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.

Two Deaths in One day Following Multiple Officer-Related Shootings in Utah

Multiple Officer-Related Shootings in Utah over the past couple weeks have resulted in the deaths of five individuals, two of those deaths taking place today.

Officer-Related Shooting

Photo by: Dean Strelau

Early this morning, officers were responding to a domestic disturbance when they came upon 26 year old Jason Whittle who was holding a knife to his mother’s throat. Officers shot and killed Whittle, saving the mother from her son’s threatening behavior with a weapon that turned out to be a butter knife.

Another officer-related shooting

Also taking place today was the death of another Utah resident who was shot by police. A few days before he succumbed to his injuries, police shot 61 year old James Lyle Kuehn after he was suspected to be the person of interest in a robbery of a fast-food restaurant in Kearns. Kuehn was said to be in dangerous possession of a small knife. Police located him nearby and after tazing him, opened fire with what eventually turned out to be lethal shots. It is unknown at this time whether or not Kuehn displayed that small knife before officers opened fire.

And more…

The deaths of Whittle and Kuehn today are added to the growing number of “shot by police” fatalities that have taken place within the last couple weeks throughout Utah. Also killed by Utah police recently were:

• 23 year old Andrey Tkachenko, a parolee shot and killed by Metro Gang Unit on October 18. (unknown if he was armed);
• 17 year old Jacob E. Albrethsen, shot and killed by officers responding to a domestic disturbance on October 12. (Albrethsen was armed with a knife);
• 22 year old Diamonte Riviore, killed by police following a domestic violence call on October 10 (Riviore was also armed with a knife).

Was deadly force needed?

One common theme among the five officer-related shooting deaths lately was the question of whether or not any of these shootings were necessary. Did officers truly fear that their or a victim’s lives were in danger when the knives involved in 4 out of 5 of the shootings were displayed? Was it necessary to shoot to kill? Were the tazers used in a few of those incidents essentially “ineffective” or did officers react too quickly in a nerve-racking situation? With the tension continuing to rise between law enforcement and the public they are sworn to protect, it is imperative that those behind the badge who go through extensive training are an example to others of how we should react when faced with these high-stress situations.