Driving while intoxicated (DWI) and driving under the influence (DUI) in Utah is certainly no joke. In the event you are pulled over and are charged, you should be aware of your rights. You must be knowledgeable of the officer’s conduct and the appropriate steps that need to be taken. In most states, DUI is considered a lesser offense to DWI. A DUI charge implies that a driver is unfit to handle a motor vehicle as a result of illegal drug use as opposed to alcohol. Nevertheless, both are serious offenses, and it is important to hire an attorney that is specialized to handle your case. With a DWI charge, you may face more serious consequences, but qualified attorneys that have experience in these cases may be able to reduce the charge to a DUI. More importantly, it is imperative to hire a lawyer that specializes in DWI/DUI cases because other attorneys may not have experience in this field. Locating an experienced lawyer in Utah is a pivotal first step, and failing to do so can have irreversible consequences. When searching for a DWI/DUI lawyer, a background check is a necessary step. You need to know whether or not a lawyer is reputable, his or her caseload history, years of experience handling DWI/DUI cases, and success rates. If you have hired a local Utah attorney to handle your other affairs, he or she can refer you to the best representatives available.
You need an attorney who has a strong reputation in the community and who comes highly recommended by others in the field. In addition, you need to select a lawyer who acknowledges your rights and is sympathetic to your case, whether or not you are guilty of charges. Next, you need to create a list of prospective local Utah lawyer/attorneys, and meet with each of them individually so that they can evaluate your case and provide you with consultations. A face to face meeting enables you to determine if a specific lawyer is right for you. Most initial consultation services are free of charge, and qualified attorneys can provide you with options or refer you to other individuals more suitable for your case. Once an attorney has been selected, he or she researches the event, gathers details that serve to disprove charges, and guides you through further processes that need to occur. You must provide your attorney with detailed, accurate information. While small details may seem irrelevant, they may provide your attorney with valid evidence useful for your case. For example, if a police officer does not provide you with substantial reasons for pulling you over, this is evidence that can be used in your favor in court. There are specific driving patterns police officers must adhere to when accusing an individual with DUI or DWI. Speeding, for example, does not justify a DUI/DWI charge. Your attorney should be aware of the proper conduct that police officers are expected to uphold under the law. After reenacting the scene and providing crucial details, an attorney may need to conduct further research relative to your driving records, previous offenses, and may even have to look into your health records.
If you consented to a breathalyzer test and had blood alcohol content (BAC) reading of at least .05 percent, your lawyer may have to take more drastic measures. A Utah DWI lawyer might decide that the evidence the arresting officer submitted was not substantial, and he or she may choose to have the tools analyzed for accuracy and malfunctions. If you have an illness such as diabetes or are taking prescription medications for health reasons, a lawyer may be able to discredit breathalyzer test results. If this is a first time offense, rather than claiming innocence, a Utah DWI lawyer may encourage you to plead guilty and work towards reducing the charge to a DUI. Overall, every detail provided to your attorney can impact the outcome of your case. Therefore, accurate and honest accounts are imperative. Whether you are guilty or innocent of charges, courts are expected to protect your civil rights.
Utah DUI Laws
Diving under the influence (DUI), also referred to as driving while intoxicated (DWI) in some states, is a serious offense across the United States. Under Utah’s DUI laws, anyone in physical control of a vehicle while having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05% or higher has committed a DUI offense. Utah’s DUI statutes also make it illegal to operate a vehicle while under the influence of any drug that prohibits the offender from safely operating a vehicle.
Brief overview of Utah’s DUI laws
Utah Code section 41-6a-502 & 41-6a-503: Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol, Drugs, or a Combination of Both. Operating (or being in physical control of) a vehicle within Utah if the offender:
• Has a blood or breath alcohol concentration of 0.05 grams or greater at the time that the test is administered
• Is under the influence of alcohol, any drug, or the combined influence of alcohol and any drug to a degree that renders the driver incapable of safely operating a vehicle, or
• Has a blood or breath alcohol concentration of 0.05 grams or greater at the time of operation or actual physical control of the vehicle
Utah DUI Penalties
A first or second DUI offense is generally a Class B misdemeanor. However, if the offender falls under any of the classifications below then the offense is a Class A misdemeanor:
• Has also inflicted bodily injury upon another as a proximate result of driving under the influence
• Has a passenger under 16 years old in the vehicle at the time of the offense, or
• Is 21 years old or older and has a passenger under 18 years old in the vehicle at the time of the offense
Third degree felony if:
• The offender inflicts serious bodily injury upon another as a proximate result of operating the vehicle in a negligent manner
• The offender has two or more prior DUI convictions within the previous 10 years, or
• If the offender was previously convicted of automobile homicide, or a felony DUI
Felony and Misdemeanor Penalties in Utah
• Third degree felony: Punishable by up to five years in prison, and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
• Class A misdemeanor: Punishable by up to one year in jail, and/or a fine of up to $2,500.
