OREM — Organizers of a weekend dance party in Spanish Fork Canyon say a police raid that yielded drug arrests was not legally justifiable because they had the necessary permit to hold the outside event.
Brandon Fullmer, manager of Uprok Records, the party promoter, said he obtained a permit from the Utah County Health Department — but said he didn't need to obtain a county permit because he wasn't going to have more than 250 people in the area for more than 12 hours.
Utah County code outlines that "no person shall sell tickets to an actual or reasonably anticipated assembly of 250 or more people which continues or can reasonably be expected to continue for 12 or more consecutive hours, whether on public or private property unless a license to hold the assembly has first been issued by the County Commissioners."
Even though there were more than 250 people at the party, Fullmer says, because his event was planned to run from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. — only 10 hours — no permit was needed. That 10 hours was the time frame for the concert itself, however, and did not include set-up or clean-up.
The party organizers provided portable bathrooms, water and emergency medical personnel — all in compliance with the health department requirements.
But late Saturday night, 90 county police officers, including members of the SWAT team — clad in SWAT gear — entered the police-described "rave" and told people to go home, confiscating drugs and guns in the process.
Undercover officers in the crowd reportedly had already noticed a significant amount of drug usage and had been approached about hand-to-hand drug buys.
Utah County Attorney Kay Bryson said he believes the drug activity reported by the undercover officers provided sufficient probable cause for other police officers to enter and break up the party without seeking a search warrant from a judge, even though the drug sales were not cited as the primary reason SWAT teams entered the area.
"Our intent in going there was to disperse the gathering," said Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Spencer Cannon in a recent interview. "We had resources inside who said that the numbers were beyond what they were allowed to have for the type of gathering."
But ordinance limitations weren't the only worry.
Bryson said the county's involvement with similar rave parties, including one with an estimated 3,000 people in a place called "Little Moab" on the west side of Utah Lake, had taught police to expect long, large dance parties.
"We know that these events go that long," Bryson said. "We know when they started (that) they go through the early morning hours, until 4, 5 in the morning. In our opinion, it is an indication that a person should reasonably expect that the event will go more than 12 hours, if nothing more than the fact that there are people camping."
While Fullmer denied that anyone was encouraged to camp at the Spanish Fork site, he said people were allowed to bring tents and sit in them during the concert, as long as they left when it was over.
Fullmer's attorney said he is still waiting for police reports from the county attorney's office before he can proceed with future legal action.
Trudy Childs, who owns the land where the party was held, said she is working with the same attorney and hopes that legal action will prevent police in the future from inflicting what she claims was police brutality.
She said she has been in contact with the county and knew about the county permit requirement but didn't see why Uprok organizers would need one for an event scheduled to last less than the 12-hour limit.
Had organizers obtained a permit, the problem might have been avoided, however. Once the permit was obtained, those partying could have stayed on the land as long as they wanted with as many people as they wanted, Bryson said.
"The bottom line is, it was an unlawful gathering, with a large number of people which they should have anticipated would go beyond the time mentioned in the ordinance," he said.