Drunk Driving Defense Laws in Utah

Utah has the strictest laws for the legal driving limit of any state. Utah makes a distinction between driving while impaired and driving while over the limit. In 2019, Utah became the first state to make it illegal to drive with a blood alcohol limit of .05% or higher. It is important to understand how your state handles impaired driving arrests to know your rights. An experienced, Utah DUI defense attorney can explain your legal options and help you resolve your case.

Utah Drunk Driving Laws

Unlike other states, Utah has one of the lowest blood alcohol limits of .05%. Utah law prohibits a motorist from operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A person is considered “under the influence” when rendered incapable of safely operating a vehicle or has a BAC of .05% or more.

Underage drivers are subject to an even harsher standard. Utah uses the “not a drop” law, which makes it illegal for any driver under the age of 21 years old to have any amount of alcohol in their system.

The court looks at the totality of circumstances test to determine whether a person is in actual physical control of the vehicle such as:

  • Whether the person was seated in the driver’s seat or in the vehicle
  • Whether the person was touching the wheel or any controls
  • Whether the vehicle was on or off
  • Whether the person was asleep inside the vehicle

Implied Consent: Yes

Enhanced Penalties: .16%; driving under the influence with a child in the car; causing serious bodily injury or death; prior convictions

A DUI offense for Driving over the legal limit starts as a Class B misdemeanor and may go up all the way to a third-degree felony, depending on the number of previous offenses and any aggravating factors. The below penalties will be effective on May 4, 2023:

  • First offense: You can face a jail sentence of not less than 5 days or electronic home monitoring of not less than 2 days and no more than 30 days. In addition, drivers face a $700 fine, license suspension, and possible ignition interlock device (IID) requirement.
  • Second offense: You can face a jail sentence of not less than 20 days or 10 days combined with home confinement on electronic home monitoring of not less than 60 days. Some drivers can get ten days in jail and substance abuse treatment if the court finds that substance abuse treatment is “more likely to reduce recidivism” and is in the “interests of public safety.” These penalties are in addition to fines of up to $800, license suspension, and IID restriction.

You can be charged with a 3rd-degree felony if you have two prior convictions. Penalties include substance abuse treatment, installing an IID, and license suspension.

Probable Cause to Stop a Motorist in Utah

Utah law enforcement officers are trained to recognize the signs that a driver might be impaired. If an officer observes any of these signs they could pull a driver over:

  • Driving into oncoming traffic
  • Erratic or uneven braking
  • Ignoring turning lanes and going straight
  • Speeding
  • Stopping in the middle of the road for no reason
  • Tailgating
  • Weaving in and out of lanes

After pulling a driver over, the peace officer will investigate for further evidence of driver impairment. The officer will look for signs such as:

  • A distinct odor of alcohol on the driver’s breath
  • The driver’s face is flushed and red
  • A disheveled appearance
  • The driver has thick or slurred speech
  • Red or glassy eyes

If the police officer observes any of the above, they can ask the driver to submit to chemical testing to determine if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Impact of a DUI Conviction

A conviction for drunk driving can seriously impact a person’s life. A driver with a DUI on their driving record will pay more for car insurance, pay fines and fees for court supervision and driver’s license reinstatement, and can face negative implications for future employment options.

A legal professional will also know how to challenge the legality of the officer pulling you over and thoroughly review the procedures the officers used to conduct the chemical test. Seek out the help of a Utah DUI defense lawyer before making your first appearance in court for a DUI.

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