• Class B misdemeanor: Punishable by up to six months in jail, and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
Revoked or Suspended Drivers License
If the offender is 21 years old or older at the time of the DUI offense, then the offender’s license will be suspended for 120 days. If the offender has a prior DUI conviction within the last 10 years then the offender’s drivers license will be revoked for two years. If the offender is between 19 and 21 years old then their license will be suspended until the offender turns 21 or for a period of one year, whichever is longer.
First-Offense DUI in Utah
In Utah, it’s illegal to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Generally, you can be convicted of DUI if you drive:
• while “incapable of safely operating a vehicle” due to drugs or alcohol, or
• with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05% or more (“per se” alcohol DUI).
Typically, a driver who’s convicted of a first DUI is guilty of a class B misdemeanor. However, a first DUI is generally a class A misdemeanor if the driver caused bodily injury to another, had a passenger under 16 years old, or was 21 years or older and had a passenger under 18 years old.
Utah’s felony DUI law imposes stiffer penalties for certain DUI offenses. A DUI is a third-degree felony when the offender drives under the influence:
• having been convicted of two prior DUIs within the past 120 months (read about third-offense DUIs in Utah) and causes serious bodily injury to another, or
• having been convicted of a prior felony DUI or automobile homicide committed after July 1, 2001.
“Administrative penalties” are those imposed by the Utah Driver License Division (DLD). These penalties are triggered by a DUI arrest (as opposed to a conviction in court). For a first DUI, the administrative penalties include:
• Per se alcohol and per se drug DUI. Drivers arrested for per se DUI will have their license suspended for 120 days. But if the criminal DUI charges are later dismissed before the suspension period ends, immediate license reinstatement is possible.
• Chemical-test refusals. Motorists who refuse a chemical test in violation of Utah’s implied consent law face an 18-month revocation of their driving privileges. Penalties are even stiffer for motorists who refuse and have already had their license suspended or revoked from a previous DUI conviction or arrest in the last ten years. These drivers face a three-year revocation. Also, a prosecutor can use a refusal as evidence of guilt in court.
At the time of your arrest, the officer will confiscate your driver license and issue a citation that serves as a temporary license for 29 days. If you don’t request a hearing within 10 days of the arrest, you forfeit your right to challenge the above administrative suspensions. And if you are later convicted in criminal court of DUI, the DLD will suspend your license for an additional 120 days.
24/7 Sobriety Programs
Until recently, successfully challenging a suspension at your administrative hearing or obtaining a dismissal of DUI charges was the only way to shorten a license suspension. Now, Utah has a “24/7 Sobriety Program” that allows drivers to get their license back more quickly. Utah’s 24-7 Sobriety Program requires you to:
• abstain from alcohol and drugs
• submit to random drug testing
• submit to alcohol testing twice daily at a testing facility, and
• wear a device that continuously monitors for alcohol consumption (sometimes called a “SCRAM” bracelet).
If you successfully complete this program, the judge can shorten the suspension period triggered by a DUI conviction. However, because this program is still new, it isn’t yet available in all areas.
Aggravating Factors In Utah DUI
You’re on your way home from a friend’s birthday party, and all of a sudden you see flashing lights behind you. You might have only had a few drinks, but your BAC is just a little too high and you end up getting a DUI. While this is certainly not an ideal situation, it actually could be much worse. In the state of Utah, a typical DUI can turn into what’s known as an aggravated DUI if there are certain elements at play. A few of these factors are discussed below, and can turn a bad situation even worse.
Multiple DUIs on your record
In Utah, getting a single DUI is considered a misdemeanor, and can include penalties and the suspension of your license. To discourage people from driving under the influence, each DUI comes with an increasingly harsher punishment. If you are getting arrested for a DUI, and it’s your third one within the last ten years, the state will turn your offense from a misdemeanor into a felony. A felony conviction automatically brings jail time into the equation, and also includes hefty fines.
