Small Central Utah Town Setting Records in Drug DUI Arrests

The small, central Utah town of Richfield is setting records for its drug DUI arrests after being well-funded by the state of Utah to get impaired drivers off the street.

Small town – big reputations

Photo by: Ken Lund

Richfield City, the county seat of Sevier County, is smaller than 73 other cities in Utah but that doesn’t keep the town’s web page from boasting that it is: “. . . the hub of Central Utah, [and] the largest city for more than a hundred miles”. With a population of a mere 7,750 residents, nearby towns must be miniscule for Richfield to be able to possess that title. Being the largest town of central Utah is not the only reputation Richfield City has either; they also have a high arrest per resident ratio in regards to DUIs.

DUI rate vs Population

According to the Sixteenth Annual DUI Report to the Utah Legislature, throughout the state of Utah, “10,383 DUI-related arrests were made in FY 2018.” They also note that statewide (which includes larger cities such as those in the Salt Lake Valley) the DUI-related arrest rate is “33.5 per 10,000 population”. In pint-sized Richfield City, the amount of DUI arrests is roughly three times that of the entire statewide average.Some speculate that perhaps Richfield has such a high DUI rate due to the small town/big problems theory that no one has anything else to do besides get inebriated and drive around. In reality, there are several reason why Richfield is leading the pack with DUI arrests.

Combining factors

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Although there’s a chance Richfield has some basic small town problems, one of them does not appear to be more individuals driving impaired. Somehow however, their officers are making more DUI arrests. A few reasons for this may include:

Type of DUI arrest. When people hear “DUI” their first thought is of people driving under the influence of alcohol. 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”. The majority of the DUI arrests in Richfield city are not alcohol related. Drug DUI arrests in Richfield from substances such as marijuana, meth, and even prescription drugs are the main source of the town’s two-year DUI record. While alcohol leaves a person feeling tipsy and notably impaired, many drivers falsely assume they are okay to drive a couple hours after getting high or taking meds to manage their pain. A quick swab of the cheek or a blood test done later can confirm arresting officer’s suspicion of drug use prior to driving.

Location, location, location. Richfield is located along the I-70 corridor, a stretch of road linking Nevada to Utah and Utah to Colorado that is known for drug trafficking. Additionally, I-70 runs directly into I-15, another main artery of drug movement that travels from southern California through Vegas and all the way into Canada. The positioning of Richfield in close proximity to these dual drug trafficking corridors could increase the chances of local officers pulling over out-of-town traffickers for simple traffic violations. Additionally, Richfield officers may have a better chance at catching Utahns coming back from visiting marijuana friendly Colorado.

Focused intent. One of the top reasons Richfield may be leading the pack for drug DUI arrests is their focused intent on catching impaired drivers. Last year Richfield chose to focus less on finding drug users and instead put more emphasis on cracking down on those users when they got behind the wheel. Although the focus on DUIs may help keep people safer on Richfield roads, it just so happens to also result in greater incarceration rates than possession charges alone.

Photo by: 401(k) 2012

Financial recompense. Due to the rising DUI arrests as a result of Richfield’s focused intent on drug DUIs, the state of Utah has decided to allot (reward) money to Richfield which will help them keep the momentum going. This extra funding enables Richfield to allow select officers to work longer hours. It would not be surprising to find the overtime officers were drug recognition experts trained at spotting impaired drivers either. While Utah taxpayers may wonder where these extra funds allotted to this small town are coming from, it is the arrestees themselves paying for it as they pay to recover vehicles impounded during an arrest. Regardless of where the funds originate from, the extra money is likely a major motivator in bringing in higher DUI arrests.

Drug DUI attorney

Drug DUI arrests can result in criminal charges ranging from a class B misdemeanor for first-offenders to a third degree felony for repeat offenders or instances where a serious injury occurred.Anyone facing charges for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is encouraged to speak to an attorney regarding their options moving forward and how to best put their illegal action behind them. All other Utah residents should make certain they are not impaired in any way prior to getting behind the wheel – especially when visiting the small town of Richfield City, Utah.

Utah Prostitution Stings – Catching Culprits of Opportunity or Entrapment

Although paying or receiving funds for sexual activity is against the law, many wonder if Johns arrested during prostitution stings in Utah are culprits of opportunity or victims of entrapment.

Catching one of their own

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A prostitution sting on Valentine’s Day netted the arrest of 51 year old David Moss of Lehi, Utah. Undercover detectives with the Utah County Special Victims Task Force arrested Moss, who was a former police officer with the St. George Police Department after he responded to a prostitution ad online and met two undercover female detectives posing as prostitutes. Moss’s arrest came after he made several incriminating statements online and in person including offers to “manage” the prostitutes and hide their activity from police. He also followed these comments with inappropriate behavior directed at one of the undercover officers.

Patronizing a prostitute

Moss was arrested for multiple charges including patronizing a prostitute which is described by section 76-10-1303 as “when the individual:
(a) Pays or offers or agrees to pay a prostitute, or an individual the actor believes to be a prostitute, a fee, or the functional equivalent of a fee, for the purpose of engaging in an act of sexual activity; or
(b) Enters or remains in a place of prostitution for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity.”

Pimps vs Johns

Moss is also facing charges of exploiting prostitution, a third degree felony compared to patronizing a prostitute which is punishable as a class A misdemeanor for a first defense. While patronizing a prostitute is the typical charge for “Johns”, exploiting prostitution would be the charge for the “pimps” or those wishing to recruit or manage others in prostitution. Third degree exploiting prostitution is defined by Utah Code 76-10-1305 as when “an individual:
(a) Procures an individual for a place of prostitution;
(b) Encourages, induces, or otherwise purposely causes another to become or remain a prostitute;
(c) Transports an individual into or within this state with a purpose to promote that individual’s engaging in prostitution or procuring or paying for transportation with that purpose;
(d) Not being a child or legal dependent of a prostitute, shares the proceeds of prostitution with a prostitute, or an individual the actor believes to be a prostitute, pursuant to their understanding that the actor is to share therein; or
(e) Owns controls, manages, supervised, or otherwise keeps, alone or in association with another, a place of prostitution or a business where prostitution occurs or is arranged, encouraged, supported, or promoted.”

Gray area

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Since Moss came prepared with an illegal business plan, it is hard to say he didn’t know what he was getting into unless his inappropriate business endeavor was all a ruse to impress the ladies. Regardless, his actions will be making a lasting impression; a negative one when he faces a judge in court. While Moss’s case could paint a pretty clear picture of how horrible his remarks and behavior was – he was not the one placing the ad; he was merely responding to it. If the ad hadn’t been there, would he have still made the illegal choices that he did? This is a common question that comes up following prostitution stings. Are stings a way to catch criminals or are they a non-biased trap to catch anyone who may happen by? Some otherwise innocent individuals caught in the frequent prostitution stings throughout the state often fall into a gray area where you wonder if they had actually planned to commit a crime or just reacted to a setting they were placed in. This gray area where one may question someone’s criminal intentions that often occurs with stings can be known as entrapment.

Opportunity or entrapment

Entrapment is defined Utah Code 76-2-303 as “. . . when a peace officer or a person directed by or acting in cooperation with the officer induces the commission of an offense in order to obtain evidence of the commission for prosecution by methods creating a substantial risk that the offense would be committed by one not otherwise ready to commit it.” While many arrested during prostitution stings may have been “. . . merely afford[ed] . . . an opportunity to commit an offense”, there is always a concern others were arrested solely based on the enticement of the officers. Anyone facing charges following a prostitution sting whether or not they may have been the victim of entrapment are encouraged to seek legal counsel immediately.

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

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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.