Garn DUI arrest and other secrets of SLC Justice Court | Buzz Blog
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Garn DUI arrest and other secrets of SLC Justice Court



First, we didn't find out about his naked hot tubbing with a 15 year old until 25 years after the incident. News today is that Kevin Garn was also convicted of a DUI-like (alcohol-related reckless) charge in 2006--while in office, no less--and no one knew! Some might wonder what other skeletons are drinking, driving, disrobing and hot tubbing in Garn's closet, but I'm wondering more about what other skeletons are contained in the tombs of the Salt Lake City Justice Court.---

(please note this post has been updated--see the bottom)

Salt Lake City Justice Court is a memory hole, meaning what happens in SLC often stays in SLC--at least that was the case for Kevin Garn. In short, that's because that court's records are not made available to the media/public in electronic/searchable format along with all the other court records in the state.

Here's some background:

  • In Utah, we've got two main kinds of courts: District and Justice. District Court is where felons are put on trial. Justice Court is where the piddly misdemeanors are handled. DUIs are pretty much the most serious thing the justice courts handle, but they also do stuff with domestic violence, so it's not all tickets for smoking a cigarette in a park or getting caught hooking up in the park.
  • In Utah, we also have a computer database named XChange that is primarily used by attorneys and the media to look for new cases and lookup upcoming court hearings. Because you can search by name, most subscribers also do rudimentary background checks on their kids' new boy/girlfriends the same way the media vet candidates for public office.
  • Since it only searches (most) Utah criminal records--not other states--it's not a thorough background check, but the price is right: only $30/month for unlimited use. Most background checks cost more than that for just one name.
All of the district courts upload their information to XChange, and many Justice Courts do as well....Dum dum dum...(wait for it)...but not Salt Lake City Justice Court!

That's how Garn's DUI arrest and eventual conviction of alcohol related reckless driving only came to the media's attention today. Had he been charged in literally dozens of other towns, this conviction of Garn's would show up where the media would find it like piranhas to a drop of blood.

But because Garn drank-and-drove in Utah's largest, most metropolitan city, his court record slipped through the jaws of all those info-hungry news media folk.

Why, you ask, is Utah's largest, most metropolitan city such a memory hole for criminal charges while even Monticello, pop. ~2,000, has gotten a handle on this Internet thing? That's a great question.

I called but didn't reach anyone at the Salt Lake City Prosecutor's office to ask them. I likewise called the courts, but was not able to speak immediately their spokesperson. I'll call on both of them tomorrow when I hope to have an answer.

In the meantime, don't you wonder what other crimes are hidden in those records?

caveat: there are old records from Salt Lake City court that appear in XChange, but it's terribly inconsistent. I can tell you for sure that this ARR conviction on Garn is not showing up. I might otherwise theorize that Garn had tried to get his record expunged and it didn't quite work, but there aren't any records related to a recent story I wrote where the defendant was charged in Salt Lake City Justice Court and didn't have the opportunity yet to even apply for expungement.

Update 6:47 p.m. 3/22/2010: AND THERE IT IS. Salt Lake City has its own case lookup service that's free and completely separate from XChange. Garn's case is in that city database for anyone to find, including the media, Garn's constituents, anyone. So why didn't any of us find it? At least one award-winning, veteran political reporter says this Salt Lake City database is news to him. I'll admit, it's news to me, too. Well, now we know. And you can bet I'm going to be searching a few names tonight.