Young passengers in the car
There’s no question that driving under the influence poses a danger to you and all of those around you on the road. However, if you are convicted of a DUI and you had a minor in the car while you were driving, your penalties will be more severe. Each state is different when it comes to setting the age at which passengers must be, but for Utah specifically, anyone in the car under the age of 16 will cause law enforcement to handle the situation as an aggravated offense.
Excessive blood alcohol concentration
For you to be considered safe to drive, your blood alcohol concentration must be below .08. Anything at or over that level will earn you a DUI. However, if you have been drinking an exorbitant amount, and your BAC tests at .16 or higher, you will be charged with what is known as an enhanced penalty DUI. This basically means that your blood alcohol level was so high, it is considered to be an aggravated situation. Because you were so severely impaired while driving, your consequences will be much higher.
Crashing your vehicle or injuring others
Naturally, driving under the influence is taken very seriously and measures are put in place to ensure you don’t repeat the same mistake. Yet if you are driving while drunk and you injure another person or cause serious property damage with your vehicle, your fines and license suspension will increase exponentially. Instead of being a danger only to yourself, you are now a danger to others, and you will be penalized as such. If the damage or harm is severe enough, you might even face jail time.
In Utah, the drunk driving law prohibits a person from driving when they have a BAC of .08% or higher. Courts are required to order the installation and monitoring of an interlock device for any driver whose BAC levels are .05% or higher, even if a first offense.
License Revocation, Fines and Jail
• First Offense – Misdemeanor: minimum $700 fine plus surcharge, not less than 48 consecutive hours in jail OR 48 hours compensatory service work program OR electronically monitored house arrest, 120 days license suspension, drug and/or alcohol assessment and screening and possible education or treatment as required, and will become alcohol restricted driver for 2 years (driving with any measurable amount of alcohol in the system will be an offense). Possible ignition interlock restriction required as a condition of probation for a time period determined by the courts (3 years if under 21 years old).
• Second Offense – Misdemeanor: minimum $800 fine plus surcharge, minimum 240 hours in jail OR 240 hours compensatory service work program OR electronically monitored house arrest, 2 years license revocation, drug and/or alcohol assessment and screening and possible education or treatment as required, and will become alcohol restricted driver for 10 years (driving with any measurable amount of alcohol in the system will be an offense). Ignition interlock restriction required as a condition of probation for a time period determined by the courts (3 years if under 21 years old).
• Third and Subsequent Offense – Felony: minimum $1,500 fine plus surcharge, up to 5 years in jail, 2 years license revocation, ignition interlock restriction required as a condition of probation for a time period determined by the courts (3 years if under 21 years old), drug and/or alcohol assessment and screening, mandatory 240 hours inpatient treatment and aftercare, and will become alcohol restricted driver for 10 years (driving with any measurable amount of alcohol in the system will be an offense).
Reasons for Suspension or Revocation
Too many traffic violations, an alcohol offense, and certain criminal convictions are just some of the reasons that your license may be suspended or revoked in Utah. Utah operates a points-based system for determining when your driver’s license should be suspended. Points are assessed against your license for each traffic violation, and your license may be suspended when you accrue a certain number of points.
Your driver’s license may be suspended or revoked for alcohol offenses. They include:
• a conviction for driving under the influence or when your blood alcohol content is greater than .08, and
• failing a chemical test to determine whether you are driving under the influence.
Your license may be suspended or revoked for certain other criminal convictions. They include:
• manslaughter or negligent homicide, if you were driving a motor vehicle, or automobile homicide
• two charges of reckless driving, impaired driving, or a combination committed within 12 months
• certain felonies relating to driving laws, or a felony when a vehicle was used to commit it
• failing to stop if you are involved in an accident that kills or injures someone, and
• engaging in a speed contest.
Your license may also be suspended or revoked if you:
• drive recklessly or unlawfully and cause an accident that injures or kills someone or causes serious property damage
• are incompetent to drive a motor vehicle
• use a false driver’s license
• have been convicted frequently enough of serious traffic violations that the state believes you disrespect traffic laws and disregard safety
• fail to comply with a traffic citations in certain circumstances, or
• have an outstanding unpaid fine, an outstanding incomplete restitution requirement, or an outstanding warrant.
When you need a local DUI attorney, 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