Domestic Dispute in Springville Ends with Accidental Discharging of a Firearm within City Limits

A domestic dispute between two couples and a relative ended with an accidental discharging of a firearm within city limits.

Domestic disturbance

Photo by: Marco Verch

Police officers were dispatched to a call that someone had discharged a firearm within city limits and discovered a car speeding away from the scene. After pulling over the vehicle, officers discovered a car overloaded with people, two of which were injured. One was suffering from a head injury while another had a gunshot wound to the foot. Returning to the area in which the firearm had been discharged, officers were able to determine the individual’s head injury and the other person’s bullet hole in his foot to have been the result of a domestic dispute that had become violent. The shooting was accidental, yet the man with the weapon will likely face charges for assault for pistol-whipping the individual with a head injury, brandishing a weapon in a threatening manner, and discharging a firearm within city limits.

State laws

Utah is thought to be a more gun friendly state, yet there are strict laws and ordinances in place regarding where guns are allowed and where they can be discharged. Utah law 76-10-508 warns: “A person may not discharge any kind of dangerous weapon or firearm:

(i) From an automobile or other vehicle;
(ii) From, upon, or across any highway;
(iii) At any road signs placed upon any highways of the state;
(iv) At any communications equipment of property of public utilities . . . ;
(v) At railroad equipment or facilities including any sign or signal;
(vi) Within Utah State Park[s] . . .;
(vii) Without written permission to discharge the dangerous weapon from the owner or person in charge of the property within 600 feet of . . . a house . . . or any structure in which a domestic animal is kept or fed”.

Discharging a firearm within city limits

Photo by: Micki Krimmel

Beyond the above listed areas, Utah law does not specify where in a city firearms are lawful to be discharged. Utah Code 53-5a-102 states “All authority to regulate firearms is reserved to the state except where the Legislature specifically delegates responsibility to local authorities or state entities.” Many counties or cities have their own ordinances pertaining to discharging a firearm within city limits. The city of Springville where the domestic dispute resulting in accidental discharging of a firearm was reported states in statute 8-3-102 that “except as permitted by subsection (2) [regarding hunting in rural areas during designated seasons], it shall be unlawful for any person within the limits of the City to discharge any rifle, gun, pistol, air gun, bean shooter, flipper, sling shot, or any other instrument which expels a projectile, except in self-defense, or, in the case of target shooting, upon issuance of a permit by the Police Department. “

Self-defense or Castle Doctrine

There are some occurrences when discharging a firearm within city limits would not result in criminal charges. Some such instances include self-defense cases when a person is found to be justified in using a weapon to protect themselves. Additionally, while state and many city laws prohibit firearm use near a residence, Utah homeowners are allowed to defend their home from dangerous intruders. This freedom to protect a home and its residents is known as Castle Doctrine.

Check with your local area

Besides in instances of self-defense or Castle Doctrine, all Utah residents should be aware that brandishing a weapon during an altercation or discharging a firearm in city limits will likely be frowned upon by law enforcement. Others who may want to engage in innocent target shooting or “air-soft wars” may want to check with their local area ordinances prior to engaging in any such activity that could result in criminal charges.

Raid on Spanish Fork Home Results in Drug and Weapons Charges

A raid on a Spanish Fork home Monday has resulted in several drug and weapons charges for two individuals living at that residence including one who is a restricted person.

The drug house

Photo by: Kelly Parker McPherson

A home in a quiet neighborhood in Spanish Fork, Utah was raided days after one of the home’s residents was picked up on drug charges. During the raid, law enforcement officers located drugs, guns, ammo, and cash from what appears to be a drug distribution business run out of that home. Found were distributable amounts of heroin, meth, marijuana dab, and cocaine on the premises. Additionally, several weapons along with thousands of rounds of ammo were also located as well as over three grand in cash.

Drug possession and distribution

24 year old Jennifer Lynn Coplen was arrested with possession and producing a controlled substance as well as intent to distribute. Coplen is not facing any charges for the weapons found at the home. The other individual living at the home was 28 year old Rolf Michael Pawelek. Like Coplen, Pawelek was also charged with possession and intent to distribute. Pawelek however, was also listed as a Category II restricted person and as such will be facing charges for the weapons found at the residence.

Possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person

Photo by: Lisa Zins

Utah Code 76-10-503 explains that certain individuals are prohibited from possessing a dangerous weapon. Someone listed as a “Category I restricted person is a person who:

(i) Has been convicted of any violent felony . . . ;
(ii) Is on probation or parole for any felony;
(iii) Is on parole from a secure facility . . . ;
(iv) Within the last 10 years [was charges as a minor with something that would be a violent felony as an adult] . . . ;
(v) Is an alien who is illegally or unlawfully in the United States; or
(vi) Is on probation for a conviction of possessing [controlled substances or synthetic equivalents]”.

A Category II restricted person includes those “who:

(i) Has been convicted of any felony;
(ii) Within the last seven years [was charges as a minor for something that would have been a felony as an adult];
(iii) Is an unlawful user of a controlled substance . . . ;
(iv) Is in possession of a dangerous weapon and is knowingly and intentionally in unlawful possession of a Schedule I or II controlled substance;
(v) Has been found not guilty by reason of insanity . . .;
(vi) Has been adjudicated as mentally defective . . . ;
(vii) Has been dishonorably discharged from the armed forces;
(viii) Has renounced the individual’s citizenship after having been a citizen . . . ;
(ix) Is a respondent or defendant to a protective order . . . ;
(x) Has been convicted of the commission or attempted commission of [domestic violence] assault. . .”

Sole owner of weapons or previous criminal history

The reason for the restricted person status for Pawelek was not listed, however based on the arrest information, it could be simply having guns and schedule I or II drugs at the same time (as listed in subsection IV). If that were the case, it is not clear why Coplen would not also be facing the same restricted person charges unless the weapons were found in a room personally used by Pawelek only. Both residents of the home are facing multiple felony charges for the drug charges and Pawelek is also facing a third degree felony for each weapon found in the home. For more information on what constitutes a violation by a restricted person or for legal help regarding criminal charges, contact an experienced defense attorney.

Utah Teenager Turns Parents in for Drug Use and Child Endangerment

A Utah teenager has started her family down a safer path after turning her parents in for drug use, theft and child endangerment.

Kids are watching

Photo by: Samuel Johnson

A 15 year old Santaquin, Utah teenager who had been watching her parents engage in illegal behavior for some time decided to alert a relative to the situation. The teen told the relative and later authorities in great detail how her parents and their friends had done drugs in front of the teen at home. She also informed police of a theft-based business her father and a friend were running out of the garage. The parents were arrested and the teen will likely be staying with more responsible family members while her parents face criminal charges.

Child endangerment

The teen’s parents, Eric and Jamie Taylor, were arrested after their daughter’s confession of their illegal activity. The charges against them are expected to include drug possession, theft, and child endangerment. Utah Code 76-5-112.5 states regarding child endangerment 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”. By doing drugs in front of their daughter and having those illicit items and accompanying paraphernalia in areas where she could access it, Eric and Jamie Taylor were putting their child’s health and even her life in danger.

Needed steps to reunite a family

It is understandable that the teenager daughter did not want to be around her parent’s illegal and dangerous activity anymore, regardless of her familial feelings for them. Fortunately it sounds as though she has extended family members she can trust to care for her while her parents pay their penance to society. Hopefully her parents use this time to get the treatment needed to end their dependence on drugs while also learning to how to be better parents to such a responsible and courageous child.