Utah DUI License Suspension

If someone has been arrested for DUI in Utah are they going to lose their driver’s license?  Is there a way to prevent the license from being suspended?

If you get arrested for a DUI in Utah, you will automatically lose your license unless you request a hearing with the Driver’s License Division, also known as what we call the DLD.  If you don’t request a DLD hearing within 10 days, you will automatically lose your license.  The only way to keep your license, and to prevent it from being suspended, is to request this hearing.

At this hearing they are going to determine the length of the suspension, if they are going to suspend based on some of the facts of the stop, and that the officer had probable cause to stop you and move forward with the arrest.  The key for most people to understand is that you have to request that hearing with the Driver’s License Division (DLD) within 10 days.

Utah DUI Implied Consent

What does implied consent mean?

Implied consent is dealing with the contract you entered into when you received your driver’s license.  When you get your driver’s license in the state of Utah they treat driving as a privilege and not a right.  Therefore when you get a license you are automatically giving consent to be asked to perform a chemical test if you are pulled over, subsequently, for a DUI.

What this means, in practical terms, is if your pulled over for a DUI, whether or not you have been drinking heavily or you have not touched drugs or alcohol in your entire life, if an officer asks you to submit to a chemical test you have already given consent to that test based on the fact that you have a driver’s license.  If you don’t move forward and consent to the chemical test, they can suspend your license automatically for 18 months for a first offense DUI.  That’s the effect of the implied consent law.

Utah DUI First Offense

What are the penalties for a first offense DUI in Utah?

For a first time offender on a DUI in Utah, the driver’s license suspension is 120 days if you’re over the age of 21.  If you are under the age of 21, the penalties can be much stiffer depending on your age, but generally speaking a first time offender over 21 is a 120 day license suspension.  In addition, in a criminal case, you will have fines, possible 2 day jail time, some classes, and treatment is required for all people who get a DUI.

Additionally, if you plead to a DUI or if you are convicted of a DUI, you will get an ignition interlock device for 3 years and have supervised probation.

Utah DUI Expungement

Can a DUI be expunged in Utah and what are the repercussions of a DUI on your record later in life?

It is possible to get a DUI expunged in the state of Utah.  Unlike most misdemeanors, which have a shorter expungement time period, a DUI expungement time period is much longer.  The reason being that a DUI is an enhanceable offense.  What that means is that anytime you get a DUI, if you get another one within 10 years, it makes the penalties more severe each and every time within that 10 year period.

You cannot get a DUI expunged until that 10 year period has run its course.  If you received a subsequent DUI during this time, they can see if you already have one.  Therefore it is possible to get your DUI expunged, but it’s a 10 year period before you can get it expunged.

Utah DUI Breath Test

If someone in Utah blows into the breath test machine (roadside or at the station) does that mean that they are guilty?

My answer to that question is absolutely not.  Just because you blew into a Breathalyzer machine, whether it be the preliminary breath test machine (also called the portable breath test machine) or the actual Intoxilyzer machine at the station, that does not mean you are guilty.  Oftentimes these machines are inaccurate and do not give proper results.

Therefore it is imperative that you fight these results and talk to an attorney to make a determination if these results are valid and what you can do to fight them.  The simple answer being, it doesn’t mean you’re guilty.  It just means that the particular machine came back with a reading of whatever it is that you blew, which can be attacked later on.

Utah DUI Breath Test Refusal

If someone refuses the breath test, what is going to happen?

If you refuse a breath test and it’s a first time offense, the first time you refuse, you’ll lose your license for 18 months.  There are certain exceptions to that, for example, the officer has to read you your rights and let you know what the penalties are.  Assuming that the police officer performs the DUI arrest process correctly, you will lose your license for 18 months, and this goes back to the Implied Consent law.

Utah DUI Felony

Is a DUI a felony in Utah?

