Utah Police Chief Arrested for Prescription Drug DUI

A Utah police chief was arrested for prescription drug DUI after a highway patrol officer observed the chief driving recklessly north of the town of Manua.

Reckless driving

Photo by: BitterScripts

On a late January evening, Utah Highway Patrol trooper Kent Goodrich observed a Manua police vehicle driving at a high rate of speed down the median of Highway 89. Goodrich pulled the other police vehicle over and noted the driver, 49 year old Manua Police Chief Shane Zilles appeared to be inebriated. Zilles was cooperative, yet failed a field sobriety test and struggled answering simple questions being asked him as of him. Trooper Goodrich arrested Zilles as he was notably impaired and should not have been on the road putting other people and himself in danger.

Prescription Drug DUI

Zilles inability to pass the field test pointed to him likely being impaired by either alcohol or drugs. Although Zilles appeared to be intoxicated, there was no alcohol detected through a breathalyzer and a tox screen for street drugs came back negative as well. It was determined however that Zilles had not been drinking or using street drugs, yet he had consumed prescription drugs sometime prior to getting behind the wheel of the police cruiser. He was cited for prescription drug DUI and reckless driving.

Class B misdemeanor

Taking prescription drugs is not against the law if taken by the person to whom it is prescribed. It is unlawful however to drive after taking medication if it impairs the person’s ability to drive safely. 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”.

Section 41-6a-504 warns that “The fact that a person charged with violating section 41-6a-502 is or has been legally entitled to use alcohol or a drug is not a defense against any charge of violating [said section]. Even if the prescription if legal and valid, driving under the influence of prescription drugs that cause impairment is a class B misdemeanor as noted in section 41-6a-503. That DUI charge could be enhanced to a class A misdemeanor or third degree felony if there was bodily injury as a result of an accident or a minor passenger in the vehicle.

Medication side-effects

As a law enforcement officer, Zilles should have known better than to drive impaired. When alcohol or street drugs are involved, impairment is expected. Prescription drugs however could cause impairment that is unknown to the user. Regarding Zilles, there is some information that hasn’t been released yet:

• what type of prescription drugs he was taking; and
• Whether or not it was a new prescription or something he had experience taking and therefore would have known the side effects.

While there are some medications that are known to cause drowsiness and reduced ability to drive such as sleeping pills or narcotic pain meds, others can catch a person off guard by how much they affect their capability to drive safely. It is important to read the labels and all included paperwork with new medications to see if driving impairment is a possibility. If there is any doubt on whether or not impairment could be a factor when taking a prescription medication, drivers are urged to use caution and refrain from driving if possible. Anyone facing charges related to prescription drug DUI are encouraged to seek counsel from an experience attorney.

Utah Man Driving Wrong Way on Freeway Arrested for Homicide

A Utah man was arrested for homicide after causing a fatal accident while driving the wrong way down a freeway in Arizona.

Wrong way driver

Photo by: Bradley Gordon

49 year old Dana Michael Cavanaugh of Washington, Utah was headed east down the westbound lanes of Interstate 10 near Quartzsite, Arizona when he collided head on with another vehicle. All three passengers in the westbound vehicle were killed. The accident occurred in close proximity to the off ramp for exit 31, and it is reported that Cavanaugh had just entered the freeway from that off ramp when the accident occurred. It still isn’t known if Cavanaugh was under the influence of drugs or alcohol or whether he mistakenly entered the freeway on what he possibly thought was an on ramp. Cavanaugh was booked into La Paz County Jail on homicide and endangerment charges awaiting results from toxicology reports.

Homicide with a vehicle

Cavanaugh will be facing his charges in Arizona courts however had the accident occurred in Utah, the charges would depend on the results of the wrong way driver’s toxicology report as well as proof of negligence or distraction. If a driver responsible for the death of another person was under the influence of drugs or alcohol and found to be criminally negligent, he could be charged with automobile homicide, a second degree felony according to Utah Code 76-5-207. If the cause of the fatal accident was due to using a handheld device, the charges could be the same under a different section (76-5-207.5). If the driver was not impaired but was determined to have been driving recklessly, the resulting charges could be manslaughter, also a second degree felony (76-5-205).

No impairment

Not all accidents are due to a serious impairment or intentional or reckless mistake by the driver. Some accidents are sadly just accidents. If the driver responsible for a fatal accident was not found to be impaired or distracted and caused the accident maybe due to unfamiliarity with the roads or inability or confusion with understanding the signs, they could then face lesser charges of negligent homicide, a class A misdemeanor as stated by section 76-5-206. For legal assistance in ensuring fair charges related to vehicular homicide, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Impaired Driving – The Reduced DUI Charge for Utah Drivers

Utah drivers who are arrested for a DUI need to know there’s a chance they may be offered a reduced charge known as impaired driving. Although this charge is slightly better than a DUI, it is best to consult with a criminal defense attorney to find out if it is the best option available.

Don’t settle without legal counsel

DUI

Photo by: SanDiego DUIAttorney

When a driver is arrested for a DUI, they may accept whatever charges are thrown at them; this is a major mistake that many Utah drivers make. There is a possibility that a DUI charge can be reduced to impaired driving instead. The option for this reduced charge is not something the prosecution will always offer voluntarily, so it is encouraged to have an educated attorney on your side can help ensure this option is available to those who qualify. If a prosecutor willingly and swiftly offers a plea bargain of impaired driving, it is best to consult with an attorney before agreeing as there may be a better option out there.

DUI-Driving under the influence

A DUI is what Utah Code 41-6a-502 defines as “driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both or with specified or unsafe blood alcohol concentration”. A person may face a DUI charge if they operate a vehicle with a blood or breath alcohol concentration of .08 grams or higher. They may also face a DUI charge if they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs which would “render the person incapable of safely operating a vehicle.” If someone is arrested for a DUI, it is considered a class B misdemeanor and the guilty party can plan on spending at least 48 hours of jail time, losing their Utah’s driver’s license, and dishing out a hefty fine.

DWI – driving while impaired (impaired driving)

Impaired Driving

Photo by: SanDiego DUIAttorney

DUI and impaired driving; these two terms may sound like different ways of saying the same thing, but there are slight differences that are important to understand. Impaired driving is considered a reduced DUI charge of one degree and according to Utah Code 41-6a-502.5, “[w]ith the agreement of the prosecutor, a plea to a class B misdemeanor violation of [a DUI] may be entered as a conviction of impaired driving ( . . . ) if:

a) The defendant completes court ordered probation requirements; or

b) (i) the prosecutor agrees as part of a negotiated plea; and

(ii) the court find the plea to be in the interest of justice.”
Those facing impaired driving charges are less likely to spend time in jail and will usually have a smaller fine.

Additionally, those facing impaired driving charges will typically either have their driver’s license suspended for half the time of what can happen with a DUI or they may not lose their license at all.

Not for everyone

Not all DUI charges have the potential for being reduced to an impaired driving charge. These plea deals are saved for those who are first time offenders without a criminal history. If someone is hurt or if a minor is in the vehicle at the time of arrest, then a DUI charge will not decrease but increase instead to a class B misdemeanor. If a person is seriously injured because of someone negligently driving under the influence, then the charges can increase even higher to a third degree felony. This is the same charge for repeat offenders with two or more convictions of a DUI or impaired driving within the last 10 years. Regardless of whatever charges a defendant is facing, a criminal defense attorney will help ensure the best possible outcome for his client.