Mother seeks changes to state law after daughter badly injured in suspected DUI crash
May 1, 2022, 3:33 PM | Updated: Jun 7, 2022, 4:38 pm
DRAPER, Utah — After a crash in which her ex-husband was suspected of driving under the influence and her daughter was left with a traumatic brain injury, a mother said this week that she was seeking potential changes to state law surrounding what rights a parent has while a criminal case is making its way through the justice system.
Karlene Lindberg said the fact that her ex was still allowed to drive and also was allowed supervised visits with 9-year-old Lily was “extremely disturbing.”
On Mar. 2, police said Lily’s father, Jacob Virga, was driving near 13320 South Fort St. when he crashed into a tree.
According to court records, Virga had a blood alcohol level of 0.19 — nearly four times the legal limit.
He also had benzodiazepine Alprazolam (Xanax) and opiate Tramadol in his system.
“It is not an accident,” Lindberg said. “It is a tragedy. It is negligence.”
Virga was charged with nine different felonies, misdemeanors, and infractions, including two 3rd-degree felonies of driving under the influence and child abuse.
Lindberg said she wasn’t sure what was possible in terms of changing the law to further restrict parental visits and driving privileges in cases such as these, but she said she had already spoken to at least one lawmaker who was interested in the topic and she was working on setting up meetings with that legislator and others in the coming weeks.
Greg Skordas said changing the current laws may prove to be a challenge.
Skordas is a criminal defense attorney and legal analyst that’s not connected to this case.
“We’re really reluctant in our country and especially our state to take someone’s child away from them, no matter what they’ve done,” Skordas said. “We can also watch individuals when they’re charged with DUI, and monitor their alcohol and substance abuse through drug testing.”
According to court records, Virga has been required to wear a monitoring device under the Electronic SCRAM Continuous Alcohol Monitoring Program.
Lindberg said that her ex was allowed visitation under the supervision of a couple of approved relatives but expressed concerns about the possibility that he could find a way around the restrictions required under current laws.
Lily suffered a traumatic brain injury, subdural hemorrhage, skull fracture and other injuries and was in the hospital for roughly seven weeks.
Her mother said she had made significant improvements despite occasional setbacks.
“Do my kids need a relationship with their father? Absolutely, but they need a healthy father,” Lindberg said. “He should not have a right to those children while he’s sick.”
Virga was next scheduled to be in court on May 27.