Utah Traveler Arrested For Assault on a Police Officer

A Utah traveler was pepper-sprayed and arrested for assault on a police officer after he drunkenly started a confrontation at the Orlando, Florida airport.

Drinking and flying

Photo by: John Murphy

45 year old Brandon Strong was traveling with his 8 year old son when he was arrested at a Florida airport prior to boarding his plane back home to Salt Lake City, Utah. A JetBlue airport employee observed Strong starting an argument with a fellow passenger and told Strong he would not be allowed on the flight. Strong, who appeared to have been heavily intoxicated, engaged the airline employee, wrestling and cursing until police were called. When police arrived, Strong continued to behave aggressively towards the attending officers. Strong was videoed by multiple sources getting into a physical struggle with officers until he was finally pepper-sprayed and handcuffed. He was arrested on multiple charges including assault on a police officer.

Assault on a police officer in Utah

Utah Code 76-5-102.4 defines assault on a police officer as when a person:

(a) “Commits an assault or threat of violence against a [police] officer, with knowledge that the person is a [police] officer, and when the [police] officer is acting within the scope of authority as a [police]officer;”

Assault on a police officer in Utah is a class A misdemeanor unless the person has a previous history and/or causes substantial bodily injury, or if they use a dangerous weapon. In those cases, the charges would be increased to a third degree or second degree felony respectively.

Battery on a police officer in Florida

Unfortunately for Strong, he was arrested outside his home state of Utah and will face Florida charges for his conduct at the airport. In Florida, the charges for physical assault on a police officer carry stiffer penalties than they do in Utah. Florida law defines assault as being a threat of violence wherein cases where any physical contact ensues, the charges would then be increased to battery. According to Florida Statute 784.07 , battery of a police officer is a third degree felony which is punishable by up to 5 years in prison or probation and a $5,000 fine. For more information on criminal charges inside or outside the state of Utah, speak with an experienced attorney who can help you find the appropriate legal counsel to handle your case.

Utah Dump Truck Driver Arrested for DUI and Six Counts of Automobile Homicide

A driver of a dump truck carrying a load of dirt was arrested for a DUI and six counts of automobile homicide after a horrifying accident near Jordanelle Reservoir in Utah on Friday.

Fatal accident on Highway 40

41 year old Jamie Don McKenzie was driving a dump truck on U.S. Highway 40 near Jordanelle Reservior when he crossed the median and struck a pickup truck that was going the opposite direction. After hitting the pickup, the dump truck McKenzie was driving continued, finally coming to rest on top of the pickup truck’s hood. The pickup was carrying 6 men, 5 of which were workers from Honduras. Three of the men were thrown from the pickup up during the accident and the other three remained in the cab of the truck as it was crushed by the weight of the dump truck. All six men in the pickup died on impact. McKenzie, the driver of the dump truck survived.

Alcohol, pills and driving don’t mix

All signs point to McKenzie being under the influence when he crashed his pickup truck. Inside the truck that McKenzie was driving, investigators found open containers of alcohol and prescription medication. Officers attending to the accident could smell alcohol on McKenzie’s breath while getting his statement. Prior to the accident, other drivers had called dispatch to report the dump truck as driving erratically, swerving all over the highway at a high rate of speed while dangerously cutting in front of other drivers. McKenzie was arrested and booked on multiple charges including DUI six counts of automobile homicide.

Automobile homicide

Utah Code 76-5-207 states: “Criminal homicide is automobile homicide, a third degree felony, if the person operates a motor vehicle in a negligent manner causing the death of another and:

(i) Has sufficient alcohol in his body that a subsequent chemical test shows that the person has a blood or breath alcohol concentration of .08 grams or greater at the time of the test;
(ii) 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; or
(iii) Has a blood or breath alcohol concentration of .08 grams or greater at the time of operation.”

Negligent or criminally negligent

That section goes on to note that if a person is found to have been operating a motor vehicle in a “criminally negligent manner” when they caused the death of another, they charges are then increased to a second degree felony. According to section 76-2-103, “A person engages is conduct . . . with criminal negligence or is criminally negligent with respect to circumstances surrounding his conduct or the result of his conduct when he ought to be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or the result will occur. The risk must be of a nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise in all circumstances as viewed from the actor’s standpoint.”

