FELONY DUI

In Utah, there are three different circumstances where a driver can be charged with a Felony DUI under UCA § 41-6a-503: first, if the driver is charged with DUI and has two or more prior convictions within 10 years of the commission of the offense upon which the current conviction is based; second, if the driver inflicts serious bodily injury upon another person as a proximate result of having operated the vehicle in a negligent manner; and third, if the driver that is charged with DUI has a prior automobile homicide conviction or has a prior felony DUI conviction.

FELONY DUI PROCESS IN UTAH

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A Felony DUI in Utah proceeds through the court system differently than a Misdemeanor DUI. The first major difference is that a Felony DUI is initially heard in the District Court, rather than a Justice Court. Also, a driver charged with a Felony DUI is entitled to a preliminary hearing. At a preliminary hearing, the driver is allowed to present witnesses and evidence in their defense and cross-examine the State’s witnesses. If the judge determines that probable cause exists that the crime was committed, then the driver will be bound over for trial.  However, if the judge concludes there is insufficient evidence to support probable cause, then the Judge will dismiss the case against the driver.

Once the matter is bound over, the Court will schedule an arraignment where the Court will formally read the charges that the State is bringing against you and will have you plead guilty or not guilty.  If you plead not guilty, then the Court will set the matter for an evidentiary hearing if your attorney files a motion to suppress the State’s evidence or a motion to dismiss the criminal charges against you or the Court will set the matter for trial.

Another major difference between a Felony DUI and a Misdemeanor DUI is the Jury. If you proceed to trial on a Misdemeanor DUI, the court only allows for four jurors to hear the case. However, if you are being charged with a Felony DUI, the court allows for eight jurors to hear the case.

WINNING THE FELONY DUI CASE

If you are charged with a Felony DUI, hiring an experienced DUI attorney is crucial to your success. Regardless of guilt, if you are being charged with a Felony DUI due to prior DUI convictions, a DUI attorney may be able to get your DUI reduce to a Misdemeanor through challenging the prior convictions that the State is relying upon in charging you with a Felony. In Utah, prior convictions, when based on guilty pleas, cannot be used as enhancements unless the State can show that you were represented by counsel during those prior convictions or voluntarily waived your the right to counsel. If the State is unable to meet this burden, the State will be forced to dismiss the Felony DUI charge and refile the DUI charge as a Misdemeanor.

Additional Ways to Win the Felony DUI Case

In addition to challenging the State’s basis for enhancement (prior convictions), an attorney at Saunders Law can make numerous challenges to the State’s case against you.  Depending on the facts of your case, an attorney will file one or more of the following challenges:

First, your attorney will determine if the police officer had reason to initially pull you over.  If the police officer did not have a legitimate reason to instigate the initial traffic stop, the attorney will file a motion to suppress the State’s evidence.  In that motion, and subsequent evidentiary hearing, the attorney will argue that the police officer lacked “reasonable, articulable suspicion” that the driver committed the underlining traffic offense.  If the attorney is able to successfully argue that the initial traffic stop was unlawful, all of the State’s evidence against the driver will be suppressed and the charges will be dismissed, including the driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI) offense.

Second, your attorney will determine if the police officer had probable cause to arrest you after he or she pulled you over.  If the police officer did not have probable cause to arrest you, the attorney will file a motion to suppress the State’s evidence.  In that motion, and subsequent evidentiary hearing, the attorney will argue that the police officer did not have probable cause that the driver was DUI when the officer arrested the driver, thereby violating the driver’s constitutional rights.  Here, the attorney will usually argue that the police officer incorrectly administered or scored the field sobriety tests.  If the attorney is able to successfully argue that the arrest was unlawful, all of the State’s evidence against the driver will be suppressed and the charges will be dismissed, including the driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI) offense.

Third, your attorney will determine if the police officer correctly administered the breath, blood, or urine test.  If the police officer did not strictly adhere to the legal (foundational) requirements for the admittance of a chemical test, the attorney will file a motion to suppress the State’s evidence regarding the results of the chemical test. In that motion, and subsequent evidentiary hearing, the attorney will argue that the police officer did not correctly administer the chemical test and therefore, the results of the chemical test are not trustworthy and cannot be admitted into evidence.  If the attorney is able to successfully argue that the chemical test was improperly administered, the results of the breath, blood, or urine test will be suppressed.  In this situation, the State will be forced to argue, without the benefit of any test result showing that you were actually over the legal limit, that your driving pattern, demeanor, and performance on the field sobriety tests prove that you were driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI) offense.

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