Utah DUI Laws & Attorneys
by Joshua Dale
Driver's License Notice: In the State of Utah, you, or your attorney, only have a short time to fight for your right to drive - demand a hearing to challenge the suspension or revocation of your license. Don't give up!
Utah has the most bizarre liquor laws in the country, a hangover from the Mormon “Words of Wisdom” which condemned the consumption of alcohol. The state did not enact prohibition legislation until 1917, when it became the twenty-fourth state to adopt the Volsted Act. Utah was one of the last states to pass legislation regulating the manufacture and consumption of alcohol. But in February 1933 Utah became the thirty-sixth and deciding state to abolish prohibition. According to the Utah DMV, the cost of a fist time DUI is approx $9,000.
In Utah the term DUI means Driving Under the Influence and not having the normal use of your mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance or a combination of these or any other substances into the body. However, a person is also intoxicated if impaired due to alcohol or other drugs regardless of their blood alcohol content (BAC).
The Utah DUI ‘per se’ law states that a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% by itself constitutes impairment to a degree that you are assumed to be unsafe behind the wheel. However, you can also be prosecuted for driving ‘under the influence’ if it can be proven that you were driving in an unsafe manner. Under this theory circumstantial evidence, such as slurred speech, blood shot, watery eyes, unbalanced coordination, hazardous driving, and field sobriety tests can be proof that a driver was “under the influence”.
Every driver in Utah has given their ‘implied consent’ for a blood alcohol test (BAC) when they received a license. This means their breath, blood, or urine will be tested for alcohol and/or drugs when under the suspicion of a Utah DUI charge. You should note that you have the right to a second test at your own expense at a place of your choice. When blood is drawn with or without a request from law enforcement, it is extremely important to have your Utah DUI attorney contact the hospital or lab immediately with notice of the federal confidentiality law and to assert your patient’s rights regarding confidentiality of medical records.
If you haven’t been drinking or you believe that you might have been “impaired” from a benign source such as alcohol based paint or solvents, mouthwash, prescription or over-the-counter drugs be aware that you can still be arrested for a Utah DUI, even though you are not “legally drunk”, and are still subject to ALR (automatic license revocation).
After being charged with a Utah DUI you’re going to face two adversaries: the criminal courts, and the Utah Department of Public Safety (UDPS). If your license was suspended or revoked because of a DUI, you will be offered a formal hearing.
You have the right to make a request within 10 calendar days of arrest for an administrative hearing with the Utah Department of Public Safety to try avoiding losing driving privileges. Your license will be lost if a hearing is not requested, for not appearing, or for an unsuccessful outcome. And UDPS sanctions can also be imposed even if you are found not guilty in a criminal court case.
UDPS hearings may be a crucial opportunity to let your Utah DUI defense attorney cross-examine and rebut testimony, confront evidence offered by those involved in your arrest and investigation. Be aware that you may lose your license even if found not guilty in a court of law. Administrative (UDPS) and court penalties are separate, but generally run concurrently (at the same time).
Be advised that Utah has an out-of-state Driver’s License Compact Agreement. This means that those Utah DUI convictions will be reported to your home state which will generally take action to suspend your license. Offenses for out-of-state drivers can also create other complications. Consequently, it’s imperative that you contact a local Utah DUI attorney to walk you through the procedures and insure that you don’t face complications with bail, jail, and your driving privileges.
Across the country DUI laws and evidentiary procedures are being challenged, while at the same time state laws are becoming more severe. To be certain that you have the correct and current knowledge contact a Utah DUI specialist. In any case, when you are stopped and arrested for suspicion of a Utah DUI, request to see a Utah DUI attorney, the sooner the better.
– Info You Should Know –
Was I Stopped Legally?
Basically you were stopped because of an equipment failure or an officer had probable cause to think you were driving in an impaired manner. Arrests for drunk driving in every state focuses on four areas: driving patterns, physical appearance, field sobriety tests, and chemical tests.
Not all reasons offered by officers are legal. Check with a Utah DUI attorney who will examine all the different aspects of your case, will defend you aggressively and try to mitigate any penalties.
Should I Have Talked To the Cop?
Remember that you don’t have to answer any questions that will incriminate you. Most people say that they have had a "couple of drinks” which is not necessarily incriminating. However such "statements of consumption" will be used against them in court or at a hearing.
And if you plan to refuse a sobriety test – which may not be the best action – you should inform the officer who stopped you that you would rather wait until instructed by a Utah DUI lawyer. But be advised if you refuse the test under the implied consent law you can lose your license on the spot, and probably for many months.
Did I Have A Right To Make A Call?
Law enforcement officers are not required to advise you of this right. But once a request is made, they are obligated to provide an opportunity to make a call, hopefully to a Utah DUI specialist.
I’m Simply Going To Plead Guilty, Why Do I Need A Utah DUI Lawyer?
