Traffic stop in Santa Clara leads to felony arrest after K-9 sniffs out drugs

ST. GEORGE — A traffic stop for a minor vehicle infraction set in motion a series of events that led to the felony arrest of a driver when officers reportedly found a large amount of narcotics during a search of the vehicle.

2018 file photo for illustrative purposes only of Santa Clara-Ivins Police vehicle, location unspecified, July 11, 2018 | File photo courtesy of the Santa Clara-Ivins Police Department, St. George News

On Thursday an officer noticed a vehicle heading east on Santa Clara Drive shortly after midnight that did not have its license plate illuminated. The officer ran a license plate check that showed the registration was expired, The truck was then stopped by police, according to the probable cause statement filed in support of the arrest.

The driver, identified as 39-year-old James Ralph Shults, told the officer he had just purchased the car two months ago and the plates were still under the previous owner’s name, as he had not changed everything over yet. He also provided proof of insurance that expired in May.

It was then discovered that the driver had a suspended driver’s license and two active misdemeanor warrants.

A K-9 was deployed to conduct an exterior sniff around the vehicle, and the animal indicated to the possible presence of narcotics. The driver was detained and the car was searched.

Located in a backpack behind the center console of the pickup, officers reportedly recovered three separate bags containing a “large chunk of a black substance” the officer noted, which tested positive for heroin.

Due to the large amount and the nature of the packaging, the officer deduced the amount was “greater than the amount for a single person’s consumption.”

Officers found more of the black substance inside of a Krazy Glue container also located inside of the backpack, as well as a prescription bottle containing various pills of scheduled drugs that required a prescription.

In a second container labeled “Krazy Glue” officers found a white substance that tested positive for methamphetamine, as well as a glass container that contained a large chunk of a white substance which tested positive for cocaine. At that point the suspect was arrested and transported to Purgatory Correctional Facility and booked into jail, while the truck was impounded by police.

Seven hours later, court records reveal, an order of release was signed by District Judge John J. Walton, citing that probable cause to support the arrest without a warrant did not exist, and ordered that Shults be released immediately.

Later that same day, formal charges were filed against Shults that include second-degree felony possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, as well as multiple misdemeanor charges. He faces three counts of possession of a controlled substance and one count of possession of paraphernalia, as well as driving on a suspended license and two traffic infractions.

Washington County Attorney Eric Clark told St. George News that even though the suspect was ordered to be released, the submitted charges were filed by their office later that morning and the case is still intact.

Ed. Note: A new Utah law generally prohibits the release of arrest booking photos until after a conviction is obtained. 

This report is based on statements from court records, police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!