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.