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Can A DUI Charge Be Reduced?

Can A DUI Charge Be Reduced

A first DUI in Utah is one of the most frequently occurring criminal offenses. Your first DUI is a serious criminal offense that can potentially carry life altering penalties and consequences if convicted. You may have to serve jail time, pay expensive fines and fees and also lose your driver’s license. An DUI charge in Utah is also known as operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. An DUI can be defined as anyone who operates a motor vehicle while they are under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs and their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is over the legal limit of 0.08 %. If you are facing your first DUI charge, during the time of the stop you were likely required to participate in a blood, breath, or urine test which is used to determine your BAC. Your BAC indicates how impaired you are and will also be used to determine the severity of penalties that you will face if convicted. If your BAC is below 0.05, then you were below the legal limit and you should not be facing your first DUI. If your BAC is between 0.08 and 0.17, then it is considered low. If your BAC is 0.17 or above, then it is considered high. A high BAC will undoubtedly face more severe consequences than someone with a low BAC.

If you are facing your first DUI charge in Utah, it is critical that you consult with an attorney as soon as possible. Regardless of what happened in your case, it is understandable that you are probably scared and overwhelmed by the DUI charge that you are currently facing. A First DUI conviction in Utah can result in harsh penalties including the loss of important freedoms and privileges. The penalties that you may face are dependent on the severity of the facts and circumstances of your particular case such as whether there were any injuries, property damage, and how high your BAC was at the time of the offense. If you are facing your first DUI conviction in Utah, you will most likely be charged with a first degree misdemeanor. This charge entails serving a minimum of 3 days and up to a maximum of 6 months in jail and paying a minimum fine of $375 and up to a maximum of $1,075. Instead of serving a jail sentence, you may be required by the court to attend a driving intervention program. The court also has the authority and discretion in determining whether you will have to install an ignition interlock device or use restricted license plates on your vehicle. You will also face a driver’s license suspension that could last from a minimum of six months to a maximum of 3 years. Your driving privileges will also not be available for the first 15 days after receiving your first DUI charge. You may be eligible for limited driving privileges depending on work, school, or court mandated treatments.

Other Consequences Of First DUI In Utah

First DUI offenses in Utah involve harsh consequences in addition to jail time and expensive fines and fees. Your first DUI conviction in Utah will unfortunately have a negative impact on all other areas of your life. An DUI conviction will permanently be on your driving record. You may also face increased vehicle insurance rates, difficulty keeping or finding a job, furthering your education, difficulty financially, maintaining professional licensures and keeping custody of your children.

Administrative License Suspension (ALS) in Utah

An administrative license suspension is a civil penalty although it is imposed at an DUI stop. If you are stopped for drunk driving and refuse to participate in a chemical test of blood, breath, or urine requested by law enforcement or you tested over Utah’s legal limit, then the officer is permitted to take your driver’s license on the spot and your driving privileges will immediately be suspended from that point forward. This is referred to as an administrative license suspension. An administrative license suspension can be appealed in Utah.

It must be appealed at the first court appearance, which is held within 5 days of being arrested or being issued the citation. Issues that are brought up on an appeal include whether the arrest was reasonable, whether the officer requested that the individual take a chemical test, whether the individual was informed of the penalties for refusal or failing a chemical test, and whether the individual refused or failed the chemical test. It is also important to note that the court can still suspend your license if it determines that your driving is a risk or threat to public safety. If you are facing an administrative license suspension, you can obtain limited driving privileges by filing a petition for up to 30 days after your initial appearance in court for the DUI charge. Limited driving privileges typically are for work, medical or educational reasons.

Reducing Your DUI Charges is Possible

Depending on the facts and circumstances of your particular case, it may be possible to have the DUI charges reduced, or even dismissed. Perhaps there are mitigating circumstances involved such as only sitting in the driver’s seat with the key in the ignition or the breathalyzer malfunctioned. Sometimes a first DUI can be reduced to a reckless operation charge. This depends on a variety of different factors, including but not limited to the following:

• If there was a breath test performed, how high or low the result of your BAC was;

• If there was an accident, injuries or poor driving;

• If you were cooperative and police with the law enforcement officer who stopped you;

• The judge’s attitude or stance on DUI charges;

• The prosecutor’s attitude or stance on DUI charges.

