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Just a few beers? You’re not in the clear

Unfortunately, we’re obligated to kick this one off with a bit of bad news: Politicians in the state of Utah have been very proactive lately when it comes to keeping intoxicated drivers off their roads. Early in 2017, the state legislature passed a new law that lowers the legal intoxication limit from 0.08% to 0.05% — making it the only state in the nation with such a strict standard. It isn’t scheduled to go into effect until 2018, and it’s already facing extensive criticism from private citizens and businesses alike. So why the bold move? It isn’t as though the state sees abnormally high numbers of DUI-related fatalities or anything of that nature. There isn’t really a great answer for that; Utah just so happens to be a historically conservative state, and its lawmakers apparently felt like solidifying that reputation, and after all, it’s true: Drinking and driving really isn’t a smart thing to do. It’s possible that enacting an even harsher standard for what’s considered illegal might lead to fewer people taking the risk and driving while drunk, thereby sparing them the nasty pitfalls associated with a guilty conviction.

As you’ll see, if you do make it to the conviction stage of DUI law in Utah, you’re gonna have a bad time. A guilty verdict is associated with steep fines, mandatory periods of jail time and house arrest, and of course the irreversible embarrassment and scar upon your reputation that only comes with this sort of a charge. There are also a variety of factors that can worsen the severity of your punishments. Hopefully, you won’t ever get to the point where you even need the advice detailed below. But if you do, we won’t judge. And hey – you’re already here at BernieSez. That’s a step in the right direction! It never hurts to be a little prepared.

Define “drunk”…

For the time being, having a BAC of 0.08% or greater is considered legally drunk and illegal if you’re driving a car – that is, if you’re a regular old citizen who is at least 21 years of age. If you’re suspected guilty with this in mind, that’s considered a DUI charge. However, like in many other states, you can actually be arrested and charged under the provisions of a DWI, or driving while intoxicated, which involves having a BAC below the legal limit or being under the influence of illegal drugs. While it is undoubtedly less severe than a DUI, this sort of a charge can still fuck you over pretty bad. It isn’t associated with a mandatory minimum jail time or other extreme consequences associated with a DUI conviction, but you can still have your license suspended for a considerable length of time.

Once you start looking at multiple offenses, all crimes involving drinking and driving in Utah are treated with a lookback period of 10 years. In other words, the consequences surrounding a new offense within 10 years of a prior can be “enhanced”, or attached to penalties far worse than those associated with a first-time offense. That goes for both DUI’s and DWI’s. So be smart – if you’re ever pulled over under suspicion of driving under the influence, whether you end up in jail or not, consult with an experienced lawyer to see what the smartest next move might be.

What if I’m guilty?

Before getting into the “what-if’s”, it might be beneficial to get a concrete understanding of what a guilty DUI verdict looks like in the state of Utah. You can probably already guess that it’s not a whole lot of fun. As you read on, keep in mind that the following penalties are applicable when your BAC is between 0.08% and 0.15%; once you hit that “twice the legal limit” stage, penalties are understandably more severe and not well represented by the explanations below. We’ll get into that later on.

  • First offense: This is considered a class B misdemeanor.
    • Fines totaling about $1,300.
    • A minimum of 48 consecutive hours in jail. Depending on the leniency of the judge, this may be replaced with 48 hours of community service or a period of house arrest.
    • The possible installation of an ignition interlock device (or IID) in your vehicle.
    • Possible substance abuse evaluation and subsequent treatment.
    • Possible – but not mandatory – license suspension, which may be ordered for a period of time between 90 days and two years at the judge’s discretion.
  • Second offense: Also considered a class B misdemeanor.
    • Fines totaling about $1,500.
    • A minimum of 240 hours in jail. This may be reduced to 120 hours in jail at the judge’s discretion, but only with the addition of 720 consecutive hours of house arrest. (That’s one full month for those of you who aren’t great at math.)
    • A two-year license suspension.
    • The possible installation of an IID in your vehicle.
    • A supervised probationary period.
    • Possible substance abuse evaluation and treatment.
  • Third offense: This is considered a third-degree felony.
    • Fines ranging anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000.
    • Up to five years in state prison. However, prison time is still not mandatory, and a judge may choose not to impose such a penalty in exchange for a supervised probationary period.
    • License revocation for up to two years. In order to have your license restored, extensive testing and re-application is required.
    • Mandatory substance abuse evaluation and treatment.

For all of the scenarios detailed above, penalties are usually a good deal more serious if the driver’s BAC is at least twice the legal limit – AKA, 0.16% or higher. Usually, if you fall into this category, you’re looking at three mandatory addendums to the typically prescribed penalties:

  • The installation of an IID in your vehicle,
  • The required wearing of a SCRAM bracelet for a set period of time – also known as the most high-tech version of ankle monitor which transdermally detect and report alcohol consumption by the wearer.
  • A set period of house arrest and monitoring.

How not to lose that license

From the moment you get pulled over under suspicion of drinking and driving, you are subject to losing your license – conviction not required. Administrate penalties, as monitored by the department of motor vehicles, are usually triggered by an arrest. The one that you should probably worry most about is license suspension, since this is oftentimes the one consequence that shows up the soonest following an arrest and frequently lasts the longest following a conviction.

Let’s look at a first-time offense as an example. You’re on your way home from the bar – swerving – staying in your lane for the most part but probably not the safest driver out there at this particular time. You get pulled over and fail a field sobriety test. Busted. Since you have no priors, the administrative suspension period is 120 days, but it doesn’t go into effect right away. When they let you go, you’re sent home with a temporary license that’s good for 29 days. You are allowed to challenge the automatic suspension by requesting a hearing, but this must be done within 10 days of the arrest. Otherwise, you must forfeit your license following those 29 days and find alternative modes of transportation until your court date. And don’t even think about refusing that breathalyzer test (unless you have a really good reason…) – doing so will result in an automatic license suspension for 18 months.

If you happen to get a really experienced lawyer and manage to get the charge dismissed at your trial, it’s possible to get your license reinstated right away, even if the originally determined 120 days haven’t passed. However, if you’re found guilty and there are aggravating factors involved that suggest to the judge that a longer suspension period might be beneficial, that’s possible as well. Hopefully, the main idea here is clear: The Utah DMV and court system don’t take any chances when there’s a possible alcohol enthusiast living on the edge on public roads. In simpler terms: Booze it and lose it.

Don’t take any chances; hire an experienced attorney today

Upon being charged with a DUI in the state of Utah, you’ll find that your life is about to get a hell of a lot more complicated. There is no rule that says that you should go about it alone; in fact, in this sort of scenario it’s more than recommended that you seek legal assistance or at least a little advice. At BernieSez, you can upload your case for free, where experienced attorneys from all 50 states will have access to it and can offer you their services. Or, if you just have a question, feel free to try out the discussion board – it’s even easier! No matter the severity of your crime or the number of times you’ve gotten busted by law enforcement, know that your right to an attorney exists and you’ll thank yourself later for exercising said right. What are you waiting for? Upload your case, and embark on your path to better justice today.

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