ROOSEVELT — Duchesne County prosecutors intend to file an enhanced DUI charge against a man accused of critically injuring a woman while driving under the influence of alcohol and texting.
Jake Antonio Arrats is currently charged in 8th District Court with DUI, texting while driving resulting in injury, operating a vehicle without insurance, driving with an expired registration, never having obtained a driver's license, improper lane travel and using plates registered to another vehicle. The charges are all misdemeanors.
On Friday afternoon, however, Duchesne County Attorney Stephen Foote told the Deseret News his office will amend the DUI charge against Arrats from a class A misdemeanor to a third-degree felony.
"It will be a third-degree felony based on the fact that he caused serious bodily injury to the victim," Foote said.
Keri Houston, 18, of Roosevelt, remained in critical condition Friday at Intermountain Medical Center, four days after police say she was pinned between her parked car and Arrat's vehicle as she stood in front of her home near 700 South and 200 East.
As many as six bystanders worked to save Houston's life until an ambulance could reach her. One of those rescuers, former Marine Robert Stoney, used his belt as a tourniquet to keep the injured woman from bleeding to death.
"Her leg was all but completely off in two places, and so I decided I needed to stop the bleeding in order to give her time for the paramedics to arrive," Stoney said.
Roosevelt police arrested Arrats at the scene. Investigators say he drove almost 300 feet down the street after hitting Houston about 5:20 p.m. Monday and crashed through a chain-link fence into the front yard of a house.
"There is suspicion that there was alcohol involved and drugs," Roosevelt police detective Pete Butcher said.
That wasn't the only suspected form of impairment, according to Butcher.
"(Arrats) said he was coming home from the grocery store and his wife had sent him a text message," the detective said. "He responded to the text message — it was four letters — and that's when the crash occurred.
"I believe it was 'ha ha,' is what the text was," Butcher said.
Arrats, 27, was booked into the Duchesne County Jail, but bailed out Tuesday morning.
Foote said when he first reviewed the case he was stunned to see that, without evidence to support the DUI charge, all he could have charged Arrats with was a class B misdemeanor.
"That was my initial concern, 'We can only charge a class B misdemeanor out of this when this girl's leg was almost taken off?'" the prosecutor said.
Utah's texting and driving law is one of the stiffest in the nation. It makes the act of texting and driving a class C misdemeanor. Injure someone while texting behind the wheel, and it's a class B misdemeanor. Kill them, and it's a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
When asked whether the law needs to be changed to take the severity of the injury into account, Foote deferred to state legislators.
"I'm not a policymaker. I simply do my job and try to enforce the laws that we have," the prosecutor said.3 comments on this story
"But it does seem to be inequitable for someone to possibly lose their leg from someone committing a criminal act, and (the offender) suffering the possibility of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine," he said.
Arrats has a criminal history dating back to 2004, with convictions for aggravated assault, unlawful detention, alcohol offenses and weapons charges. He is scheduled to make his first court appearance Monday. If convicted of the felony DUI charge, he faces a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.