Under Utah law, a driver of a vehicle can be pulled over and cited for reckless driving — but they cannot be arrested for it.
That distinction made a big different in the case of BYU linebacker Chaz Ah You.
Utah County Attorney David Leavitt explained during a press conference Wednesday morning that when Ah You was pulled over on Feb. 9, the officer involved improperly placed Ah You under arrest.
“The police on the street are doing their very best to ensure our safety,” Leavitt said. “They arrest or cite an individual, fill out a report and send it to our office. We trust our law enforcement but to say that anyone is right on every occasion would be foolish. Chaz Ah You was arrested for reckless driving. Reckless driving is not an arrestable offense in the state of Utah. It is a citable offense.”
The inventory search that discovered two containers of alcohol, one partially full and one empty, as well as a THC vape pen in Ah You’s vehicle became suppressible evidence because Ah You should not have been arrested in the first place.
The sobriety tests that were administered after the arrest at the Utah County Jail should also not have taken place.
“When you are stopped and the search becomes inventory to that arrest, if there is no basis to search the vehicle, then there is no basis to charge because that is suppressible evidence,” Leavitt said. “Field sobriety tests are critical in determining whether to prosecute for DUI. But the field sobriety tests were performed as the result of an arrest that was for a citation that was a non-arrestable citation.”
He added that things like smelling alcohol or marijuana would have then made the search evidence admissible because the officer would’ve had specific probable cause to search the vehicle.
He also emphasized that there was not sufficient evidence to file charges of reckless driving, unsafe lane travel and speeding against Ah You.
“On a speeding charge, you have to have evidence that will prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were speeding,” Leavitt said. “There is no evidence that is provable in court that Ah You was speeding. Chaz Ah You was followed for almost seven miles before he was stopped and I’ll simply say there was no evidence of reckless driving.”
He wanted it to be clear that the Utah County Attorney’s Office goes through a screening process after every arrest to determine if charges should be filed and that although it is “uncommon” to have all recommendations on charges be dropped, it does happen.
“We protect our communities in two ways: First, we protect our communities by prosecuting people who are a danger to us but we also we protect our communities by not prosecuting people when there is no evidence of a crime,” Leavitt said. “Chaz Ah You was stopped and arrested for various crimes but there is no evidence to support those crimes. Because of that, my office declined to prosecute the case.”
Ah You’s status as a public figure — a BYU football player, in this case — did not result in either additional harshness or leniency in how Leavitt’s office treated the case.
“Whether you are a bricklayer from Salem or a football player at BYU, you get the same treatment,” Leavitt said. “People will say that he got off because he was a BYU football player. That’s just not the case. We looked at the facts and the decision was intended to protect us all.”
As of Wednesday, BYU had not made any additional statements on Ah You status with the football team. Cougar head coach Kalani Sitake said at the start of spring camp that Ah You would be with the team but would not participate in the practices in March.
Ah You played at BYU in the 2017 and 2019 seasons, with 40 tackles, one sack, one interception, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and three pass breakups in his career.
Before joining the Cougars, Ah You played at Timpview and Westlake high schools.