Felony Child Endangerment for Drugs in Reach of Children

Two individuals from American Fork Utah are facing a variety of drug charges along with felony child endangerment for storing drugs within the reach of children in the home.

Other people’s children

Child Endangerment

Photo by: Mary T Moore

25 year old Zachery Walters and 24 year old Hilary Lay were staying in the basement portion of a home that belonged to another person when they were arrested for possessing hefty amounts of cocaine and marijuana. The quantity of the drugs confiscated was large enough to bring distribution charges. While the couple knowingly possessed illegal drugs, they likely failed to realize they would also be facing additional felony charges for child endangerment since the landlord’s children had bedrooms nearby; thus potentially putting the kids at risk of coming into contact with the drugs.

3rd degree felony child endangerment

Child endangerment is a 3rd degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of $5,000. Utah Code 76-5-112.5 states regarding endangerment of a child that “a person is guilty of a felony of the third degree if the person knowingly or intentionally causes or permits a child or a vulnerable adult to be exposed to, inhale, ingest, or have contact with a controlled substance, chemical substance, or drug paraphernalia;”

A technicality

While there are no reports or evidence that any children in the home that Walters and Lay were staying in had come in contact with drugs, section 112.5 clarifies that “exposed to” can mean that because of the where the children were in proximity to the drugs, they could have potentially possessed, seen, or even smelled the illegal drugs or paraphernalia. Although Walters and Lay will likely face some drug charges, there are other charges which could be considered questionable such as distribution and child endangerment. An experienced criminal defense attorney is always suggested but would be greatly recommended in a case such as this.

DUI for Driving with Traces of Marijuana Metabolites in System

Drivers in Utah can be arrested for a DUI days and even weeks after getting high due to traces of marijuana metabolites remaining in the system.

Up to 6 months imprisonment

Photo by: Nate Steiner

Photo by: Nate Steiner

Utah code 41-6a-517 states “a person may not operate or be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle within this state if the person has any measurable controlled substance or metabolite of a controlled substance in the person’s body.” So what is a metabolite or what is considered a “measurable controlled substance”?

Marijuana metabolites

THC is the element in marijuana that gives users a “high”, while a metabolite is an inactive part of the drug that stays in the body much longer than a high lasts. A few drug metabolites such as those from cocaine are water soluble, meaning they are metabolized and flushed from the system rather quickly. THC-COOH, the marijuana metabolite commonly tested for in drug tests, is fat soluble and can remain in a system for weeks after getting high, especially for frequent users.

Metabolize fast or take the bus

Photo by: Steven Depolo

Photo by: Steven Depolo

For any marijuana users that need to drive in the coming up days or weeks, it might be wise to take public transportation until all traces of metabolites have processed through the system. Unlike neighboring states, Utah currently has a zero tolerance policy and persons charged of driving with a measurable controlled substance can be found guilty of a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail. If facing a metabolite DUI, consult with an attorney immediately.

Leave Medical Marijuana Home When Visiting Utah

Those planning on visiting Utah should expect to leave their medical marijuana at home to avoid criminal charges. Fortunately, there are changes upon the horizon, but as for now, marijuana in any form is still not legal to bring here.

Marijuana RX

medical marijuana

Photo by: Neeta Lind

Last week, 21 year old John Arthur Hernandez visiting from California was arrested in St. George Utah after he brought drugs including medical marijuana into the state. The marijuana was in a prescription bottle approved for Hernandez by a doctor from California, but regrettably Utah does not yet authorize the possession or use of marijuana, even with a valid prescription from another state.

Utah working on legalizing medical marijuana

For those living in or visiting Utah who are suffering from chronic pain or illnesses, legalized medical marijuana looks to be in the near future for the beehive state. Two different bills to make medical marijuana lawful recently passed the Utah State Senate and are now on their way to the Utah House of Representatives. Due to the enormous amount of opposition thus far, SB 73, the bill allowing more of the plant than just the CBD oil, had to be adjusted. That bill now restricts medical marijuana use to only those with chronic ailments such as aids and cancer. Additionally, the medical marijuana is not allowed in a cigarette form; only edible versions and extracts.

Schedule classification

Along with the bills to legalize marijuana, there was also a resolution to reclassify marijuana to a Schedule II drug. Currently the United States Controlled Substances Act classifies marijuana as a Schedule I, the same classification as heroin and cocaine. With the abundance of legal changes likely to take place regarding marijuana, those living in or visiting Utah may not realize that strict criminal penalties are still present. For more information on penalties and legal counsel regarding possession of marijuana either for medical or recreation use, contact a criminal defense attorney.