Incarcerated Utah Teen Charged with Witness Tampering

A teen who was arrested for aiding and filming his friend’s suicide is being charged with witness tampering while incarcerated.

Criminal actions while incarcerated

Photo by: Atomic Winter

19 year old Tyerell Przybycien was arrested for murder and desecration of a human body after he helped his friend commit suicide in May of 2017. While in prison awaiting his trial for those charges, Przybycien wrote a letter to a friend asking them and others not to talk to authorities regarding his case. Authorities intercepted the letters, adding tampering with a witness to Przybycien’s charges.

Witness tampering

The friends mentioned in Przybycien’s letter were all individuals who had already been questioned and who may be called to testify in his December trial. Utah Code 76-8-508 states “A person is guilty of the third degree felony of [witness tampering] if, believing that an official proceeding or investigation is pending or about to be instituted, or with the intent to prevent an official proceeding or investigation, he attempts to induce or otherwise cause another person to:

(a) testify or inform falsely;
(b) withhold any testimony, information, document, or item;
(c) elude legal process summoning him to provide evidence; or
(d) absent himself from any proceeding or investigation to which he has been summoned.”

Not included in the 5th Amendment

In the letter to friends, Przybycien urged them to use their 5th amendment rights to remain silent. While this constitutional protection can help an individual to avoid self-incrimination, it is not used to quiet information that can incriminate another. It is possible that Przybycien did not fully understand this 5th amendment right, however failure to fully research the protections under this amendment will not protect him from facing criminal charges for witness tampering. His trial is set for December 5th.

Criminal Charges For Lying to Police for a Friend

Many teens will do anything to protect their friends, but lying to police could result in obstruction of justice charges.

Lying to police

Photo by: Carmella Fernando

Talking to police officers can be intimidating to teens and they often feel they need to respond to every question asked. Unfortunately, many juveniles also want to protect their friends and may give dishonest responses to police questioning. They may lie to officers about a friend’s involvement in a crime to protect their friend from legal trouble or to protect themselves from backlash from peers for being a “snitch”. Unknown to many youngsters however, lying to an officer even if the person being questioned is not a suspect in the crime is still against the law.

Obstruction of justice

There are many ways teens may lie or otherwise display dishonest behavior in order to protect a peer. They may flat out lie in response to police questioning or they may throw items away for a friend or even supply transportation or a place to hide. If a person tampers with evidence, helps someone evade the law, or otherwise meddles with a criminal investigation, as stated in Utah Code 76-8-306, they could face obstruction of justice charges. Penalties for obstruction of justice vary from a class A misdemeanor to a second degree felony depending on the crime a person is trying to help their friend avoid.

Prepare for questioning

Photo by: Ethan Lofton

Police officers are allowed to communicate with the public freely, asking questions about investigations or simply shooting the breeze. When this happens, teens shouldn’t feel trapped into answering questions that could incriminate themselves or another person. Preparing for possible inquiries from law enforcement may help teens avoid saying too much or saying things that aren’t true which could lead to legal trouble. Teens should always state their identity if asked by an officer but any further questions do not require answers without legal representation present. The person being questioned can politely ask in response to questioning:

• “Am I being arrested or detained?” ; and

• If the answer is ‘no’, they may then ask “Am I free to go?”

If they are required by an officer to stay and answer questions, ensure all teens know of their right to ask for an attorney and to exercise that right prior to answering any further questions. For more information related to crimes involving minor children and teens, contact a juvenile defense attorney.

Sleep Deprived Teens Could Face Reckless Driving Charges

It is common for many teens to become sleep deprived between school, extracurricular activities, employment, and trying to fit friends and entertainment in as well. Unfortunately, burning the candle at both ends could result in tired teens driving dangerously and facing reckless driving charges because of it.

Drowsy driving

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that “…being sleepy affects your ability to drive safely even if you don’t fall asleep. Drowsiness –
• Makes drivers less able to pay attention to the road.
• Slows reaction time if you have to brake or steer suddenly.
• Affects a driver’s ability to make good decisions.”
According to the New York Department of Health, “Teens and young adults are at a high risk for drowsy driving because they have less driving experience and may not recognize the consequences of driving while tired.”

Consequences of driving tired

Teens who drive when they are sleep deprived could literally be putting other people in danger, much like driving intoxicated. The NYDH states that “driving while tired is comparable to driving with a blood alcohol content of .08, the legal limit of intoxication.” With that in mind, could driving drowsy be considered reckless driving? According to Utah Code 51-6a-528, “A person is guilty of reckless driving who operates a vehicle: (a) in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property”. Getting behind the wheel tired is a choice – a choice that could be disregarding the safety of others on the road. Teens should understand that just because they can somehow roll out of bed and mildly function after a short night of sleep doesn’t mean they should. For more information on charges related to drowsy driving, speak with a reputable attorney.

Late Summer Nights and Drowsy Teenage Drivers

Drowsy Teenage Drivers
Photo by: r. nial bradshaw

During the summer, many teens choose to stay up late every night and may even pull all-nighters often which unfortunately increase the amount of drowsy teenage drivers on the road the next day.

Drowsy teenage drivers

The summer had just barely started when an 18 year old in Provo, Utah made the mistake of driving tired. The teen dozed off, left the road, and hit a parked car as well as three pedestrians on the sidewalk. One six year old girl was killed while her five year old cousin and 64 year old grandfather were both hospitalized.

Lifetime of guilt

Photo by: Hartwig HKD

The family of the little girl killed has chosen not to press charges on the 18 year old driver and no criminal charges from the state have been issued thus far. The teen is not off the hook though. He will likely face a lifetime of guilt for his role in the tragic accident. In an act of compassion on his future struggles, the family of the six year old killed asked the public to be kind and loving to the driver as they knew he would be facing his own trials in the months and years to pass.

Public safety

Photo by: Garrett

The Utah Department of Public Safety has listed the following facts about drowsy driving:

• “Drivers aged 15-24 years and 75-79 had the highest percent of drivers in crashes that were drowsy.

• Male drivers were 1.9 times more likely to be in drowsy driver crashes.

• The highest number of drowsy driver crashes occurred during the hours of 6:00 a.m. – 7:59 a.m., and 2:00 p.m – 5:59 p.m.

• June through August had the most drowsy driving crashes.

• Grand and Millard Counties had the highest percent of crashes involving drowsy drivers.

• Crashes in rural counties in Utah were 2.3 times more likely to involve drowsy driving than crashes in urban counties.”

Beware the signs

Photo by: Becka Spence

In an effort to help prevent drowsy driving, DPS also gives warning signs to watch for:

• “Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking or heavy eyelids;
• Daydreaming or wandering thoughts;
• Trouble remembering the last few miles driven;
• Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes;
• Trouble keeping your head up;
• Drifting from your lane, tailgating, or hitting a shoulder rumble strip;
• Feeling restless and irritable.”

Parents should encourage their teenage drivers to get adequate shut-eye during the summer when sleep seems to be scarce. For teenagers who are not getting enough sleep, perhaps limiting driving privileges and encouraging carpooling with well rested teens may help prevent a number of drowsy teenage drivers on the road this summer.