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.

Man Tired of Being Single – Makes Terrorist Threats While Visiting Utah

A Colorado man visiting Utah was tired of being single and used social media to make terrorist threats against girls.

Loveless and lawless

Terrorist threats

Photo by: Pietro Zanarini

27 year old Christopher Wayne Cleary of Denver, Colorado was visiting Provo, Utah when he posted on Facebook his woes regarding his lack of a romantic life. In the midst of his personal oversharing, he also made terrorist threats against girls by threatening to cause a mass shooting and kill “as many girls as I see.” Alert members of the online community contacted Denver police who then tracked Cleary down to his location in Provo. Officers in police were able to apprehend Cleary peacefully where he was then questioned before being booked into the Utah County jail for making the terrorist threats.

Making terrorist threats

Cleary is facing charges of a probation violation as well as felony charges for making terrorist threats. Utah Code 76-5-107.3 states “A person commits [terrorist threats] if the person threatens to commit any offense involving bodily injury, death, or substantial property damage, and:

• Threatens the use of a weapon of mass destruction . . . ; or
• Threatens the use of a hoax weapon of mass destruction . . . ; [both second degree felonies] or
• Acts with intent to:
o Intimidate or coerce a civilian population or to influence or affect the conduct of a government or a unit of government [a second degree felony];
o Prevent or interrupt the occupation of a building or a portion of the building, a place to which the public has access, or a facility or vehicle of public transportation operated by a common carrier [a third degree felony] ; or
o Cause an official or volunteer agency organized to deal with emergencies to take action due to the person’s conduct posing a serious and substantial risk to the general public [a class B misdemeanor].”

That section goes on to note that “A threat under this section may be express[ed] or implied.”

Social media oversharing

Law enforcement officers did not report finding any weapons on Cleary and when they found him he was merely sitting at a McDonalds, not taking actions to carry out his threat. Cleary was compliant with police and when asked, he didn’t deny making the terrorist threats. According to Cleary, he posted the threat on Facebook when he was distraught and quickly took it down following the backlash from other Facebook users. While it may be seen as awkward and even inappropriate, many social media users use their posting rights to “vent” when they are upset. Some may overshare by openly saying what is on their mind. Others might participate in “Vague-booking” or posting vague comments to get the attention of someone specific or anyone who will ask follow-up questions. However they go about it, often these “venting” posts are taking down once the person has calmed down and realized they have probably posted a little bit too much personal information for every single one of the Facebook friends to see.

Crossing the criminal line

While the awkward venting posts may not result in much more than embarrassment, using the social media resource to threaten harm on a single individual or a group of people can quickly lead to criminal charges even if the person never had any intention of carrying out their threat. Utah Code 76-5-107.3 defined above warns that “it is not a defense . . . that the person did not attempt to carry out or was incapable of carrying out the threat.” Anyone using their accounts for venting are warned to always keep their posts within legal boundaries. Those facing criminal charges for comments or posts they made to any social media accounts including terrorist threats are encouraged to immediately seek legal counsel from a reputable attorney.

Sharing Prescription Drugs in Utah

Many Utah residents have faced legal or other unpleasant ramifications due to them lovingly, yet illegally sharing prescription drugs with their friends or family.

Care, don’t share

Photo by: Ajay Suresh

When a family member or friend is suffering from an ailment, loved ones want to do whatever possible to help relieve the symptoms being suffered. Perhaps a spouse is in pain after a lengthy dentist visit. Maybe an elderly neighbor has thrown out their back working in the yard. Or possibly an adult child is facing the pain that comes from an unexpected kidney stone. Sometimes an ice pack or a simple over the counter remedy does the trick when other times something stronger is needed. Instead of sending the unwell person to their primary care physician to legally obtain a necessary prescription, many Utah residents will head for their own prescription medications to treat a loved one-not realizing they are about to commit a crime.

Sharing is distribution

When a family member or friend shares a prescription with others, they are ultimately distributing that prescribed medication to another. Even if the person receiving the medication does not offer any sort of payment, it is still against the law. Utah Code 58-37-2 states: “Distribute means to deliver other than by administering or dispensing a controlled substance [through a pharmacy]”. That section also notes: “Deliver” or delivery” means the actual, constructive, or attempted transfer of a controlled substance or a listed chemical, whether or not any agency relationship exists.”

Criminal charges

Many prescription drugs including those meant to reduce pain or induce sleep are considered controlled substances by state and federal law. The Controlled Substances Act separates street and prescription drugs into different schedules depending on what they are used for, their potential for abuse, and their risk for harm. When someone shares a prescription drug that is considered a controlled substance, especially those that are a Schedule I or II drug, they may face serious criminal penalties. According to Utah Code 58-37-8:

• Anyone convicted of distributing a Schedule I controlled substance or a Schedule II controlled substance such as Adderall, Ritalin, Percocet, Vicodin, OxyContin, and Norco “ . . . is guilty of a second degree felony, punishable by imprisonment for not more than 15 years, and upon a second or subsequent conviction is guilty of a first degree felony.”

• Anyone convicted of sharing a Schedule III or IV controlled substances such as Suboxone, Tylenol with Codeine, Vicodin, Soma, Valium, Ativan, Xanax, “. . . or marijuana is guilty of a third degree felony, or [second degree felony upon a subsequent conviction].”

The recipients of someone else’s prescription drugs may themselves face criminal charges for possession.

Health risks

Beyond the criminal charges possible, family or friends could end up responsible for causing more misery to someone they care about. When prescription drugs are shared, the person to whom they are shared with may have adverse reactions to the medication that could have been avoided had they been under the care of a doctor. Additionally, if a prescription is shared that is a controlled substance, the recipient may develop a dependence to the medication that can completely derail their lives and send them down a path of addiction and pain far worse than they were originally facing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn, “In 2016, more than 11.5 million Americans reported misusing prescription opioids in the past year.” That figure only includes those who reported their misuse, and may not include those who are getting their meds from a family member. For more information on criminal charges related to sharing prescription drugs, contact a criminal defense attorney. For help regarding substance abuse including prescription drugs, contact the Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health to find a treatment center nearest you.