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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 is. If you find yourself in a criminal situation for the first time, this anxiety will surely increase. For the most part, 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 placed in this unfortunate position. Not knowing you legal rights can lead to even more problems regarding a DUI offense than if you were well versed in the process.
In Utah, considering there were well over 15,000 DUI arrests last year (with 44% coming from Salt Lake County alone), the 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 more at the time of the test; or
•The person is under the influence of alcohol, any drug, or the combined influence of both that makes the person unable to safely drive a vehicle.
In terms of penalties, there is extensive and strict sentencing regarding DUI convictions in Utah. Utah statute 41-6a-503 defines a first time DUI offense as a class B misdemeanor that comes with a presumptive sentence of:
•up to six months in jail and/or up to $1000 in fines.
There are circumstances that may allow 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 of age 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 accidentally caused serious injury or death to another person as a result of driving in a careless 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:
•Imprisonment of 48 consecutive hours or more;
•48 hours or more of community service;
•Home confinement with electronic monitoring;
•Participation courses on alcohol or drugs;
•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 critically important to understand your rights while retaining a qualified criminal defense attorney. For starters, you don’t have to take a field sobriety test. A field sobriety test is difficult under normal circumstances, so refusing this aspect of the process can prevent 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 serious damage to you as a defendant, considering that law enforcement has the right to seek a warrant to compel a blood test anyway.
In addition, even for a first-time DUI offender, simply being charged can result in a license suspension. This action can be taken before a conviction, under a procedure called an 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.
With these potential issues in mind, staying up-to-date and informed about your rights, along with the consequences of your actions, will give you a better chance of successfully fighting your DUI charge. Be sure to discuss your situation with a capable criminal defense attorney who understands the laws you allegedly broke.
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