Billowing black exhaust can put police on your tailpipe

Friday , August 22, 2014 - 5:56 PM

Tim Gurrister

BRIGHAM CITY — It’s a charge you don’t see very often, so it catches your eye: “Vehicle emitting visible contaminants.”

Be careful what other secrets your exhaust might reveal.

A Brigham City man‘s tailpipes were spewing smoke black enough recently to draw the attention of law enforcement, which led to multiple substance abuse charges.

Police pulled Nathan Fisher over on Main Street here after he roared past officers out on a traffic stop at 200 S. Main, according to police reports. A Utah Highway Patrol trooper caught up to him two blocks later.

As the trooper was noticing various equipment violations, such as too much window tinting, inadequate mudflaps, plus no muffler, the officer noted the smell of marijuana coming from inside, according to the allegations against Fisher from the Aug. 12 stop.

A Brigham City patrolman joining the trooper noticed the same thing. They called for a K-9 unit and the dog “indicated for marijuana,” which was enough evidence for a search of the truck, UHP Lt. Lee Perry said.

Inside was an alleged bag of marijuana, less than an ounce, bringing a misdemeanor possession charge, the amount insufficient for a felony distribution count. A marijuana grinder meant a misdemeanor paraphernalia charge, plus a pack of cigarettes was another offense. Fisher is 18 and the legal age to purchase tobacco is 19, Perry noted.

Fisher’s case is now pending in the Box Elder County Justice Court, including the faulty equipment and emission charges.

Perry said that when his trooper pulled Fisher over, he recognized him from a prior incident in which he had warned him about his truck’s excessive black exhaust.

Perry said police don’t worry about drivers who simply don’t realize equipment wear has affected their tailpipe emissions; a warning usually solves the problem.

He said the visible contaminant charge is filed about 700 times a year statewide, so that’s two a day somewhere in Utah.

They worry more about the characters who intentionally modify their vehicle, particularly diesels, to achieve the black smoke effect.

“Who that is meant to impress is a good question,” Perry said.

“It’s noxious, unhealthy, and there’s a safety concern with visibility when it gets so thick it actually obstructs the vision of motorists.”

Culprits will modify engine fuel mixtures or exhaust systems to the point that tromping on the gas pedal creates the black smoke effect during rapid acceleration.

In Fisher’s case, Perry said he removed the muffler from his 2005 Dodge Ram. “That’s called a ’straight pipe,’ the exhaust coming right off the engine block.”

Perry, also a state legislator, R-Brigham City, is trying to get the visible contaminant offense upped from a class C misdemeanor to a class B second offense. It passed the House this year, but simply ran out of time in the Senate, he said, so he’s sure it will become law in the 2015 session.

Contact reporter Tim Gurrister at 801-625-4238, Follow him on Twitter at @tgurrister

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