When you get a DUI in Utah, and it’s a first offense, it is a considered a Class B misdemeanor.  Every time you get subsequent DUIs (because it’s an enhanceable offense) the penalties can go up and become more severe.  Once you reach a third DUI, it becomes a felony.  A second DUI is also a Class B misdemeanor and a third becomes a felony.

Utah DUI Charge Reduced

What are some ways that a DUI charge can be reduced or dismissed?

As far as the tactics we use to get a DUI charge either dismissed or possibly reduced, we start from the very beginning.  The first thing we do is look at the evidence and look at the facts behind the stop itself.

Why did the officer pull you over in the first place?  Did the officer have reason to pull you over?  Once the officer did pull you over, what happened next?  Oftentimes the officer will say they smelled an odor of alcohol or that your eyes were red and bloodshot and we want to see why they ended up pulling you over to actually pulling you out of the car.  Every step of the way we are trying to find pieces to attack as far as the officers procedures are concerned.

Once you’re out of the vehicle, we want to look at the field sobriety tests.  Did the officer properly instruct you on these tests?  Did the officer follow proper procedures?  Did you do the tests accurately?  If you passed these tests, we look at whether or not the officer had probable cause to go further.

After the field sobriety tests, we then look at the chemical test.  If it was an Intoxilyzer machine, we want to look at whether the police officer followed proper procedures.  Did they follow the proper breath testing protocol?  Did they properly calibrate the machine?  Was it used in the proper manner?  If it’s a blood draw that they used, did they properly draw your blood and was it kept in the proper chain of custody?  From every step, from the stop all the way up until you’re released, did the officer follow proper procedure?

Once we get in there and look at these items, we then use these as arguments to the prosecutor to try to either get a reduced charge, or if we find things glaring such as a mistake that the police officer made, we may move for a suppression hearing.  That is, to make a motion to suppress the evidence.  What that means is that we’re asking the court to throw out any evidence that was received after the officer did something incorrectly.

So for example, if the officer pulls you over for failure to signal for two seconds, then we can see in the dash cam that you did signal for two seconds, we will try and get a suppression hearing and ask the judge to throw out everything that happened after you were pulled over.  Even if they found evidence that you were drinking, or impaired, if we can find that the stop itself was invalid, we will try and get all of the other evidence thrown out.

If the officer followed procedure correctly, and did everything 100% accurately, we will still make arguments based on what we see to help sway the prosecutor to give us a better deal.  We want the prosecutor to give us a deal of impaired driving or reduce the charges down to something other than DUI.

Utah DUI Expert Witness

What is an expert witness and why would I need one?

We always prep that we’re going to use expert witnesses, at a trial we would use expert witnesses, we may use an expert witness on the intoxilyzer machine, we may use an expert witness on standard field sobriety tests and how the officers not doing them correctly, so that comes in more at trial where we can use to refute the evidence in pleas and the states case to show that things weren’t done correctly.

The problem is that we usually threaten expert witnesses more than we use them because our clients don’t want to pay for the expert witness cost and we usually just, if we have the evidence that the expert witness will testify to something, and it will be in our favor, the prosecution usually bends more than they normally would because they can see that coming. So, it’s kind of a valid threat, the use of an expert witness, helps us and keeps our client from having to pay the cost which they don’t want to do.

Utah DUI Case Wins

Can you describe some of your case wins?

On a recent case where one of the recent cases that we had that worked out very favorably for our client, was we had a gentleman that was stopped by an officer, where the officer said that his license plate light was red, and therefore in violation of the statute. She pulled my client over, pulled him out of the car, and immediately started questioning him about marijuana use, and when was the last time he used marijuana.

My client admitted all the fact that he had been smoking marijuana; it was in his system, etc. He got charged the DUI and then he came and hired us. When we got the case, as I mentioned before, we look from start to finish. The first thing I did was, I want to see why she pulled him over. Well, in the dash cam video itself it is not very clear whether or not his license plate light is red or white, it looks white to me. So we made arguments, we filed the motion to suppress, we made arguments that the license plate light was in fact white, it was not red, it was not in violation of the code, and we got the case completely dismissed.

