September 21, 2023

Epic Law

The Law Folks

Dealing With a First DUI in Utah

Encountering a problem for the first time tends to be a somewhat confusing and difficult experience no matter what the situation. If you find yourself in a criminal situation for the first time, this anxiety will surely be amplified. For most, a first time DUI conviction is not only a stressful experience, it is also an area that they may not have thought about or considered before being put in this unfortunate position. Not knowing you legal rights can lead to even more issues with regard to a DUI offense than if you were well-versed in the process.

In Utah, considering that there were well over 15,000 DUI arrests last year (with 44% coming from Salt Lake County alone), a driving under the influence offense is strictly enforced and comes with many penalties and consequences.

According to Utah Code 41-6a-502, a person may not operate or be in physical control of a vehicle if:

•The person has a blood or breath alcohol concentration of.08 grams or greater at the time of the test; or
•The person is under the influence of alcohol, any drug, or the combined influence of both that renders the person incapable of safely driving a vehicle.

As for penalties, there is extensive and strict sentencing with regard to DUI convictions in Utah. Utah statute 41-6a-503 defines a first time DUI offense as a class B misdemeanor, which comes with a presumptive sentence of:

•up to six month in jail and / or up to $1000 in fines.

There are circumstances which may allow for the penalties to increase, which include:

•If the person also caused bodily injury to another person.
•If the person had a passenger under 16 years old in the vehicle.

These will tend to be classified as a class A misdemeanor, which comes with a presumptive one year sentence and / or fines of up to $2500. If they happen to have cause serious injury or death to another person as a result of driving in a negligent manner, these charges will be increased to a class 3 felony, which comes with a five year prison sentence and / or up to $5000 in fines.

Under Utah Code 41-6a-505, the court may order one or more of the following for a first time DUI conviction:

•A jail sentence of 48 consecutive hours or more;
•48 hours or more of community service;
•Home confinement with electronic monitoring;
•Participation alcohol or drug courses;
•A fine of $700 or more;
•Probation (if there is evidence that the person had a BAC or.16 or higher);
•Ignition Interlock Device; or
•Possible license suspension of up to 120 days.

With these consequences, it is of vital importance to understand your rights while retaining a qualified criminal defense lawyer. To start, you do not have to perform a field sobriety test. A sobriety test is difficult under normal circumstances, so refusing this aspect of the process may keep you from incriminating yourself. Although you can refuse a field sobriety test, refusing to submit to a chemical test (blood, breath, urine) in Utah will come with extreme penalties. The courts in Utah allow evidence of a DUI suspect refusing a chemical test to be admitted at trial. This evidence is likely to do major damage to you as a defendant, considering law enforcement has the right to apply for a warrant in order to force a blood test anyways.

Furthermore, even for a first time DUI offender, simply being charged may lead to a license suspension. This action can be taken before conviction, under a procedure called administrative license suspension. A first offense tends to come with a 90 day suspension, with up to 18 months if a chemical test is refused.

Considering these potential issues, staying up-to-date and informed on your rights, along with the consequences of your actions, will give you a better chance at successfully fighting your DUI charge. Make sure to discuss you situation with a capable criminal defense attorney who understands the laws that you allegedly broke.