MISDEMEANOR IN UTAH

DUI arrest in Park City, Utah

DUI arrest in Park City, Utah

In Utah, DUI offenses are classified either as misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the type of offense and whether it is a repeat offense. First offense DUIs are consider Class B Misdemeanors (unless an aggravating factor is present). A Misdemeanor DUI is usually tried in front of a Justice Court judge in the County in which the driver was arrested. In 2012, only 9.1% of all individuals charged with first or second offense DUIs were found NOT Guilty or had the charges against them dismissed.

With Utah’s high DUI conviction rates, immediately hiring a DUI Defense attorney after being arrested should be one of your top priorities if you want to count yourself among those 9% that were found not guilty or had the charges against them dismissed.

Here, at Saunders Law, we are dedicated to defending individuals charged with DUI. If you need to quickly contact a lawyer, don’t hesitate to call our firm and talk directly with a lawyer.

Please feel free to fill out the Attorney Contact Form and an attorney will contact you as soon as possible in order to schedule a consultation.

Winning the DUI Case

Many people that have been arrested for DUI believe that there is nothing you can do to fight the charges.  Frankly, that notion is simply wrong.  The simple fact is that the DUI case is often won before you even get to trial.  While there are numerous ways that an experienced DUI attorney can win your case, the following three challenges, and variations thereof, are the most common avenues for success:

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 you 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 you 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 to believe that you were DUI at the time the officer arrested you, thereby violating the your 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 you 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 beyond a reasonable doubt that you were driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI) offense.

INCREASED PENALTIES FOR A MISDEMEANOR DUI IN UTAH

In 2009, the legislature repealed a law that required bar owners to charge a membership fee to anyone that wanted to have a beer, glass of wine, or a cocktail at their establishment. However, in order to get enough votes to repeal the “private club membership” law, a compromise was made between legislators. In exchange for repealing the “private club membership” law, DUI penalties would be significantly increased and more Utah Highway Patrol officers would be hired for the sole purpose of arresting impaired drivers.

As a result of the 2009 legislation, Driver’s license penalties for DUI were greatly increased. Now, a driver arrested for the first time of a DUI faces a mandatory 120 days suspension of their driver’s license, up from the previous suspension period of 90 days. If the driver has a previous DUI conviction and is arrested a second time, the driver is now looking at a mandatory 2 years suspension of their driver’s license. Adding to these penalties is the fact that Utah does not allow for a work permit or other “special needs” limited licenses.

SENTENCING FOR A MISDEMEANOR DUI IN UTAH

Currently, the penalties for a Misdemeanor DUI in Utah, as found under UCA 41-6a-505, are as follows:

JAIL TIME

Jail sentence for first-time DUI in Utah

Jail sentence for first-time DUI in Utah

First Offense: IMPRISONMENT: The Judge must order ONE of the following Sentences: 1) a jail sentence of not less than 48 consecutive hours (2 days) and not more that 180 days; or 2) require compensatory-service work for not less than 48 hours; or 3) require home confinement through electronic monitoring.

Second Offense (within 10 years): IMPRISONMENT: The Judge must order ONE of the following Sentences: 1) a jail sentence of not less than 240 consecutive hours (10 days) and not more that 180 days; or 2) require compensatory-service work for not less than 240 hours; or 3) require home confinement through electronic monitoring.

In addition to being sentenced to jail or community-service work, Utah requires that a driver convicted of DUI participate in a screening for drug and alcohol abuse, drug and alcohol education classes, and if necessary, treatment for substance abuse.

SCREENING AND ASSESSMENT

As part of any sentence for a DUI offense, Utah law requires offenders to participate in a screening and, if indicated by the screening, an assessment.

Screening: A screening involves gathering information that is used to determine if an individual has a problem with alcohol and/or other drug abuse, and if so, whether an in-depth clinical assessment is appropriate.

Assessment: An assessment is a collection of detailed information concerning the individual’s alcohol and/or other drug abuse, emotional and physical health, social roles, and other relevant areas of the individual’s life. The assessment is used to determine the need for substance use disorder treatment.

EDUCATION (PRIME For Life®)

If you are convicted for DUI (first or second offense within 10 years), the sentence imposed by the Court must include participation in an educational series (this requirement is waived in the Court or assessor orders treatment). According to the legislature, DUI educational classes should “address any problems or risk factors that appear to be related to use of alcohol and other drugs and attempt to help the individual recognize the harmful consequences of inappropriate use, with special emphasis placed on the dangers of drinking and driving.”

In Utah, the educational series that the Court orders drivers convicted of DUI to complete is the PRIME For Life® program. PRIME For Life is suppose to provide education and strategies for individuals who have experienced problems due to high risk alcohol or drug use. Additionally, PRIME For Life is intended to motivate and guide individuals toward making low-risk choices and adopting more accurate beliefs about personal risk that will support those low-risk choices.

In the PRIME For Life program, low-risk choices are defined as abstinence from drug use. The guidelines for alcohol include abstinence for those who have already developed alcoholism; otherwise no more than one standard drink (1/2 ounce of pure alcohol) in an hour, two standard drinks daily, or three standard drinks on any day (known as the 0-1-2-3 guidelines). The peak amount per week is 14 standard drinks.” High-risk choices are defined as any use that causes impairment or increases overall risk for health problems or premature death. Examples include using illegal drugs, prescription drugs other than as prescribed, or exceeding the 0-1-2-3 guidelines for alcohol. Additionally, PRIME For Life identifies some situations (e.g., driving, illness, medications, and workplace) when any amount of use may be high-risk.

SUBSTANCE ABUSE TREATMENT

If you are convicted for DUI (first or second offense within 10 years), the court may order treatment. The level of treatment needed (e.g., outpatient, intensive outpatient, inpatient/residential) is determined by the assessment on the basis of the severity of the substance abuse disorder. For a list of treatment providers by county, please click here. In Summit County, Utah, Valley Mental Health provides substance abuse treatment.

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