Rehabilitation or Jail- Winning Utah’s War on Drugs

When someone is arrested for drugs in Utah, jail is a typical outcome to their charges, yet spending time behind bars does nothing to help addicts struggling to win their own war on drugs; rehabilitation and education are needed to change their lives for the better.

Drugs in the bathroom, kids in the car

Photo by: CIA DE FOTO

Photo by: CIA DE FOTO

Two individuals were arrested in the parking lot of a gas station in Washington County early Monday morning when witnesses observed them loitering outside the store for multiple hours after leaving used drug paraphernalia in the public bathroom. When police arrived they found two suspects, Dustin Hafen of New Castle Utah and Christina Hafen of Hurricane Utah. Both appeared to be under the influence of drugs and a search of their vehicle turned up heroin, meth, marijuana, and paraphernalia. Also located in the car were two children belonging to one of the suspects, Christina Hafen.

Not mother of the year

While the pair was using drugs in the gas station bathroom, Christina’s children waited patiently in the car for hours on end. While some wonder what type of mother would put her drug use before her children, others may argue that she was intentionally not doing drugs in the presence of her children. She obviously made poor choices, but perhaps her saving grave was preventing her children from seeing their mother in the act of using drugs. Regardless, she now faces criminal charges, jail time, and the possibility of losing custody of her children.

Utah’s war on drugs

Photo by: Dimitris Kalogeropoylos

Photo by: Dimitris Kalogeropoylos

Utah has many residents who are struggling with drug addiction, and most of them don’t start off with illegal narcotics. A majority begin the journey with drugs by taking pills legally prescribed by doctors for ailments they may be facing due to illnesses or injuries. Unfortunately, prescription drugs can be extremely addictive, and even those with no previous drug use can fall victim for addiction. According to the Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, Utah is ranked in the top ten of states with the most overdose deaths related to prescription drugs. For those who don’t lose their battle with prescription drugs, there is a high number who will turn to other drugs such as heroin.

6 months or more behind bars

The penalties for drug use in Utah can end in hefty fines and jail time. Less than one ounce of marijuana can result in up to 6 months in jail while those caught with drugs such as heroin, which is considered a schedule I narcotic, will be facing a third degree felony charge and the possibility of 5 years or more in prison. Penalties for drug charges are increased for subsequent convictions which are seen frequently with individuals fighting addictions. Instead of receiving the rehabilitation services and family support needed to combat their war on drugs, addicts are locked away often with other addicts, only to temporarily pause them acting on their drug urges until they are released from jail.

The choice of addicts

Rehabilitation or Jail

Photo by: Gianfranco Blanco

When someone is addicted to drugs, they have little if any control over their life; scoring another hit consumes every fiber of their being. Many addicts will put themselves and their loved ones in danger in order to keep using. The majority end up destroying their personal and professional lives and too often lose their own lives to their addiction. Although using drugs was originally a conscious choice that they made, continuing drug use may seem impossible for them to avoid. Throwing them in jail may momentarily break their addiction, but without proper rehabilitation and education, there is little help to stop them from falling back into old habits. For information on drug rehabilitation and recovery for you or a loved one, speak with the Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health in your area. For legal counsel regarding drug or other legal charges, contact a criminal defense attorney immediately.

Child Endangerment Resulting in Death

A 1 year old baby girl from Provo Utah died of a heroin overdose earlier this month and it is possible that charges for child endangerment resulting in death may follow.

Infant overdose

Photo by: Janine

Photo by: Janine

1 year old Penny Cormani died January 2 after somehow ingesting a lethal amount of heroin. The mother of the baby girl found the 1 year old unresponsive and turning purple in her crib following a routine nap. Penny was rushed to the hospital where she was pronounced dead. An autopsy performed on the child found enough heroin in her system to prove fatal along with traces of another drug, codeine.

Fault of the homeowner or the parent?

Penny’s mother stated she left the baby unattended briefly in a living room of a friend’s home which they were staying in temporarily while the mother tended to some laundry. After hearing the mother’s statement and hearing the findings of the autopsy, police searched the house and discovered several pieces of paraphernalia scattered in multiple rooms of the house. Penny’s mother and father claim the contraband belonged to the homeowners while the homeowners claim the parents were at fault. Until the investigation is complete, it isn’t clear whose paraphernalia was found in the home and all adult parties living there are potential suspects as they all have histories of drug abuse. While no one is found to be directly at fault yet, it is possible that both the parents AND the homeowners could face charges for child endangerment resulting in death because the items were located in private and shared areas.

Child endangerment resulting in death

Utah Code 76-5-112.5 states regarding child endangerment: “Unless a greater penalty is otherwise provided by law, any person who knowingly or intentionally causes or permits a child ( . . . ) to be exposed to, to ingest or inhale, or to have contact with a controlled substance, chemical substance, or drug paraphernalia ( . . . )is guilty of a felony of the third degree. “ 76-5-112.5 also states that if “a child ( . . . ) actually suffers bodily injury, substantial bodily injury, or serious bodily injury by exposure to, ingestion of, inhalation of, or contact with a controlled substance, chemical substance, or drug paraphernalia, [the person] is guilty of a felony of the second degree[. Regarding child endangerment resulting in death] unless the exposure, ingestion, inhalation, or contact results in the death of the child ( . . . ), in which case the person is guilty of a felony of the first degree.”

Five to Life

If either the parents or the homeowners are found guilty of child endangerment resulting in death for the demise of Penny Cormani, they could face five years to life in prison for a 1st degree felony. Even if authorities can’t tie the paraphernalia directly to any person, by allowing dangerous items to remain in plain view and reach in the home where Penny Cormani was staying, all adults could potentially be charged with child endangerment resulting in death. This lack of babyproofing or drugproofing the home could be “knowingly ( . . . ) permit[ing] a child to be exposed to ( . . . )a controlled substance.”

Know who you’re living with

Photo by: Mr. Theklan

Photo by: Mr. Theklan

Currently there is no proof that any of the adults in the home of Penny Cormani intentionally meant to harm her, however having paraphernalia laced with heroin laying around the house was dangerous. Prosecutors will likely make sure that someone ends up doing time for child endangerment resulting in death; The question is who? For those who are temporarily staying with friends or allow others to live in their home, it is critical to know what your roommates are doing and what they bring into the shared home. Anyone facing charges for a crime that a roommate was responsible for or for charges related to child endangerment should contact a criminal defense attorney. For information on receiving help to overcome drug abuse, contact the public health department in your area.