Even though my client had admitted that he was under the influence of marijuana and that his system was possibly impaired against the way the law is written, the case was completely thrown out and we won the case outright, it was dismissed.

Utah DUI Lawyers

Tell me about your firm and experience.  What sets you apart from other Utah DUI attorneys?

Our firm has been in operation for several years in Utah and focusing primarily on DUI law, DUI defense. Our background I think set us apart somewhat from some of the DUI attorneys in Utah. A lot of DUI attorneys rise up as public defenders or working for a criminal defense firm. I got my experience and I learned how to deal with DUI laws from the perspective of a prosecutor. I’ve experienced prosecuting DUI’s and more importantly I have experience sitting in on meetings where we as prosecutors, would staff DUI cases, going over case by case, what the concerns were, and what the prosecutors, me and the other prosecutors, felt was needed to be done.

That gives me some understanding of what motivates a prosecutor, why they’re so reluctant to dismiss DUI cases even when their evidence is bad. There’s never a single case that doesn’t have at least two attorneys staffed on it, available for a hearing and reviewing evidence. This helps to make sure that no piece of evidence slips through the cracks, that there’s not any issue that we felt was dropped. Based on our experience that is a very successful model, and one that we will continue in the future.

Utah DUI Training and Certifications

What does implied consent mean?

As I mentioned that, several years ago we decided that we wanted to focus on DUI law and we wanted to focus on DUI defense. We have extensive training and as I mentioned previously, I was a prosecutor where I had extensive training on not only DUI cases but also criminal prosecution, and the value in that was trial techniques. Prosecutors are entitled and afforded the opportunity to have extensive trial technique training including recordings and mentors and coaches to teach you how to go through the trial process, and I have that training.

We’re also members of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and are regulars at the trainings put on by those organizations, including annual DUI conferences. In addition, we’ve gone through field sobriety test training and we’ve sat down with real experts, former police officers, to understand how the field sobriety tests are to be put on, what the keys are and how we can attach those. So, the training we’ve gone through in the course of our careers and the extent of relates directly to DUI law and helps us on each case we deal with.

Utah DUI Implied Consent Law

What is the law about implied consent?

I can explain what implied consent means but I first think to understand implies consent, you have to understand in Utah how a DUI works and briefly, it’s a very complicated system, but every DUI gets separated on a two track course. There’s an administrative course and the criminal course. The criminal course goes through the criminal court and people generally understand at least what the system is. But what people may not understand is the administrative nature of the DUI charge. The Utah Department of Drivers License Division is part of the department of transportation, can themselves suspend licenses and do, without going through the proper court proceedings.

The implied consent law is related directly to that because it goes to the heart of the issue in Utah and in other states, that is driving is not deemed a right, but a privilege. While that may seem antiquated, especially given the importance in Utah of being able to drive, to drive to work, to drive to stores, to drive to social outings, its still not considered a right, but a privilege. Given that is a privilege, in order to get your license and in order to be able to drive you have to agree that any officer can test you as long as they have reasonable suspicion and believe you are doing something wrong that they can test you for alcohol or any drugs in your system.

That consent given when you get your license is call Implied consent. So by driving on the road you have implicitly given your consent to be tested anytime you’re in that car. It becomes and issue in the Driver’s License Division hearings because whether or not you actually gave consent, and whether or not it was valid, is not important to the drivers license division. They just want to know if the officer had reasonable belief or reasonable cause to believe you were driving while under the influence of alcohol or any drug.

Winning Utah DUI Cases

Can you describe some of your case wins?

One of the bigger victories that we had just because we felt so good about it because of our client’s needs and what she was going through was a DUI case. Our client was out with some friends, and admittedly had a few glasses of wine, and maybe some more alcohol than she should have had, but spent some time, letting some of the alcohol dissipate before she got in the car and drove. She got pulled over because it was late at night, she may have committed a few traffic violations, but nothing substantial, but she was still pulled over and suspected of DUI. After what we believe to be successful completion of the field sobriety test, the office still required that she undergo a blood test.