Prior history and reckless driving

Not only was McKenzie found to have been driving under the influence at the time of the crash, he had a lengthy history of mixing alcohol and driving. Additionally, McKenzie’s behavior while driving appeared to be at a complete disregard for the safety of the others around him. Whether or not that was due to his drunken state or his driving style is up for interpretation. Due to his history and the gruesome details of the crash, he could face decades behind bars.

Death of Infants Leads to Arrest of Two Women For Trafficking Methamphetamine in Utah

Two south Idaho women were arrested for trafficking methamphetamine in Utah after drugs were located in a home where the death of two infants was being investigated.

Death investigation

Photo by: Tony Webster

Two seven week old infant twin boys were found dead in a Twin Falls, Idaho home on October 12th, 2018. Upon investigating the deaths, police discovered methamphetamine when searching the home. Police determined the meth to linked to two females who were living at the residence but did not say if either one was related to the deceased newborns. It was also undetermined whether the drugs found had anything to do with the deaths of the infant boys.

Homicide or drugs?

In an effort to bring the two women in for questioning about the suspicious deaths, Twin Falls police put out interstate drug trafficking warrants for 28 year old Haley Miller and 32 year old Sylvia Tapia that Utah police mistakenly interpreted as homicide warrants. Miller and Tapia’s vehicle was stopped in a “high risk stop” on highway 89 near Perry, Utah and both women were arrested. Utah police later retracted statement made to the press regarding the homicide warrants, clarifying that the warrants were in fact for trafficking methamphetamine. Miller and Tapia were booked into the Box Elder County Jail to await extradition to Idaho Falls.

Trafficking methamphetamine

Photo by: Pablo

Although both women were likely relieved to hear the homicide warrants were a mistake, the charges against them for trafficking methamphetamine are still severe. Utah Code 58-37-8 states, “. . . it is unlawful for any person to knowingly and intentionally:

(i) Produce, manufacture, or dispense, or to possess with intent to produce, manufacture, or dispense, a controlled or counterfeit substance;
(ii) Distribute a controlled or counterfeit substance, or to agree, consent, offer, or arrange to distribute a controlled substance;
(iii) Possess a controlled or counterfeit substance with intent to distribute;”

That section goes on to note that “Any person convicted of [intent to distribute methamphetamine] . . 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;”

Federal charges

While each state including Idaho and Utah has their own laws regarding drug possession and distribution, when an individual crosses state lines to distribute the illicit drugs, federal charges for drug trafficking are possible and may carry harsher penalties than at a state level. According to page 30 of the Drugs of Abuse 2017 DEA Resource Guide 2017, federal trafficking penalties for methamphetamine, a schedule II drug are as follows:

• If the quantity is 5-49 grams pure or 50-499 grams mixture, the penalties would be:
o For a first offense: “Not less than 5 yrs, and not more than 40 yrs. If death or serious injury, not less than 20 or more than life. Fine of not more than $5 million if an individual, $25 million if not an individual.
o Second offense: Not less than 10 yrs, and not more than life. If death or serious injury, life imprisonment. Fine of not more than $8 million if an individual, $50 million if not an individual.”

• If the quantity is 50 grams or more pure or 500 grams or more mixture, the penalties would be:
o For a first offense: “Not less than 10 yrs, and not more than life. If death or serious injury, not less than 20 or more than life. Fine of not more than $10 million if an individual, $50 million if not an individual.
o Second Offense: Not less than 20 yrs, and not more than life. If death or serious injury, life imprisonment. Fine of not more than $20 million if an individual, $75 million if not an individual.
o 2 or more prior offenses: Life imprisonment. Fine of not more than $20 million if an individual, $75 million if not an individual.”

With the seriousness related to drug distribution, especially for those crimes that cross state lines, anyone facing federal charges of trafficking methamphetamine should counsel with a criminal defense attorney immediately.