Police drug search intrudes on husband's final moments with deceased wife

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  • stk334 Chicago, IL
    Jan. 16, 2013 9:47 a.m.

    @chcknhawk - "Even if the Controlled Substances Act gave authorities permission to search homes without a warrant," - no, it does not. But as a general principle, the police may enter premises w/o warrant if they have strong reasons to believe that the evidence is about to be destroyed.

    Note that it's about the _evidence_ of a crime, not preventive measure like it was. So either when they discovered these drugs, they must have arrested the man; or it was unlawful entry.

  • stk334 Chicago, IL
    Jan. 16, 2013 9:21 a.m.

    @joseywales, the key is whether you have acquired them legally, by prescription. You don't have to use them at once, if you possess them legally, then it's indefinite. But you can't "inherit" them from someone else, even if it's your deceased spouse.

  • Aliel The Heretic Waco, TX
    Jan. 11, 2013 6:32 p.m.

    Here is how it happens down here in Texas. If a police officer does not have a warrant and he is not defending the life or property of someone else, he is committing an unlawful home invasion.

    And if that happens, Texas residents have every right under the law to shoot him 10 times in the face.

    And that is EXACTLY why Texas police ALWAYS get a warrant before entering a home.

  • BejeweledOne Lawrenceville, GA
    Jan. 11, 2013 10:45 a.m.

    @Taylor28, You claim that several parts of the story are not true and you express your disdain that no one checked the facts then say you are trying to set the story straight. You don't however produce any evidence of any parts that aren't true or indicate where that information might be found

    You havn't set anyone straight at all.

  • r0cky74 Erda, UT
    Jan. 10, 2013 7:10 p.m.

    Utah: Once again leading the nation in ignoring its citizens civil and constitutional rights.

  • firefly Salt Lake City, UT
    Jan. 10, 2013 1:11 p.m.

    Thanks Obama!

  • UtahCopBlock USA, UT
    Jan. 10, 2013 9:25 a.m.

    No Respect

  • chcknhawk Temple, TX
    Jan. 10, 2013 9:20 a.m.

    Even if the Controlled Substances Act gave authorities permission to search homes without a warrant, it's still unconstitutional. The 4th Amendment expressly recognized the "right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, SHALL NOT BE VIOLATED."

    I really feel for Mr. Mahaffey and abhor what city officials and the police did to him. That is completely unacceptable under any circumstances. You can never get a moment like that back no matter how much you try. Those officers stole something priceless and invaluable.

  • im2drt! ,
    Jan. 10, 2013 9:10 a.m.

    Another sad day in America! Go get em Mr. Mahaffey!!!!!! They need to be held accountable.

  • Marian Misterovich SAINT JOSEPH, MI
    Jan. 9, 2013 2:11 p.m.

    The key to this story is that Hospice was involved. Hospice makes if very clear that they will enter the home after a hospice patient has died to remove narcotic medications and equipment. The purpose of removing the narcotics is that the prescribed patient is deceased and when a family is mourning, much damage could happen very quickly if family members were to use the drugs. My step-mother was on a methadone pump and had two children, 16 and 11, who were, rightfully so, devastated. Imagine if they had tried to take those medications. The intrusion into your home feels hasty and disrespectful at the time but the purpose of removing those medications is valid.

  • Midvaliean MIDVALE, UT
    Jan. 9, 2013 12:09 p.m.

    Cops have no right to come in and take these drugs without a warrant. How does this happen? Where are the rights of the husband. If cops can come take dangerous things from your house, this is a terrible precedent.

  • JosephP Fort Washington, MD
    Jan. 9, 2013 12:06 p.m.

    If the police think that some Utah law gives them the right to enter a residence without a search warrant, they've got another thing coming! The U.S Constitution says otherwise! And no state, no matter what, can make a law that invalidates a Constitutional right. There was a big fight over the issue back in the 1860s, and the result was that the U.S. Constitution trumps all! I guess these puny minded cops never heard of the Civil War.

  • JIMKRESS Northville, MI
    Jan. 9, 2013 10:44 a.m.

    "Following the incident, Mahaffey asked Vernal city officials and police administrators why officers would search his home without a warrant. He said he was told the Utah Controlled Substances Act provides authority for the search.

    According to the lawsuit, Mahaffey also said city manager Ken Bassett dismissed his concerns, saying he was "overly sensitive" and that police were just trying to protect the public from illegal use of prescription drugs."

    The "War on Drugs" is just an excuse for power crazed zealots like Bassett to inflate their puny egos by committing atrocities against helpless people. At a minimum, Bassett should be fired, tarred, feathered and run out of town on a rail.

  • keepamericafree salt lake, UT
    Jan. 5, 2013 2:59 p.m.