The result of the blood test showed that she was slightly over the blood alcohol content limit in Utah. She was at a .085. In the drivers license division hearing she actually lost her license and we lost that hearing. But we immediately appealed and we requested that that determination be reviewed and within a week or two from that date her license was reinstated and her impound fees that she had paid were returned to her. That led us to the criminal case and we were able to get her blood sample and send it to an independent lab and have them retest it.

The independent lab showed that her blood alcohol content was actually below a .08 at a .07 and we returned to the prosecutor, and based on our independent test result and our as to the invalidity of the field sobriety test, and after watching the video which we shared with the prosecutor, the prosecutor agreed to dismiss the DUI charge.

Utah DUI Refusing Field Sobriety Tests

Are their penalties in refusing the field sobriety tests?

There is obviously a penalty for not submitting to a breath test, that’s the implied consent rule. However, there are not penalties for denying or refusing to submit to field sobriety tests. An often times if I could advice the client in the situation I would tell them to not submit to field sobriety tests. Field sobriety tests are much less accurate than most police officers will lead you to believe. They, in order to be accurate, or any aspects of reliability, they have to be performed 100% correct, which vey rarely happens in practice.

And knowing that they are most likely not going to be reliable anyway, it doesn’t behoove most of our clients to submit to the field sobriety tests. There, as I mentioned, no direct negative implications from refusal to submit to field sobriety tests, it will only lead to a request that you undergo a chemical test, a blood or breath test, which you then can make that decision, and should submit to that, but there is no direct penalties for not submitting to a field sobriety test.

Utah DUI Arrest

What can I do right after my DUI arrest that would be proactive in helping my case?

There are a lot of things that an individual can do upon being charged with a DUI that will help them in their case. But, to be honest and to make sure I focus on the most important thing, the most important thing someone can do is make sure that they request a hearing or have an attorney request a hearing within ten days. If you don’t request a driver’s license division hearing within ten days, no matter how solid your case, your license will be suspended. So that ten-day period to request a driver’s license hearing is imperative. Besides that, what I often tell clients, is to get their car out of impound, and take pictures and video of their car as they get it out of impound.

The reason this is important, is because so often the reason, or the original reason for the stop of the DUI is due not necessarily for the driving pattern, but because of some sort of equipment violation. An allegation that the lights were not on, that the driver’s license light is not white, or something to that effect. So we advice our clients to film their car as they get it our of impound to show that those allegations are not true.

Now, in addition to that, and individual can to make their situation slightly better, undergo an alcohol assessment and a pride for life class. Now both of those are ordered as the result any DUI case. If you plead guilty to DUI or you even a reduced charge, so going through those early on shows that you are proactive, that you want to admit that there may be some sort of, something you can do better, even if you are not fully admitting guilt, and it will help you out in the negotiations with the prosecutor, and in sentencing with the judge.

Utah DUI Felony Charge

People are frightened that a DUI is a felony, is that true?

For a run of the mill DUI, the normal case if it’s not true, most DUI’s are class B misdemeanor. Now there are three levels of Misdemeanor, Class A, B and C, Class B being the middle level. And as I mentioned, most DUI’s fall within that category. However, some DUI’s do fall within the felony classification. Those include a third DUI so if you’ve been charged with two previous DUI’s within the prior 10 years, your third DUI will be a felony.

Also if you get in an accident that causes serious physical injury, you will be charged with a felony DUI even if it’s your first time. So, as to the run of the mill DUI for your first or second offense it is a misdemeanor, but if you cause serious physical injury or if it’s a third felony, it can be increased. I also should mention that even if its your first or second DUI and even if you don’t cause serious physical injury to anyone else, if you cause any injury at all or if you have any passengers under the age of 16 in your car at the time of your arrest, you will be charged for a more serious misdemeanor as well.