission of [domestic violence] assault. . .”

Sole owner of weapons or previous criminal history

The reason for the restricted person status for Pawelek was not listed, however based on the arrest information, it could be simply having guns and schedule I or II drugs at the same time (as listed in subsection IV). If that were the case, it is not clear why Coplen would not also be facing the same restricted person charges unless the weapons were found in a room personally used by Pawelek only. Both residents of the home are facing multiple felony charges for the drug charges and Pawelek is also facing a third degree felony for each weapon found in the home. For more information on what constitutes a violation by a restricted person or for legal help regarding criminal charges, contact an experienced defense attorney.

Death of Infants Leads to Arrest of Two Women For Trafficking Methamphetamine in Utah

Two south Idaho women were arrested for trafficking methamphetamine in Utah after drugs were located in a home where the death of two infants was being investigated.

Death investigation

Photo by: Tony Webster

Two seven week old infant twin boys were found dead in a Twin Falls, Idaho home on October 12th, 2018. Upon investigating the deaths, police discovered methamphetamine when searching the home. Police determined the meth to linked to two females who were living at the residence but did not say if either one was related to the deceased newborns. It was also undetermined whether the drugs found had anything to do with the deaths of the infant boys.

Homicide or drugs?

In an effort to bring the two women in for questioning about the suspicious deaths, Twin Falls police put out interstate drug trafficking warrants for 28 year old Haley Miller and 32 year old Sylvia Tapia that Utah police mistakenly interpreted as homicide warrants. Miller and Tapia’s vehicle was stopped in a “high risk stop” on highway 89 near Perry, Utah and both women were arrested. Utah police later retracted statement made to the press regarding the homicide warrants, clarifying that the warrants were in fact for trafficking methamphetamine. Miller and Tapia were booked into the Box Elder County Jail to await extradition to Idaho Falls.

Trafficking methamphetamine

Photo by: Pablo

Although both women were likely relieved to hear the homicide warrants were a mistake, the charges against them for trafficking methamphetamine are still severe. Utah Code 58-37-8 states, “. . . it is unlawful for any person to knowingly and intentionally:

(i) Produce, manufacture, or dispense, or to possess with intent to produce, manufacture, or dispense, a controlled or counterfeit substance;
(ii) Distribute a controlled or counterfeit substance, or to agree, consent, offer, or arrange to distribute a controlled substance;
(iii) Possess a controlled or counterfeit substance with intent to distribute;”

That section goes on to note that “Any person convicted of [intent to distribute methamphetamine] . . is guilty of a second degree felony, punishable by imprisonment for not more than 15 years, and upon a second or subsequent conviction is guilty of a first degree felony;”

Federal charges

While each state including Idaho and Utah has their own laws regarding drug possession and distribution, when an individual crosses state lines to distribute the illicit drugs, federal charges for drug trafficking are possible and may carry harsher penalties than at a state level. According to page 30 of the Drugs of Abuse 2017 DEA Resource Guide 2017, federal trafficking penalties for methamphetamine, a schedule II drug are as follows:

• If the quantity is 5-49 grams pure or 50-499 grams mixture, the penalties would be:
o For a first offense: “Not less than 5 yrs, and not more than 40 yrs. If death or serious injury, not less than 20 or more than life. Fine of not more than $5 million if an individual, $25 million if not an individual.
o Second offense: Not less than 10 yrs, and not more than life. If death or serious injury, life imprisonment. Fine of not more than $8 million if an individual, $50 million if not an individual.”

• If the quantity is 50 grams or more pure or 500 grams or more mixture, the penalties would be:
o For a first offense: “Not less than 10 yrs, and not more than life. If death or serious injury, not less than 20 or more than life. Fine of not more than $10 million if an individual, $50 million if not an individual.
o Second Offense: Not less than 20 yrs, and not more than life. If death or serious injury, life imprisonment. Fine of not more than $20 million if an individual, $75 million if not an individual.
o 2 or more prior offenses: Life imprisonment. Fine of not more than $20 million if an individual, $75 million if not an individual.”

With the seriousness related to drug distribution, especially for those crimes that cross state lines, anyone facing federal charges of trafficking methamphetamine should counsel with a criminal defense attorney immediately.

Arrests Accompanied by Minor Traffic Violations

Many individuals arrested in Utah are first pulled over for avoidable traffic violations.

A felony with an infraction on the side

If someone makes a driving error in the presence of a police officer they will usually get pulled over and issued a warning or a ticket. Once stopped by police for a minor traffic violation, police may then find valid reasons to arrest the driver. Police booking reports around the state show a pattern of criminal charges accompanied by infractions from simple traffic stops. Some common examples seen include:

Photo by: Chris Yarzab

• An individual arrested for a DUI while also being listed as having an infraction such as speeding.

• Someone charged with drug possession along with an infraction for not signaling while switching lanes or turning.

• A driver arrested for a weapons charge and a minor charge for no license plate light.

• Another person with warrants who is also charged with not fully stopping at a stop sign.

Happenstance or a planned stop

When someone is pulled over for a traffic stop, sometimes the officer has no idea the person was or is in the process of committing crimes likely to lead to an arrest. Other times however, the office may have a hunch about a driver and tails their car until they make a mistake, at which point the officer has a reason to pull them over to follow up on their gut feeling.

Possible profiling

If someone is followed by police prior to being pulled over for a traffic violation, it may feel unfair to the driver and depending on the circumstances, could be considered a form of profiling. Anyone facing criminal charges following a traffic stop is encouraged to seek legal counsel. If concerns arise regarding possible profiling or violations of constitutional rights, an experience defense attorney will know best how to handle the legal proceedings.