The penalties and the numerous, complicated laws relating to motor vehicles, DUI charges and Utah drunk driving laws should be taken very seriously. Utah DUI convictions and penalties can be long lasting and severe, both in court and with the Utah Department of Public Safety, Driver and Vehicle Services, which regulates your driving privileges.
Experienced and skilled legal counsel may be able to help maximize your defenses thereby mitigate your penalties. A Utah DUI defense attorney will level the playing field between you and the prosecution in an effort to provide and preserve your constitutional rights.
When considering consulting a Utah DUI attorney, take into account the impact of a criminal conviction: possible loss of voting privileges, increased cost or cancellation of auto insurance, lost educational opportunities, inability to rent or own cars, restrictions on travel, damage to security clearances, job barriers, possible harm to professional credentials or certifications, and the loss of freedom. Don’t you think these rights, possessions, achievements and abilities are worth protecting?
What’s A Utah DUI Defense Attorney Going To Cost?
One of the biggest concerns for people charged with driving under the influence is attorney fees. As cases vary, so does cost. Most people don’t realize that money spent now on skillful help from a Utah DUI attorney might save them thousands of dollars in the years to come.
What Are Court Costs?
Additional costs outside of the fine for court or administrative services, regulated by state penal or vehicle codes violated. They can be costly.
Did I Have To Take a Field Sobriety Test (FST)?
Unlike blood and breath testing, submitting to a "field sobriety test" is voluntary, but do not expect an officer to inform you of this. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the only tests that have been shown to have some relevance to establishing legal intoxication are the One Leg Stand, the Heel-to Toe and the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN). The results of these tests will be entered as evidence against you. But even under laboratory conditions, these tests have only been established to be accurate in predicting blood alcohol content above .10% in 66% to 77% of the time.
What if I Refused To Take a BAC (blood alcohol content) Test?
Refusal can carry penalties which may be more severe than a DUI conviction. The arresting officer will take your license and it will be automatically suspended. You may request a hearing within 15 days of the arrest to contest the validity of the confiscation or driver’s license suspension.
This hearing is not a trial and producing evidence of innocence and the burden of proof bears upon the accused.
Can I Plea Bargain?
After being arraigned, your DUI attorney will meet with the prosecutor to negotiate the merits of your case. Court dates are crowded so it is not unusual for a DUI case to seem mired in delays. However, delay can work to your benefit as prosecutors and judges work to try to clear court calendars.
A plea bargain means that you agree to plead guilty to some lesser charge or having your attorney and prosecutor mitigate the penalties. Practiced Utah DUI attorneys often times will be able to negotiate a plea to a lesser charge as many cases are resolved prior to trial. The plea bargain is extremely advantageous to anyone accused of a Utah DUI, but remember even a conviction to a lesser charge will still count as a ‘prior’ for calculating penalties for future offenses.
It is next to impossible to plea bargain a Utah drunk driving charge without an experienced Utah DUI lawyer. Often effective DUI counsel will be able to negotiate a plea to a lesser charge.
I’ve Heard of A Nolo Contendere Plea, What Is It?
In legal terms, nolo contendere (Latin for “I do not wish to contest”) is an alternative to a guilty or not guilty plea. While not technically a guilty plea, a nolo plea has many of the same effects, but with some mitigating circumstances. In most states you can only plea nolo once in DUI cases. Generally a judge decides whether a nolo plea will be accepted, and it is not always available.
In any case, without services of a veteran Utah DUI specialist, specialized pleas or plea bargaining is not possible.
Is Being Punished by the Utah PDS and the Criminal Courts Double Jeopardy?
Like most states, Utah law permits the enforcement of administrative penalties in addition to court punishments, as the state considers driving a privilege, not a right, and not subject to civil liberties. UDPS administers driver’s licenses, imposes civil penalties, serves as the judge, jury and also deals out punishment.
What is a Look Back Period?
This is the amount of time between offenses that allows an offense to be treated as a 1st time DUI. The look back period in Utah is 10 years.
What if I Am An Out-Of-State Driver?
Utah DUI convictions will be reported to your home state which will generally take action to suspend your license. Offenses for out-of-state drivers can also create other complications. Consequently, it’s imperative that you contact a local Utah DUI attorney to walk you through the procedures and insure that you don’t face complications with bail, jail, and your driving privileges.
What Happens In Court?
You’ll have to make several appearances. In a criminal case you have the right to a jury trial with presumption of innocence, but once convicted, it can be up to the judge what punishment you will receive. The sentencing range, and whether the offense will be a misdemeanor or a felony, is based on a number of things including the number of prior convictions including any previous Utah administrative or criminal court drunk driving suspensions, for refusal to submit to a BAC test, or any ‘operating while intoxicated’ convictions in other states. There are also penalty enhancements due to aggravated circumstances.
In addition, a judge may require you to participate in alcohol or drug treatment programs as part of a parole (probation) program or have an ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle, or even have your vehicle seized and forfeited.
