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 Law Prohibits Moving Controlled Prescriptions to Different Container

Utah law has strict rules in place regarding controlled prescriptions, even prohibiting the type of container it is kept in.

Skip the weekly organizer

Photo by: trOtt3r

Depending on how many different prescriptions an individual might be taking, it may be easier to condense medications to a pill organizer or a shared container, especially when traveling. Regrettably however, this may be against the law depending on what type of prescriptions are being dealt with.

Proper labeling and packaging

Utah law specifies what is expected in regards to proper labeling and packaging of prescribed controlled substances. Utah Code 58-37-7 ensures all controlled prescriptions are handled legally in a pharmacy with the required information on the outside of the bottle. Unknown by many Utah residents however, this section also defines rules on the handling of the controlled medication once it has left the pharmacy.

Original and undamaged pill bottle

Photo by: Charles Williams

According to subsection (5) of Utah Code 58-37-7, “An individual to whom or for whose use any controlled substance has been prescribed, sold, or dispensed by a practitioner . . . may lawfully possess it only in the container in which it was delivered to him by the person selling or dispensing it.” Subsection (4) also warns that “a person may not alter the face or remove any label so long as any of the original contents remain.” This pertains only to controlled prescriptions including opiate based pain relief medications, stimulants such as diet pills and ADHD drugs, along with others according to the Utah Controlled Substances Act.

Keep your receipt or original container

If someone is caught with controlled pills and they are in a container other that the one it came in or if the label has been removed, that person may end up being charged unless they can show the judge proof that the prescription they had on them was legitimately prescribed to them by a doctor. For those that don’t want to risk the hassle of having to appear in court, it is best to keep controlled prescriptions in their own bottles at all times.

Rising Overdose Deaths Caused from Counterfeit or Laced Prescription Opioids

Overdose deaths continue to be on the rise and many of those deaths occur from individuals consuming counterfeit or laced prescription opioids.

Prescription pain relief

Photo by: Frankieleon

Opioid based pain relievers such as Morphine, Oxycodone, and Hydrocodone were created for doctors to help their patients manage severe to chronic pain. Although they can be helpful for pain, they also mimic the euphoric feeling produced by another addictive opioid: heroin. Far too often, patients become addicted to these pharmaceutical opioids and begin obtaining them elsewhere, outside of a doctor’s care.

Opioid crisis

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are, after marijuana (and alcohol), the most commonly abused substances by Americans 14 and older.“ While heroin is extremely dangerous and has definite negative connotations associated with its use, prescription opioid abuse is more common and sadly, often overlooked. Additionally, misusing prescription pain pills can lead to heroin use as well. The NID notes “about 4 to 6 percent who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin and “about 80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids”.

Rising overdose deaths

Opioid abuse has been declared a crisis throughout Utah and the nation, yet the amount of individuals using and overdosing continues to rise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state: “Drug overdose deaths and opioid-involved deaths continue to increase in the United States. The majority of drug overdose deaths (more than six out of ten) involve an opioid. Since 1999, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription opioids and heroin) quadrupled. From 2000 to 2015 more than half a million people died from drug overdoses. 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.”

Fentanyl

While many overdose deaths occur from a person intentionally misusing or overusing a prescription drugs, other deaths are caused by taking counterfeit pills made to look like authentic pain relievers or pills laced with high amounts of other substances. One commonly used ingredient in laced or counterfeit pills is a synthetic opioid known as fentanyl. Fentanyl is similar to other prescription opioids such as OxyContin and morphine, however the effects of fentanyl are “50 to 100 times more potent” according to the NID. That potency increase comes at a price though. The NID affirms “Among more than 64,000 drug overdose deaths estimated in 2016, the sharpest increase occurred among deaths related to fentanyl ( . . . ).”

Laced or phony pills

Sadly, addiction does not allow the danger of fentanyl in prescription drugs to stop individuals from consuming pills bought off the street. Some may think they are doing their due diligence by verifying the pill’s size, color, and imprint on pill checking websites, however many counterfeit prescription drugs on the street look just like original. The only way to know for sure what is contained in a pill is to obtain the medication with a valid prescription. Since that is unlikely to happen for addicts, drug treatment and rehabilitation is encouraged to help those fighting addiction.

Overdose reversal

Loved ones of addicts unable to successfully rehabilitate are encouraged to obtain life saving measures to save their family member or friend should an overdose occur. When a person overdoses on opioids, their respiratory system slows down to a stop which can quickly lead to death. Naloxone, known commercially as Narcan reminds the brain to signal the lungs to breathe. Previously obtainable with a prescription, the nasal spray Narcan is now available over the counter. Walgreens has just announced that nearly 80,000 of their stores across the nation will now be stocked with the lifesaving medication. Until more can be done to prevent mass opioid abuse, at least there are things in place to reduce the lives lost to this dangerous epidemic.