Utah Police Search for Driver Who Left the Scene of a Deadly Hit and Run

Utah Police are searching for the driver who left the scene of a deadly hit and run accident that occurred over the weekend in St. George.

Deadly hit and run

Photo by: Tony Webster

On Saturday evening sometime between 5 and 8pm, a Utah driver struck a woman walking along Dixie Drive in St. George, just south of a busy intersection. The driver then left the scene and the woman’s body was found later by other pedestrians walking by. The victim was identified by her daughters as 53 year old Bettina Abraham. It has not been announced if Abraham was killed instantly or died alone on the side of the road after being hit.

Plea via social media

In a live video cast from the St. George Police Department, a department spokeswoman pleaded with the public to come forward with any information related to events that evening or vehicles that may have been involved. They even beseeched the person responsible to contact them to let the victim’s family receive closure and allow things to “move forward”.

Causes and consequences of deadly accidents

When someone takes the life of another with their vehicle, they may or may not face criminal charges depending upon the circumstances:

• If it is found that the driver was not at fault when the deadly accident occurred, no citations would be given.

• If the driver made an error in driving that resulted in “the death of another” but that didn’t amount to being reckless or negligent, they may be charged with negligent homicide as stated in Utah Code 76-5-206, a class A misdemeanor.

Photo by: Chris Yarzab

• If a person is driving their vehicle recklessly such as through speeding, weaving in and out of traffic, etc. and causes a deadly accident, they may face second degree manslaughter as stated in Utah Code 76-5-205.

• If the driver was using what Utah Code 76-5-207.5 describes as a “handheld wireless communication device” when the accident occurred, they may face third or second degree felonies, depending on whether or not they were also driving in a criminally negligent manner.

• If the driver was “operat[ing] a motor vehicle in a negligent manner” and “is under the influence of alcohol, any drug, or the combined influence of alcohol and any drug” they may be charged with automobile homicide, a third degree felony. If they were found to be driving in a “criminally negligent manner”, it would then be increased to a second degree felony.

Leaving the scene of an accident

Whether or not the driver was completely innocent when the deadly accident occurred or if they were acting in a criminal manner or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, if the driver flees the scene, they will face felony charges. Utah Code 41-6a-401.5 states, The operator of a vehicle who has reason to believe that the operator may have been involved in an accident resulting in the death of a person shall: immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident or as close to it as possible without obstructing traffic more than in necessary; and remain at the scene of the accident until the operator has [given driver information, rendered aid to the other person, and contacted authorities]”.

Reasons to flea

There have been many public assumptions as to why the driver chose not to stop after striking Bettina Abraham with their vehicle. Some in the community claim the driver was texting, high, drunk, or maybe not a legal driver. Others guess the driver may have been scared or distraught and fled the scene out of emotional distress over what they had done. Whatever the reason, the driver should back themselves with a reputable attorney and turn themselves into the police immediately.

Utah Boating Laws

Before Utah residents flock to reservoirs and lakes to cool off from the scorching summer temperatures, they should be informed of current boating laws in order to avoid tickets or criminal charges.

Oasis in the desert

Photo by: Esther Lee

Utah is unique in the way it handles its lakes and reservoirs. Instead of divvying up the beachfront property and selling it to the highest bidders as other states do, the State of Utah has instead created several public parks for all Utah residents and guest to enjoy. Most, if not all of these bodies of water have boat access points which allow visitors to experience the water away from the beach. According to a boating map by The Utah Department of Natural Resources, there are 32 different areas on lakes and reservoirs in Utah where watercraft is permitted.

Boating laws in Utah

While operating water on Utah waters is open to the public with a small entrance fee, the Department of Natural Resources reminds residents that there are boating laws and regulations that must be followed to ensure all lake-goers are legal, educated, and safe. Some of the basics are:

Photo by: Ozzy Delaney

• Registration and education. All watercraft with a motor or sail must have current registration on board the vessel when in use with the decals located on the front half of the boat on either the port or starboard side. Those operating boats should attend education courses although the classes are required only for PWC operators 12-17 years of age.