    Vernal police clearly violated this mans rights! And from the sound of it, this is common practice for them. Absolutely disgusting! What is our country coming to when the Gestapo can just barge in and take what they want in the name of protecting the public?
    We must stand against this kind of disregard for our laws and rights!

  • mamatgc49 Janesville/USA, WI
    Jan. 5, 2013 1:58 p.m.

    The attitudes of the City Managers and police officials are far more disturbing than the actions of this individual officer. The city manager's reading of the situation as one with an overly sensitive man would be funny if it were fiction. Exactly how does the city manager expect an 80 year old man at the side of his deceased wife in the middle of the night to react. Trust me, if he were into selling drugs he would have seen you coming and hidden them. Druggies are like that. Somehow I suspect that his thoughts were scattered and his heart was so heavy that he was having a rough time figuring out what to do next. Maybe instead of a midnight raid on this 'suspected ne'er do well' a visit from a social worker within a day or two to check on this man may have been more appropriate. When my grandmother died my grandfather was lost, and he stayed that way until his own death eight years later. 'Overly sensitive' is the most pathetic explanation possible for this man's objections to the treatment he received. Nor is it a good way to make the whole thing disappear.

  • Cinci Man FT MITCHELL, KY
    Jan. 5, 2013 7:39 a.m.

    Then why don't you set us straight. What is not true and what are the facts that are incorrectly stated?

  • taylor28 RIVERTON, UT
    Jan. 5, 2013 12:36 a.m.

    This is shoddy journalism at it's best... and the comments aren't much better. Only two people questioned the stories fact finding so far. If the story were true then perhaps there would be something to get steamed about. Not only is the article extremely one sided, several pieces of this guys story are not true. A little digging would have made that apparent. Sadly, this is why I don't read the Deseret News... a friend of mine happened to point me here. Seeing the comments I felt it worth setting you all (including the author) straight.

  • Raeann Peck Salt Lake City, UT
    Jan. 4, 2013 11:34 p.m.

    Truly a stunning intrusion by officials who take themselves too seriously. The medications were lawfully in this couple's home. No laws were broken and the police and government officials should be sued to protect the innocent. How insane and twisted is the reasoning of these city officials? Hope this situation draws plenty of attention and this insanity is properly resolved.

  • justice4all Moab, UT
    Jan. 4, 2013 10:59 p.m.

    This is really a sad story. But if it happened as written, and that is pretty much the facts, then Vernal City police are nothing short of bullies. Here we are trying to teach our youth the seriousness of bullying and yet the police of Vernal (not all of you) think its ok?
    Then....I can see another side of it too. Yes, I actually said that. My 22 yr. old son died in SLC, Utah from a accidental drug overdose, morphine. He bought it cheap off the street. But, there has to be a better way of drug control than what happened here?
    And by the way, the police found out, most likely because Hospice notified them that the prescription drugs were in the house and the patietn died. Breach of confidentility here folks.
    My mom died in the hospital, and when she did, her prescription drugs, Morphine and Xanac, was still tucked away in the nightstand. Thank goodness the police and hospice here in our local town didn't do that. I am sorry Mr. Mchaffey had to endure that trauma on top of losing his beloved wife.

  • OJF64 Sandy, UT
    Jan. 4, 2013 10:37 p.m.

    This is outrages, I hope he takes the city to the cleaners.This is not what this country is about. This shows just how out of control police can be.

  • joseywales Park City, UT
    Jan. 4, 2013 5:40 p.m.

    Wait. So, after I DON'T use all the pills my doc puts me on for pain, the cops can just come in and take them? So, if they see me going back to work not using crutches, they'll assume I'm healed and want to come get my meds? I have some hardcore pain meds and I'm well aware of the street value. However, I PAID for these meds and may want them around for an emergency. Sure, you could say that maybe I want them to get high or whatever, but so what? Even that is still MY business! I have no issues with drugs, I'm just saying that it should be my decision as an adult to keep what I've paid for.

  • 1conservative WEST VALLEY CITY, UT
    Jan. 4, 2013 5:30 p.m.

    On behalf of ALL rational tax-paying citizens of the State of Utah I would like to apologize and offer my condolances to Mr. Mahaffey.

    He's obviously been victimized by BOTH the initial (and probably illegal)search but also by the city goofballs he pays taxes to support.

    On a lawsuit/judgment of this size, the city residents may very well wind up suffering also after THEY (through their taxes)get through paying off the lawsuit.

    NO ONE is going to make up something like this.

    Too bad the judgment doesn't come DIRECTLY out of the cops' pockets!

  • GreatScot Eagle Mountain, UT
    Jan. 4, 2013 5:19 p.m.

    Heads need to roll on this one.

  • Johnny Moser Thayne, WY
    Jan. 4, 2013 4:54 p.m.

