Thursday, Sep 15, 2011
On the evening of Monday, August 8th, ranger Josh Wentz contacted a driver for an equipment violation near the Zion Canyon Visitor Center. Following an investigation, he was arrested for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. The driver, an Idaho resident, had two previous DUI convictions from Idaho (2007 and 2008) and a current Idaho misdemeanor warrant for previous violations of his conditions of release specifying “no alcohol.” Further investigation revealed that the driver had these conditions of release due to two other pending Idaho DUI charges and numerous criminal mischief charges. Because of the driver’s previous DUI convictions, the local assistant U.S. attorney declined the case, as the federal CFR charge is a Class B misdemeanor, and transferred the case to the state authorities for prosecution. While Zion is proprietary jurisdiction, there is also federal case law (US v Palmer 1992, US v Fox 1995) that has ruled against parks using the Assimilated Crimes Act to incorporate state DUI charges that may carry heavier penalties into federal court due to the existence of the existing 36 CFR DUI charge. Rangers are working with the Washington County Attorney’s Office on the case. In Utah a third DUI conviction within 10 years qualifies as a third degree felony, with penalties of $5,000 and up to five years in prison. Interest from the Idaho authorities has been high based on the long alcohol-related history of the driver, pending Idaho charges, and existing misdemeanor warrant. Zion is one of three parks partnering with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the second year of an Impaired Driving High Visibility Enforcement Project along with Delaware Water Gap and Great Smoky Mountains. Through the funding assistance of NHTSA, the project at Zion has included 24 hours of training on NHTSA’s standardized field sobriety tests, increased enforcement during national campaigns and local events, increased media outreach, public education and notification, as well as partnering with local law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and highway safety offices.