There are actually two parts to a DUI case in Utah, the criminal part and the “civil” part. The civil part exists because, under Utah law, your driver’s license is automatically suspended when either of these things happens:
• You are arrested for DUI (a “per se” suspension)
• You refuse to take a chemical test under Utah’s Implied Consent statute (“refusal” suspension)
The only way to fight this automatic suspension is to request a Driver’s License Review Hearing. You are required to request this hearing within 10 days of your arrest (as it says on the small print of your citation). If this 10 days passes, it is extremely hard or impossible to fight the suspension. The driver’s license review hearings take place not at the courthouse, but at various Drivers’ License Division offices around the state. The people present at the hearing are:
• Your Lawyer (if you’ve hired a lawyer)
• The Driver’s License Hearing Officer (this is not a judge)
• The law enforcement officer who arrested you (usually appearing by phone)
First, the law enforcement officer will testify as to why you were arrested and how the tests were given (if they were given). Then you (or your attorney) will have a chance to cross examine the officer and to try and convince the hearing officer that your license should not be suspended.
How Long Can You Lose Your License
If you did not request a hearing, or you requested a hearing and lost, then you automatically lose your license for the following periods:
If you refused the chemical test:
• 18 months for the first offense.
• 36 months on the second offense.
If you were arrested for DUI (and didn’t refuse the test):
• 120 days for the first offense.
• 2 years for the second offense.
The Driver’s License hearing is separate from your criminal case, so just because the hearing officer decides that you should lose your license does not mean that you will be found guilty in the criminal case. Similarly, just because you win at the driver’s license hearing does not mean that can’t be convicted in the criminal case. But the “civil” process and the “criminal” process do interact with each other in some ways. For instance, if you hire a lawyer for both your driver’s license hearing and your criminal case, the driver’s license hearing gives your attorney a good chance to preview the criminal case and gather useful information that can be used to your benefit. Also, if your license is suspended at the hearing, but then the DUI case is dismissed, your license can be immediately unsuspended. If your charge is reduced from DUI to an Impaired Driving the period of license suspension may be shortened.
Your Driver’s License Hearing and the Public Defender
A DUI is a class B Misdemeanor with the possibility of jail time, so, if you qualify based on the income guidelines, you will get a public defender to represent you in the criminal case. However, the driver’s license hearing is not criminal, so the Constitutional requirement to provide indigent defendants with a public defender does not apply. That means, to have an attorney assist you at that hearing, you have to have a private one. If you’re interested in having a defense attorney’s help at the Driver’s License hearing, contact me.
All drivers who are charged with a DUI in Utah (despite their state of licensing) with two breath test result of over .08 (if over 21) or two results over .02 (if under 21) or who refuse a breathalyzer test, are subject to an administrative hearing with the Utah Department of Licensing (DOL). Drivers who are subject to the Administrative Hearing are referred to as “Petitioners” by the Department. The most common issue with Department of Licensing hearings is an unintended “default”. Default takes place automatically if the Petitioner fails to have a Hearing Request postmarked within 20 days of the incident date of the DUI. If a Hearing Request is not timely postmarked the DOL will automatically enter a license suspension in Utah on the 60th day from the DUI arrest and additionally communicate notice to any out-of- state driver’s state of residence. It is important to note that all drivers subject to a DOL hearing will receive a letter from the DOL indicating a license suspension on the 60th day. It is important to note this is a warning letter and the suspension will only come to pass within this exact timeframe if default occurs. Sadly, many who receive this letter perceive that requesting a hearing is not necessary if the suspension is inevitable. When a timely Hearing Request is communicated to the DOL several timeframe obligations then shift to the Department. Namely the Department has to provide notice of the hearing date and time to either the Petitioner or the Petitioner and the Petitioner’s attorney within 10 days of the administrative hearing. Second, the Department has to schedule the hearing initially within 60 days of the arrest date. If the Department fails to meet either of these criteria the Department loses jurisdiction and cannot proceed with the administrative action. A Petitioner who receives notice of the hearing with the sufficient 10-day notice and has a hearing set within 60 days of the arrest date can request an extension of the hearing out to the 90th day from incident. The Petitioner’s license stays valid during this extension.
Administrative Hearings before the Utah Department of Licensing take place over the telephone. The Hearings Officer is the party who conducts the hearing and has four statutory issues they review under a preponderance of the evidence standard. If the Hearings Officer determines that any of the statutory issues have not been demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence the administrative hearing will be dismissed. If, on the other hand, all issues are demonstrated by preponderance the action will be sustained and the license suspension will be ordered. It is important to note that the Hearings Officers have no latitude they can only dismiss or affirm there is no negotiation or middle ground outcomes that can be reached. Generally Hearings Officers will reach final decisions within 30 days of the hearing date. Under statute a decision can be reached as far as 60 days following the hearing. Just like a hearing continuance, during the deliberation process the Petitioner’s license remains valid. If a decision to suspend the Petitioner’s license is reached an appeal of the Hearing Officer’s decision can be filed in the Superior Court in the county the arrest took place in. Appeals are generally limited to errors of law under. Factual or credibility determinations made by the Hearings Officer during the initial hearing are generally not subject to appeal unless the record does not support the determination made.