    The city should be mighty glad I am not going to be on that jury. It has been awhile since we have heard about multi-million dollar settlements, but this one should end up in that story list in the future.
    I would award many, many millions to this man for this.
    Heads should roll in every organization even remotely involved with this incident. City Council should proactively take action with in every city organization to clear up ANY possible concept that would suggest this kind of action is acceptable behavior. They should hire a training firm to prepare extensive training for all personnel to ensure this kind of thing never happens again.

  • kargirl Sacramento, CA
    Jan. 4, 2013 4:46 p.m.

    Seems as though this gentleman was possibly known by many in town, and some of the folks knew his wife was ill. I had colon cancer, and it's not a cakewalk, so no doubt she had a bad time of it, and my heart goes out to her husband at this time. She must have been quite a lady. These cops no doubt also knew she took meds...did they want them for themselves? They should be so ashamed of themselves, they should hang their heads and be assigned the dirtiest jobs in the place! And if they want to really make amends, do some volunteer work.

    Jan. 4, 2013 4:31 p.m.

    When hospice helped one of my family members, they came to the house 10 minutes later. We took all her medications and they put them into a bag with chemicals called a cake mix. It destroys the drugs and makes them safe to dispose.

    Shame on Vernal.

  • midvale guy MIDVALE, UT
    Jan. 4, 2013 4:29 p.m.

    The police in this town obviously have nothing better to do. They have to take anything that will justify their jobs. Someone can even die in peace. I am sure there is a good drug problem in Vernal Utah like there is in most small towns in Utah. It's just plain ridiculous if they get away with violating people's rights. I applaud this gentleman standing up to this violation. It would be nice to see if there are any overriding facts that would give the police reasonable cause to behave in such an unprofessional and it illegal manner.

  • thebig1 SLC, UT
    Jan. 4, 2013 4:22 p.m.

    vernal + govt officials = this

  • onlyforbrian brussels, ontario
    Jan. 4, 2013 4:21 p.m.

    I'm sure glad I live in Canada... The news storys every day like this one , and even the reality TV shows such as "Cops" and "48 hours" seem to point out that the U.S. is more and more becoming an authoritarian police state, with total disregard for the general public. Just last night I saw an episode of "cops" where an individual during a routine traffic stop, who was complying to everything they told him told him to do, was tazed for asking twice why he was stopped. They accused him of being "argumentive".. total crap!! Now we have this nonsense where these Veral cops feared an 80 year old man might become a drug trafficer.

  • Utah Girl Vernal, UT
    Jan. 4, 2013 4:08 p.m.

    This sounds very believable to me. We live in Vernal, and are aware of the arrogance of some of the officers here. Not all...some are very public service oriented. But there are many who are very full of their own self-importance.

  • OlderGreg USA, CA
    Jan. 4, 2013 3:42 p.m.

    Ya know -- a hospice service/ dying at home is in our plans.

    Now I know there will have to be a very detailed in-depth discussion with the hospice regarding respecting final moments and handling of any drug issues. (I am assuming that the hospice *is* the originator of contact to the outsiders)

    This incident as described, is totally unacceptable.

  • RepresentBlue West Jordan, UT
    Jan. 4, 2013 3:31 p.m.

    If Feinstein's Assault Weapon Ban legislation is passed we will be seeing this exact same thing playing out everyday when a gun owner passes away and the ATF comes to confiscate his/her "grandfathered" firearms. Welcome to the New America.

  • davidowright Highland, UT
    Jan. 4, 2013 3:26 p.m.

    This is pretty upsetting. I am against illegal drug use. But those responsible for controlling illegal drugs should never engage in behavior that is abusive to private citizens--just because they have a little authority in a smaller town where there is no one to check their behavior. We are getting one side of the story but if the account is accurate, the authorities in Vernal need a serious reality check about respecting people's rights.

  • itsjustme Vernal, UT
    Jan. 4, 2013 3:22 p.m.

    You just have to know our little police department here. They take a lot of time to do vehicle code enforcement (too loud, tires too wide, too-dark tinted windows, etc...) because not much else goes on in the city. When something major happens, the whole department shows up.

    I've known Ben since he and his wife moved here. He is a soft-spoken, avid outdoors man that I would venture is telling the truth. He has no reason to do otherwise.

    Yes, the story sounds one-sided, but it sounds plausible to me.

  • Ballplayer Spanish Fork, UT
    Jan. 4, 2013 2:03 p.m.

    The story is pretty one sided. I know they said the city wouldn't make a comment because they hadn't see the complaint yet, but that's hardly covering both sides. Since the event happened in May, what harm would have been done had they waited and got more information on both sides. It clearly sounds like a violation of the elderly gentleman's rights, but again, we've only heard his side.

