DUI & DWI in Utah
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Those who drink and drive in Utah risk being charged with two crimes: driving while under the influence and driving while over the limit―meaning with a BAC of over 0.08%. Though they sound similar, these are two different charges designed to make sure intoxicated drivers receive a DUI (driving while under the influence) conviction if their driving was merely impaired by drugs or alcohol―whether or not a chemical test showed their BAC was above the legal limit.
A look at the state's BAC estimation tables shows that your mental acuity and reflexes can be impaired after less than one drink.
Because your ability to drive safely might be diminished with very little alcohol, you could be a dangerous driver with fewer drinks than the law supposedly allows. Utah's DUI laws let the courts convict you of a DUI simply by showing that you were "under the influence" of alcohol or drugs even if your blood, urine, or breath alcohol test suggests otherwise. If you "blow" a 0.04% but fail to walk a straight line during a roadside sobriety test, you're eligible for a DUI.
Even before you are convicted, a first-time DUI charge wreaks havoc with your life. Your license is immediately confiscated by the arresting officer and replaced with a temporary license that expires in 29 days. On the 30th day, the Driver License Division may suspend your license for 120 days. You may appeal this suspension by submitting a Hearing Request Form, but the Driver License Division doesn't have the same burden of proof as the court and is unlikely to second-guess the officer who thought you were impaired.
You'll be taken to the police station and the car you were driving might immediately be impounded. After spending a night in jail, you'll be released with an order to appear in court within 30 days. This gives you time to find an attorney, if you want one.
If you are convicted of a DUI (remember, this can happen even if your BAC was shown to be less than 0.08%), the court will usually impose the following penalties:
- A 48-hour jail sentence
- Community service
- A series of fines starting at $700 plus court costs and a charge for the victim's restitution fund
- The suspension of your driver license for an additional three-month period or longer
- Treatment for alcohol or drug abuse, whether you have a problem or not
- The court may also require the installation of an "interlock" device on your car that checks your breath for alcohol before the ignition will operate.
All of these penalties may be increased or decreased at the discretion of the court, depending on your previous record and the circumstances of your arrest.
You'll probably need to take days off work to serve your jail time or community service. This can be tricky since you probably won't want to tell your boss why you need the time off. You won't be able to drive to and from work, so you'll need to find alternative transportation for several months.
Your family won't be able to rely on you to take them places (to the supermarket, to the park, to church, to grandma's house), so you'll need to find alternative transportation for them, too.
You could be assigned to a drug or alcohol intervention program at your expense. Usually you must attend mandatory weekly meetings; the courts consider this a form of "outpatient jail" that's supposed to hinder your freedom a bit. It's also the state's way of trying to help problem drinkers and drug users before they hurt themselves or others.
Your family will miss the $700-plus you owe the court for fines, the $230 you paid the DMV to release the impounded car, and the $200 driver license reinstatement fee due to the Driver License Division. Future employers will probably ask on the job application form whether you have been convicted of any crime, and some will check your driving record.
Once you get your driver license back, you will be on "alcohol restricted driver" status for two years, meaning you can't have any measurable amount of alcohol in your blood. That is, you won't be able to drive after having even one low-alcohol beer at a barbecue. For a second DUI, this restriction will be in place for 10 years.
When you move to another state, your driving record follows you. A DUI conviction from another state is considered a prior offense in Utah. Subsequent DUI convictions carry exponentially harsher penalties. Your driver license will be coded with information about your conviction, which may prompt an officer to look for signs of drinking should you be pulled over for a traffic violation.
These escalating penalties are designed to encourage those arrested for DUI to find other means to get around if they've been drinking―and not to drink if they're going to drive.
The Utah Driver Handbook contains a comprehensive explanation of DUI procedures and penalties starting on page 64.
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