A Utah man died in a jail cell shortly after he was taken into custody for unpaid ambulance bills totaling nearly $2,400.
Rex Iverson, 45, died in a Box Elder County Jail in the afternoon of January 23, 2016 while jail staff were elsewhere in the facility preparing for the booking process, the sheriff’s office said in a press release reporting the in-custody death.
On Christmas Eve 2013, records show that Iverson incurred an ambulance bill in the City of Tremonton. When the bill went unpaid, the City won a justice court small claims judgment against Iverson in September 2014 compelling him to pay the city $2,376.92.
The balance continue to be paid, and subsequently led to a county sheriff’s deputy serving a bench warrant for his arrest on January 23.
“We go to great lengths to never arrest anybody on these warrants,” Box Elder County Chief Deputy Sheriff Dale Ward said. “But we make every effort to resolve the issues without making an arrest on a civil bench warrant. The reason we do that is we don’t want to run a debtors’ prison. There is no reason for someone to be rotting in jail on a bad debt.”
But the law mandates sheriff’s offices must serve bench warrants issued by the courts, Ward said. Civil warrants are lumped in with all other warrants, including those from criminal cases, as deputies work through to serve them.
Since January 2013, the Box Elder County booked at least 13 people into jail on civil bench warrants, Sheriff Ward said.