A recent transplant to Park County is being accused of driving under the influence of controlled substances twice in the same week.
Lauren Davis, 31, who had just started working at a Cody daycare, was arrested for a second DUI on Dec. 16, just three days after being cited for the same crime, when she allegedly crossed into an oncoming lane of travel and struck another vehicle in Powell. She is facing charges for aggravated assault and battery with a deadly weapon and failure to perform duty upon colliding with a vehicle or property for allegedly performing a hit and run on a Canyon Avenue light pole in Cody.
“These are very serious crimes carrying a significant amount of prison time,” Park County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jack Hatfield said.
On Dec. 13, the Park County Sheriff’s Office received a REDDI report of a possibly intoxicated driver unable to maintain their lane of travel while heading eastbound on the Powell Highway in a dark colored SUV with front end damage and a headlight out.
Powell Police Officer David Salters stationed himself in the Shopko parking lot to look for the vehicle and about one minute later said he heard a loud crash.
Salters immediately pulled onto Coulter Avenue and saw that a severe traffic accident had occurred between two vehicles. The first of these vehicles he identified as a black Ford Explorer with out-of-state license plates, matching the description of the vehicle from the REDDI report. A woman, later identified as Davis, was slumped over the vehicle’s steering wheel with airbags deployed.
According to the affidavit the driver’s side window was shattered and the door could not be opened. Davis could not speak “but was only making moaning sounds as if she was in pain,” Salters wrote in the affidavit, adding during her Dec. 23 preliminary hearing that he couldn’t tell if Davis was injured or under the influence of controlled substances.
The eastbound road was closed and emergency crews were called in to assist Davis.
Salters next spoke to Tony and Sandy Simek, who made up the other party in the motor vehicle accident. The couple said as they were driving their 2021 Chevy Suburban westbound on Coulter, they suddenly saw headlights coming directly towards them. There were no other eyewitnesses to the accident.
Salters confirmed the point of impact had occurred in the westbound lane and there were no other identified hazards such as a deer or a pedestrian that would have caused Davis to leave the eastbound lane.
The Simeks initially only reported minor injuries from the accident but later on Sandy Simek reported significant bruising to her chest and stomach.
Hatfield said the Simeks will likely be called on as witnesses when the case is heard in Park County District Court.
The medics were able to remove Davis from her vehicle and she was taken to Powell Valley Hospital.
Salters proceeded to inspect Davis’ vehicle and found Gabapentin and an empty bottle of Klonopin she had been prescribed inside her purse. He also found a Missouri driver’s license with a photo ID matching her physical appearance and several Suboxone strips scattered throughout the vehicle.
Suboxone is a medication taken to treat narcotic addiction. According to the Legal Action Center, Suboxone is only illegal to take while driving if it can be proven that it impaired one’s ability to operate their vehicle. Salters said it can create a “mimicking response” to that of narcotics, but the side effects of Suboxone lack the same cravings and sense of euphoria caused by traditional opioids, according to the Harvard Medical School.
Gabapentin is a nerve medication that can cause impairment and drowsiness and Klonopin is a treatment for panic disorders and certain seizure disorders.
“Due to the ‘REDDI’ report of a possible intoxicated driver failing to maintain lanes, two separate nerve medications, and the opened Suboxone strips, I believe that it was probable that the driver, Lauren Davis, was intoxicated from the overuse or abuse of these narcotics,” Salters wrote.
The officer obtained a search warrant to take a blood sample from Davis. She was still incapable of talking with Salters 1-2 hours after the accident, he said. Salters said Davis had a “possible crushed vertebrae” but was still discharged from the hospital.
When interviewed the next day, Davis said she had no recollection of the accident and was on her way home from True North Academy, a day care facility she had just started working at that week, en route to pick up her children from their preschool.
Davis said she blacked out about a half mile from where the impact occurred. When she came to, she was being pulled out of her vehicle by emergency responders. She said she had only taken her prescribed amount of medication and “was not abusing them.”
During their investigation, Powell officers learned about a hit and run accident that occurred earlier that day in Cody, involving a dark colored Ford Explorer with Missouri license plates knocking down a light pole near the intersection of Canyon and Eighth Street and driving away. A witness was able to take a photo of this vehicle and its license plate as it was driving away. Davis denied any involvement, but Missouri law enforcement staff confirmed this vehicle was registered to her.