It is also important to be aware that even if the facts are in your favor, your charges may not be able to be reduced. This is why selecting the right experienced and knowledgeable attorney is so important.

Minimize the Penalties for a First DUI Offense

Getting arrested and charged with driving under the influence can be scary, especially if this is your DUI first offense. You already know that the penalties for DUI are harsh, as the advertising campaigns put on billboards, radio, and TV have told people for years about how DUI is a serious offense. Fortunately, if you are a first time offender, there are some options that you may be able to take that will help you lessening the penalties you are facing in your DUI case. Knowing what these options are the first step to getting your life back on track after an DUI arrest.

Handling a DUI First Offense

The first step you may want to take is to try to get the charge reduced or thrown out entirely.

• You can claim that the officer who stopped you did not have probable cause, meaning he stopped you for a vehicle violation or other non DUI related offense, and then started fishing for a DUI charge once he began to speak with you. You may also claim a number of different defenses such as improper administration of sobriety testing, or lack of certification or calibration of testing equipment.

• Fortunately, the court system realizes that accidents happen and that people make mistakes. There are programs such as ARD or Accelerated Rehabilitation programs that will allow you to take classes about the dangers of drunk driving, attend a driving school, and undergo probation, after which time you will be able to have your record of the DUI removed or expunged. In addition, programs such as these for first time offenders can help you look good to the courts if you request them, because they show that you are intending to make things right and learn from your mistakes.
A third option for getting first time DUI charges reduced or dropped is to appeal to the court, with your attorney’s help, and prove that you are a good person who has not committed other crimes or had numerous other traffic violations. By showing the court that this was essentially a onetime fluke occurrence, you may be able to have the charges plea bargained down to a lesser offense, or you may be able to get reduced fines or probation instead of incarceration. An DUI is a misdemeanor offense. As such, the first court date you will attend is generally called an arraignment.

At your arraignment, you must enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. If you have chosen to hire an attorney and fight the charges filed against you, a not guilty plea will be entered. Your first court appearance is also when you can request occupational driving privileges during your administrative license suspension, or in the alternative, get a stay of your administrative license suspension so that you can being driving again.
After your arraignment, most courts will schedule a Pre-Trial Hearing/Conference. Usually, the pre-trial is a meeting between the prosecutor and your defense attorney to discuss the case, the discovery, and possible resolutions to the case. There may be one or more pre-trials, depending on how quickly information is provided and exchanged between the parties. If the case is not resolved at a pre-trial hearing, it may be set for a Suppression Hearing to determine what evidence may be used against you at trial. The Suppression Hearing is a very important step as it sometimes allows your attorney to attack various aspects of the State’s case prior to trial. The elimination of harmful evidence is the primary purpose and goal of Motions. A Suppression Hearing is generally heard by the judge assigned to your case. Present at a typical Suppression Hearing will be the judge, the prosecutor, the State’s witness (the arresting officer) you, your attorney and witnesses the defense may wish to present. If your case is not resolved at the time of the Motion Hearing, the case will be scheduled for Trial. This may be a Jury or a Court Trial, heard only by the judge.

A plea agreement is a process whereby a criminal defendant and a prosecutor reach a mutually satisfactory disposition, subject to the judge’s approval. Plea agreements usually result in either an amendment to a lesser charge or dismissal of some charges in exchange for a guilty plea to other charges. Although a prosecutor has no legal obligation to engage in plea bargaining, your defense attorney must engage in plea bargaining if you so choose. You have the absolute right to either accept or reject a plea offer. A judge must approve a plea offer, and is still in charge of sentencing. Your attorney should advise you as to your options and potential outcomes of your choice. This advice should be based not only on your probability of success at trial, but also on other considerations such as sentencing factors, financial considerations and time considerations. Generally speaking, there are two types of reductions common in DUI cases: Reckless Operation of a Motor Vehicle and Physical Control of a Motor Vehicle under the Influence. It is important to understand the difference between these offenses before you decide whether or not to accept such a plea agreement.
A Reckless Operation is a misdemeanor traffic offense that carries four (4) points against your Utah Driver’s License. Reckless Operation covers a whole host of traffic mishaps, from driving more than 20 miles over the speed limit to striking an inanimate object. What Reckless Operation is not associated with, is drugs or alcohol. There are no mandatory penalties associated with a Reckless Operation conviction. However, should your license be suspended by the court for a Reckless Operation conviction, the reinstatement fee which must be paid to the BMV at the conclusion of your suspension is $40.00. Physical Control/Under the Influence is also a misdemeanor traffic offense, but because it is considered a non-moving offense, it carries zero (0) BMV points.