Can I Get a Hardship Driver's License?
Yes. See below.
What About Enhanced Punishments For Utah DUI Convictions?
Many circumstances may lead to sentence enhancements: prior DUI convictions, the presence of a child in the car, speeding, reckless driving and an elevated BAC level, and causing an accident with injuries or property damage, among others.
Any time you face multiple or ‘aggravated’ charges, or if death, injuries or sizeable property damage occurs, the fallout for Utah multiple convictions will get very heavy, including thousands of dollars in fines, mandatory years of imprisonment, massive restitution and of loss of license and vehicles for years, if not permanently. We strongly recommend retaining an experienced Utah DUI attorney in order to secure the best possible outcome of a potentially severe situation.
What About My Insurance?
Your insurance rates will probably increase or be cancelled. The state estimates that insurance premiums can escalate to over 300% in 5 years. Rates for your family members, or even for your employer (if you use a company car), may increase as well.
– Utah DUI Criminal Penalties –
48 hours to 6 months in jail or home arrest or 48 hours community service.
$700 to $1,000 fine plus surcharge.
90 days loss of license.
Participation in a drug or alcohol screening program and participation in an educational series relating to drugs, alcohol or both.
Possible mandatory ignition interlock.
DUI offense committed after 10 years after a prior is treated like a 1st offense.
Elevated BAC of .16% or Over
All the above plus:
Additional 90 days to 2 years loss of license
2nd Offense Within 10 Years
10 days up to 6 months in jail./home arrest/or 240 hours of community service
$800 to $1,000 fine.
1 year loss of license.
Participation in alcohol or drug screening program.
Participation in substance abuse education.
Ignition interlock for 3 years.
Elevated BAC of .16%or Over
Additional 90 days to 2 years loss of license.
3rd or More Offenses Within 10 Years
62 ½ days to 5 years in jail.
$1,500 to $5,000 fine.
1 year loss of license.
Participation in alcohol or drug screening program.
20 days (240 hours) participation in intensive substance abuse education and treatment.
Supervised probation of up to 5 years.
Ignition interlock for 3 years.
Court may order additional 90 days to 2 years loss of license.
Possible seizure of vehicle.
– Department of Public Safety Administrative Sanctions –
90 days loss of license 1st offense.
1 year loss of license for 2nd and 3rd offense.
Refusal of BAC Test
90 days license suspension and 18 months no alcohol conditional license probation (see below for penalties) on a 1st DUI.
6 months to 1 year drivers license suspension and 2 years no alcohol conditional license probation for a 2nd or subsequent offense.
1 year of license suspension and 3 years no alcohol conditional license probation for 3rd offense.
Up to $1,858 fine per violation.
Ignition interlock system installed in vehicle.
Possible 5 to 10 years probationary driving for multiple offenders.
What Is An “Alcohol Restricted” Driving Privilege?
One in which a DUI offender must not drive with any alcohol in their system for a period of:
2 years for a first DUI conviction or alcohol related reckless driving.
2 years for an arrest with a .08% BAC.
3 years for an alcohol restricted driver violation.
3 years for an ignition interlock violation.
5 years for refusal to submit to a chemical test.
5 years for a DUI or alcohol related reckless driving if you are 21 years of age or older and have a passenger in your vehicle who is under 16.
10 years for a 2nd DUI or alcohol related reckless driving or a second arrest for refusal to submit to a BAC test within 10 years of a prior offense.
Lifetime disqualification for felony DUI or automobile homicide.
Offender found to be a danger to the community.
A restricted license allows driving for work, school, court ordered appearances or treatment and medical needs.
Open Container Law
It is illegal to possess an open container of alcohol in the passenger area of a vehicle.
Up to $750 fine.
90 days in jail.
Zero tolerance no detectable amount of alcohol in blood.
If convicted the penalties are the same as adult, save for serving jail time in a juvenile facility.
BAC of .04% or greater.
Deterred from driving until BAC level is .01%.
1 year disqualification for 1st offense or refusal of BAC test.
3 years disqualification for hauling hazardous material with DUI.
Subsequent offenses lifetime disqualification.
– Disclaimer –
Only experienced Utah DUI attorneys should provide you with bonified legal advice concerning Utah DUI laws. Consequently, the aforementioned information on this web site should not be construed as legal advice, rather suggestions and a range of helpful information and should not be substituted for speaking with accredited Utah DUI attorneys. There is no warrantee, expressed or implied herein. These issues are complicated, laws change and litigation takes experience. Please let us refer you to a seasoned professional Utah DUI attorney specializing in DUI cases.
Driving under the influence (UT Code 41-6a-502)
Penalties for driving under the influence violations (UT Code 41-6a-503)
Sentencing requirements for driving under the influence (UT Code 41-6a-505.
Utah DPS Section 41-6a-502/507/508/517/530/519/506/ et al.