A criminal background search found she had been convicted for another DUI in 2012. She was also charged for driving under the influence of controlled substances with a minor in her vehicle on Sept. 19 in Missouri.
Three days after the first DUI, around 8 a.m. on Dec. 16, a REDDI report was filed on a 2018 white Ford pickup truck with Missouri license plates driving all over the road on Big Horn Avenue in Cody. The vehicle was eventually located in the 1600 block of Stampede Avenue, parked at a slight angle with the front of the vehicle closer to the curb than the rear of the truck.
Davis was identified as the driver of the truck and said since she was a diabetic she may be suffering low blood sugar, so an ambulance was called on scene. Cody Regional Health staff found her blood sugar to be “perfect” and was not suffering from any other ailments.
“It was then I began to suspect she was under the influence of a controlled substance,” Cody Police Officer Seth Horn said during her preliminary hearing.
Horn said he found her speech “slow and slightly slurred” and described her movements as “slow and uncoordinated.” Davis claimed she had been looking at her GPS when traveling on Big Horn, which she used as an excuse for drifting into the continual turn lane and opposing lane of traffic. She said she took her prescribed medication the previous night and that morning.
Horn said Davis was unusually deliberate when reciting the alphabet and performing counting exercises. Powell Police Officer Matt Koritnik, a certified Drug Recognition Expert, believed that Davis was exhibiting physical maneuvers that proved she was incapable of operating a vehicle, and later determined she was under the influence of Suboxone. During the investigation Davis became increasingly more affected by the medication to where she was barely able to keep her eyes open and her speech became almost unintelligible.
While on route to the CRH emergency room for a blood draw, Davis nearly passed out in Horn’s patrol car and later passed out while at the hospital.
On the way back to the Park County Detention Center, Horn said Davis passed out again and nearly passed out while being checked into custody at the jail.
“She is a menace,” Hatfield said. “She is a danger. She is going to kill (herself) or somebody else if she is allowed to get out (of jail).”
No. 3 or 4?
There was a lengthy debate during Davis’ preliminary hearing on Dec. 23 about whether the second of the Park County DUIs should count as her third or fourth DUI charge in 10 years. Davis has not been convicted yet for the DUI she received in Missouri in September.
Horn said he also received an email from Davis’ ex-husband claiming that she was in three car accidents the past year in addition to being cited for a DUI in Missouri, an incident also involving a minor crash, the husband said. No further evidence was provided by the prosecution regarding this claim.
“How many times have you used an email from an ex-husband to try and make a determination?” Travis Smith, Davis’ public defender attorney asked Horn, to which he responded he never has.
A third and fourth DUI carry substantially different penalties in Wyoming, with only a fourth reaching the level of a felony offense. A third DUI only carries a maximum jail sentence of six months in jail, while a fourth DUI can land a guilty party in jail for up to two years. Fines for a third DUI can only reach $3,000, while a fourth can draw a $10,000 fee. Lastly, a fourth DUI conviction requires an interlock device be used for life, while a third DUI does not.
Hatfield argued during Davis’ preliminary hearing that it is not the job of Circuit Court to make a sentencing decision on the charge, but rather to decide whether there is enough evidence to render a charge.
Park County Circuit Court Judge Joey Darrah took 27 minutes to study the legal elements of this decision and then ruled that since Davis has no other DUI convictions on her record aside from the 2012 charge, both of these most recent DUIs will count as misdemeanor offenses.
“My job is not to determine whether jurisdiction exists, my job is to determine whether there is probable cause a felony has occurred,” Darrah said.
Smith asked that Davis’ $50,000 cash only bond be lowered to a $10,000 cash/surety bond but Darrah only moved slightly on the request, reducing her bond to $35,000 cash only. In the event she is able to post bond, Davis is not allowed to drive or leave Park County and must undergo random drug testing.
“I do view vou as a danger and admonish you if you are able to get out on bond … I don’t want you to have the risk of hurting your own children or teaching preschool at a new job,” Darrah said. “What is alleged here poses a very serious issue of public safety.”