“Physical control” is defined as being in the driver’s position of the front seat of a vehicle and having possession of the vehicle’s ignition key while under the influence alcohol or drugs, but not actually operating the vehicle. An example would be someone who leaves a party and decides to sleep it off in their car rather than actually driving anywhere. So, the offense is associated with the consumption of alcohol and/or drugs. There is no mandatory suspension associated with a Physical Control conviction. However, should the court decide to suspend your license as the result of a Physical Control conviction, the reinstatement fee is the same as that of an DUI suspension. There are benefits and draw-backs to entering a guilty plea to either one of these charges, but both carry far fewer penalties and stigma than having an DUI conviction on your record. Being charged with a DUI offense often means a loss of driving privileges and criminal consequences, such as jail time. It will also remain permanently on your record, which could have serious implications for future employment. Under the right circumstances, it’s possible to plead a DUI charge down to a lesser offense, commonly known as a wet reckless charge.

Almost every driver charged with a DUI wants their case reduced to a wet reckless driving but it does not often happen. To get the desired results, you need to handle your case the right way. An alcohol-related reckless driving charge, also known as a “wet reckless” charge, carries less severe consequences than a standard DUI. In certain circumstances, your lawyer might be able to secure a plea bargain agreeing to a wet reckless charge, but it will depend on the circumstances of your arrest.

Set your expectations right away, first-time general impairment charges are likely the only kinds of DUI charges that have a chance of being pleaded down to a lesser charge. Nevertheless, every case is unique and you should consult with your attorney about the possibility of a wet reckless plea. A wet reckless has far less consequences than does a DUI. Thus it should be an option worth considering. The factors influencing whether the prosecutor is likely to accept a plea to reduced charges include:

• How close your BAC is to 0.08% at the time of your arrest
• Whether your DUI involved an auto accident
• Whether you have prior DUI convictions
• Whether you have a criminal history or numerous prior traffic offenses
• Whether you’re facing additional charges, such as drug or open container violations, evading the police, fleeing the scene, or resisting arrest.

If you succeed in pleading to a lesser wet reckless charge, you’ll still face penalties. These can include:
• A minimum fine of $200
• Possible (though unlikely) jail time of up to 90 days
• Four points on your driving record
• Possible six-month license suspension for a first offense
• Alcohol education or treatment

First you have to understand what it is the prosecutor, i.e. the district attorney, wants. They are in the business of punishing people for their transgressions. They will not simple bestow upon you the gift of a wet reckless unless there are truly compelling reasons to do so, such as a evidentiary problem with the case. They won’t bend over backwards for you. Thus, you’ll have to fight your case, or at least posture yourself such that it appears as though you will fight. Beware; however, just because you’re willing to fight doesn’t mean the prosecutor isn’t. In your attempt to better your position you may put yourself on a course to trial, where the consequences of being found guilty will be harsher than any initial plea deal you would have received. Second, you absolutely must get a DUI lawyer. A prosecutor is not worried about you by yourself. You need someone advocating and fighting for you. A public defender or a court appointed attorney is not going to get you the same results, nor would they try to, an DUI lawyer of your own choosing would. To get a generous wet reckless plea you need a dedicated DUI lawyer working for you.

DUI Lawyer Free Consultation

When you need legal help defending against a DUI Charge in Utah, please call Ascent Law LLC for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506