• Lifejackets. Everyone is encouraged to use a lifejacket when on a boat, but for those 12 and under, coast guard approved life jackets are mandatory. Lifejackets are also required for anyone using jet skis, or being pulled by a boat on skis, wakeboards, or floatable devices.

• Equipment. Depending on the boat size, there are required equipment items that should be on board including: fire extinguishers, throwable floatation device, lights, registration and insurance, as well as other items that can be viewed at stateparks.utah.gov.

• Drunk boating. Driving drunk is against the law whether or not the person is driving a car or a boat. While alcohol is allowed on board unlike in a vehicle, the person operating the boat should refrain from alcohol consumption to avoid criminal charges.

• Passengers in the boat. Anyone in the boat should be sitting down inside the boat when the boat is creating wake and not on the bow decking or other areas where they could fall out or obstruct the view of the driver.

Photo by: Philms

• Individuals being pulled by the boat on water skis, etc are only permitted during daylight hours and must be observed by an individual other than the driver who is eight years and older. That observer must have 1 square foot orange flag ready to display when the person being towed is no longer in motion.

• Speed limits. A boat must be idle if in a non-wake area or if within 150 feet of “another boat, a person in the water, a water skier, shore angler, launch ramp, dock, or other designated swimming areas.”

• Stay at the scene. In the case of an accident, boaters should treat it just as they would a road vehicle accident. Exchange information, help the other boaters and passengers, and call law enforcement if the accident is serious enough to produce injury, death, or property damage above a $2000 value.

• Department of Natural Resources also instructs boaters to watch the weather and be aware of passengers near the back of the boat who may be at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning or propeller injury.

Counsel for boating crimes

Criminal charges accrued while boating are no different than those on land. BUI (boating under the influence), boating without registration or insurance, reckless endangerment, or automobile homicide are all serious charges that those operating boats could face. It is imperative to seek legal counsel should any charges occur while boating. For a full list of all boating laws and regulations, visit the Utah State Parks Division online.

Man Arrested for DUI After Hitting Sheriff’s Vehicle

DUI charges

Photo: Weber County Sheriff’s Office/KSL News

Icy roads were to blame for many accidents on Saturday, Jan. 10, but it was driving under the influence (DUI) that landed one man in jail. Other charges included drug possession and leaving the scene of an accident.

“Wrong Place at the Wrong Time” Doesn’t Mean You can Leave

According to a report from KSL News, on Saturday evening, Weber County Sheriff’s deputies were called to the scene of several accidents in Ogden Canyon near 4500 East, just east of the Pineview Reservoir spillway. Four vehicles had slid off the road due primarily to the icy conditions (the DUI would come shortly). Fortunately only minor injuries were reported, however, deputies were on the scene to shut down State Route 39 while road crews could put down salt and sand.

At approximately 10:40 p.m., one deputy had his patrol pickup truck parked with his overhead flashers on to stop oncoming traffic when another pickup truck came around a corner at high speed, lost control, and crashed into the back of the deputy’s vehicle. The driver of the truck sped off, and the deputy was able to pursue in the damaged vehicle, catching him near the spillway.

The driver of the truck, Bruce Southwick, was arrested for investigation of DUI, drug possession, and leaving the scene of an accident.

DUI Severity Depends on Circumstances

While most people think of a DUI as referring to alcohol, according to Utah Code 41-6a-502, a person is guilty of a DUI if he/she is driving “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.” Given the fact that Southwick also was charged for drug possession, this is probably the case.

The lowest charge for a DUI is a class B misdemeanor, even on a second offense. It goes up to a class A misdemeanor if the driver inflicts “bodily injury” on another, had a passenger under 16 years of age, or was 21 years of age or older with a passenger under 18 years of age. The charge jumps to a third degree felony if the driver inflicts “serious bodily injury” or has two or more prior convictions within ten years.

Even the lowest charge of a class B misdemeanor can result in jail time of up to six months and a fine of up to $1,000. If you or someone you know has been charged with a DUI, don’t leave your defense in the hands of a public defender. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who will have your best interests in mind.