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7/24/2007
Utah: Former Highway Patrol Officer Caught Robbing Motorists
Former Utah highway patrolman uses old uniform and badge to rob motorists. Failure to stop for unmarked police vehicles can bring a $1000 fine.

Christopher Mark TophamChristopher Mark Topham, wearing his Utah Highway Patrol jacket, badge and gun, pulled over speeding motorists on Interstate 70 in Sevier County. He reportedly asked each motorist to hand over wallet and registration so that he could collect the "fine" on the spot. There was only one problem -- Topham retired from the highway patrol in 2003.

On Monday, the respected twelve-year veteran of the force faced felony robbery charges for allegedly robbing motorists between May 23 and June 30 and stealing as much as $9000 from a single traffic stop. Bail was set at $304,070.

Because Utah uses unmarked cars to trap motorists, drivers have no means of protecting themselves from impersonators.

"Do I have to stop for an unmarked car displaying red or red and blue lights?" the Utah Highway Patrol website asks. "Yes. Utah law (Title 41-6a-210 UCA) requires that you stop for a vehicle displaying emergency lights or sounding a siren. If you think the vehicle might be someone impersonating a police officer, you should lock your doors, roll up your windows, and drive to a well-lighted area where other people are present before stopping. If the person is out of uniform insist on seeing his badge and identification card. If, after seeing these credentials, you still feel something isn't right, insist that a marked patrol car come to the scene. Remain in your locked vehicle until a uniformed officer arrives."

The alleged robber in this case had both a uniform and a badge. Around the country, the proliferation of unmarked cars has sparked numerous robberies and assaults, many of which remain unsolved.

Article Excerpt:
Utah Code 41-6a-210. Failure to respond to officer's signal to stop
(1) (a) An operator who receives a visual or audible signal from a peace officer to bring the vehicle to a stop may not:
(i) operate the vehicle in willful or wanton disregard of the signal so as to interfere with or endanger the operation of any vehicle or person; or
(ii) attempt to flee or elude a peace officer by vehicle or other means.
(b) (i) A person who violates Subsection (1)(a) is guilty of a felony of the third degree.
(ii) The court shall, as part of any sentence under this Subsection (1), impose a fine of not less than $1,000.
Source: Ex-UHP trooper charged with robbing motorists (Salt Lake Tribune (UT), 7/24/2007)



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