Driving Without a Valid (or on a Suspended) License in Utah
• The driver never obtained a license. Utah law forbids driving a car on a highway in the state without first being licensed as a driver. A violation of this law is an infraction and carries a $200 fine. The driver is licensed but can’t find it when pulled over. Getting pulled over is stressful enough, and finding out you forgot your license at home only adds to the anxiety. Utah law requires that all licensed drivers possess their license while driving. But not having your license in your possession is only an infraction and, worst case scenario, will typically result in only a $50 fine. Most judges will dismiss the ticket if you show up to court with proof that your license was valid at the time you were pulled over.
• The driver’s license is expired. In Utah, drivers are required to renew their license every five years. If you fail to renew, your license will “lapse”. Driving on an expired license is an infraction and normally carries a $50 fine. The driver’s license is suspended or revoked. Driving on a suspended or revoked license is a more serious offense. The penalties vary depending on the reason for the suspension or revocation. For example, if you lost your license because of a DUI conviction or refusing to submit to a DUI chemical test at the time of a DUI arrest, then the offense is a Class B misdemeanor with at least a $500 fine. In other instances, a violation is a Class C misdemeanor and the fine is much less.
Violations That Result in Loss of Driving Privileges
As mentioned above, a DUI conviction or refusal to submit to a chemical test results in the loss of driving privileges. Other violations that can lead to losing your license include:
• texting while driving
• “careless driving” resulting in the death of another person
• automobile homicide
• any felony violation of Utah’s motor vehicle laws
• any felony in which a car is used to commit the offense
• failure to stop a vehicle at the command of a law enforcement officer
• drag racing
• two charges of reckless driving or impaired driving committed within a 12-month period, and
• any drug or drug paraphernalia possession conviction.
The length of suspension or revocation depends on the violation.
Reinstatement of Driving Privileges
It’s important for drivers to be proactive once their suspension or revocation period ends. If a driver fails to reinstate once eligible, they are still violating the law each time they drive. The Driver License Division can extend the suspension or revocation up to one year each time a driver is convicted of driving on a suspended or revoked license or convicted or arrested for any traffic offense. Even a police report of an accident where the driver involved did not have a license can lead to an extension of any suspension or revocation period. For license suspensions, the driver is required to complete the suspension period and pay a reinstatement fee for reinstatement. With a license revocation, reinstatement requires the driver complete the revocation period, pay all necessary fees, and reapply for a license; the individual must also go through the process required for a newly licensed driver, including successfully completing the written and driving exams.
In Utah, it’s possible for an undocumented immigrant to obtain a Driving Privilege Card (DPC). To get a DPC, the person must provide proof of Utah residency and identity, submit to fingerprinting, take a photograph, and pass a written knowledge test and driving skills test.
Reasons for Driver’s License Suspensions in Utah
There are a variety of reasons why your Utah driver’s license might be suspended. Some of these are related to specific driving violations, while others may be due to violation of other State laws. The following are some of the most common reasons for a Utah driver’s license to be suspended or revoked.
• Driving Under the Influence: Your Utah driver’s license will be suspended if you refuse to submit to a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) test requested by a law enforcement officer or are found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The length of the suspension varies between 90 days for a 1st offense and 1 year for 2nd or subsequent offenses. A mandatory jail term or requirement to perform community service will be ordered on a conviction of driving under the influence. You must also participate in an assessment and educational series at a State approved alcohol or drug dependency rehabilitation facility before you can regain your driving privileges.
• Excessive Moving Violations: The state of Utah operates on a point system, in which drivers accumulate points on their license for every moving violation they commit. If you accumulate 200 or more points on your current driver record in a 3-year period (70 points if under 21 years old), you may be placed on probation, requested to take a Defensive Driving Course or your license may be suspended for periods ranging from 3 months to 1 year.
• Driving with a Suspended License or No License: Driving with a suspended license may lead to a jail term of 90 days and a fine of up to $750. In addition your license will be suspended for an additional time equal to the time of the original suspension.
• Driving without Insurance: All motor vehicles driven in Utah must be properly insured. Failure to provide proof of valid auto insurance can result in your license being suspended.
• Other Driving-Related Violations: Your Utah driver’s license may also be suspended if you engage in reckless driving or are found to be at fault in a fatal accident.
• Non-Driving Reasons for License Suspension: A variety of non-driving violations or issues can result in your license being suspended. These include refusal to take or failing to pass a review examination ordered by the Driver License Division failing to pay traffic tickets, fines or surcharges and not paying child support.
Restricted Or Temporary Utah License
In some cases, you may receive a limited license that allows you to drive only to and from work, but you’ll have to have a hearing to apply for one. You must also be violation-free for 1 year. The Utah DPS lists the requirements needed to apply for a limited license, but know that you must provide:
• Proof that you need the license or you face hardship. For example, a letter from your employer that details your work schedule (if a license is needed for work).
• A letter from the most recent convicting judge.
• Written verification from your doctor that you are not unable to drive due to a controlled substance or any impairment.
Before you’ll be issued a limited license, you’ll have to:
• Pay all your reinstatement fees.
• Pay the license fee.
• Complete any required tests.
• Meet all department actions that are outstanding.
Drive License DUI Hearing Lawyer
When you need legal help with a DUI in Utah, please call Ascent Law LLC for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506