  • lket Bluffdale, UT
    Jan. 4, 2013 1:20 p.m.

    it is drug war which is against people and always has been. it is a issue of control by the most consevative people in our country to make you think and act like they do. the same people want more guns on the street. they peotected no one when they did this. someones house could have been robbed when they where there. a murder could have happened.
    we wont let sex education be in school but children are molested all the time. why dont they bust down doors for child porn, or gang rape. or violence on the streets. mexico supplies us with drugs our gun companies sell then automatic rifles. paranoina rules our counntry.

  • Cinci Man FT MITCHELL, KY
    Jan. 4, 2013 11:50 a.m.

    A few years ago, a brother committed suicide by hanging himself inside my parents' tool shed. When my parents discovered him, they called 911. For the next two hours 9 police officers grilled my parents with the same questions, trying to trip them up, and they were told that they were under investigation for murder. For heaven's sake, they had just discovered their son dead. He weighed over 200 pounds and they thought it was logical that my 76 year old grandfather could carry him up a ladder and hang him. There was no probable cause. There was no evidence. There was no history. This was just standard procedure. They wouldn't even allow them near his body to spend any time grieving or caressing his arm or face. They couldn't tell him they loved him. That would have to wait. These officers could be put to better use at the airport frisking old ladies and babies and cripples. And there is not more to this story.

  • Brave Sir Robin San Diego, CA
    Jan. 4, 2013 10:57 a.m.

    Beware of news articles (like this one) that only tell one side of the story. There's more going on here than meets the eye.

  • Californian Santa Ana, CA
    Jan. 4, 2013 10:04 a.m.

    In my experience in California, when hospice is involved in a death and when there are strong medications like morphine, they make a short term appointment to secure and destroy the drugs. We had to crush all the pills and poured all the liquid morphine (street value $5000) into a diaper to render them useless. This was done with a hospice person, me and a neighbor to witness. But it wasn't done while we were in the process of removing my husband's remains.
    There is purpose for doing this, but after midnight when the death was not suspicious nor were the individuals involved is pretty awful.

  • NT SomewhereIn, UT
    Jan. 4, 2013 9:36 a.m.

    If true, sounds like some butts in Vernal need to be kicked...to the curb

  • MrsH Altamont, UT
    Jan. 4, 2013 9:37 a.m.

    The crime rate must be really low in Vernal if they have the time and manpower to respond to "dangerous" incidents like this one.

  • Red Salt Lake City, UT
    Jan. 4, 2013 9:33 a.m.

    Where is the common sense Police?

    Give a man a little authority and he thinks he can bully people.

  • Euroskeptic Salt Lake City, UT
    Jan. 4, 2013 8:44 a.m.

    One of the things I would press for in discovery is whether the drugs taken from the home were actually disposed of. This warrantless entry seems rife with abuse and fraud - and the officers who took the drugs must show that each and every pill taken was accounted for and destroyed.

    This kind of intrusion and abuse of privacy seems more and more common.

  • Shimlau SAINT GEORGE, UT
    Jan. 4, 2013 8:45 a.m.


  • raybies Layton, UT
    Jan. 4, 2013 8:02 a.m.

    I applaud Mr. Mahaffey for his willingness to hold the police accountable. This is outrageous behavior by the cops. It's not like people are dying left and right, and this is the sole means by which prescription drugs get sold illegally. That they were searching his home while the body is still there in the home, is absolutely outrageous, and his personal history clearly suggests he viewed drugs as purely medicinal in nature. They should nail someone to the wall for this one--it sound like the police in vernal need to learn that one is presumed innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around.

    Give us a break and let the guy grieve the passing of his wife.

  • zippa dee doo utah SANDY, UT
    Jan. 4, 2013 7:42 a.m.

    Thanks Dennis for the information. It seems that local, state and fed police can do no wrong and are not accountable for bad behavior under the name of pubic safety.

  • DaveRL OGDEN, UT
    Jan. 4, 2013 6:39 a.m.

    Sadly a sign of the times, inexcusable behavior by police/government.

  • Wow, that was awful Salt Lake City, UT
    Jan. 3, 2013 9:46 p.m.

    If this happened as the story portrays, then people should lose their jobs.
    No way that anything like this is acceptable.

    I hope their is a major punitive damage awarded that makes the city reconsider their ways.

  • cjb Bountiful, UT
    Jan. 3, 2013 7:58 p.m.

    This story seems like some fiction writer is trying to paint a dark picture how things will be in the United States .. at some future time, but it isn't, it's the now reality, ... even the city manager showed no regard for what happened.

    The poor guy's wife dies, and very shortly after this police come busting in insisting to get the dead wife's percription drugs. How did they know she just died? Since when do police bully themselves into people's homes just after a family member dies to collect the percription drugs the person was using? Since when don't police need a warrant i.e. probable cause to believe those drugs would have been sold or used illegally before they come busting in?

    People, shouldn't be treated this way.