Utah's Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Statute

Utah's driving under the influence (DUI) statute 41-6a-502, prohibits operating a vehicle while the driver:

  • has sufficient alcohol in the person's body that a subsequent chemical test shows that the person has a blood or breath alcohol concentration of .05 grams or greater at the time of the test;
  • is under the influence of alcohol, any drug, or the combined influence of alcohol and any drug to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely operating a vehicle; or
  • has a blood or breath alcohol concentration of .05 grams or greater at the time of operation or actual physical control.

Most first-time DUI cases in Utah are charged as a class B misdemeanor. Certain aggravating factors can cause the DUI to be charged as a class A misdemeanor or even a felony. Those factors can include the number of prior convictions or an injury caused by a crash.

Measurable Controlled Substance DUI

Each state approaches driving under the influence of drugs differently, but those found guilty of committing this crime may face harsh criminal penalties.

Under Utah Code 41-6a-502, a person is guilty of a DUI with a controlled substance if they

  • are under the influence of any drug to a degree that renders them unable to safely operate a vehicle; or
  • operate a motor vehicle while they have any measurable controlled substance or metabolite of a controlled substance in their body

In addition to the language provided in the DUI code (41-6a-502) above, there is a specific statute for driving with any measurable controlled substance in the body: Utah code 41-6a-517. This statute unambiguously criminalizes operating or being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle with any measurable controlled substance or metabolite of a controlled substance in the person's body, regardless of the metabolite's potential, or not, to cause impairment.

In many of these cases, the prosecutor and the criminal defense attorney will negotiate a plea deal in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty to the crime of driving with any measurable controlled substance in the body in satisfaction of, or as a substitute for, a DUI charge.

A conviction for driving with any measurable controlled substance in the body is considered a prior conviction for purposes of enhancing a third or subsequent DUI charge to a felony. The provisions in the DUI law regarding screening, assessment, education, and treatment also apply to this offense.

DUI Plea Restrictions in Utah

According to Utah code 41-6a-513, prior to agreeing to a plea of guilty or no contest, the prosecutor must examine the criminal history or driver license record of the defendant to determine if the defendant's record contains a conviction, arrest, or charge that should be considered to enhance the new charges.

In the past, some people escaped harsher penalties for DUI by quickly entering a plea in court before the prosecutor or court knew about prior convictions that triggered harsher penalties. In these cases, the quick plea did not allow sufficient time for law enforcement or prosecutors to review the defendant’s criminal history.

To prevent a defendant from entering a plea to a misdemeanor when the crime should have been charged as a felony, Utah created the law to impose plea restrictions.

What Happens in a Typical DUI Investigation in Utah

In a typical DUI investigation, the law enforcement officer will stop a vehicle, usually for a moving violation such as failing to maintain a single lane or speeding. When the officer makes contact with the driver, the officer might report detecting the odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from the driver's mouth. The officer might also report that the driver has slurred speech, bloodshot glassy eyes, has a blank stare, or acts lethargic. In some DUI cases, the officer reports that the driver has trouble providing a driver license, registration, or proof of insurance.

If the officer decides to conduct a DUI investigation, they will request that the driver exit the vehicle to perform field sobriety tests and/or a preliminary breath test. Based on evidence obtained during the investigation, the officer might arrest the driver for DUI. The arrest is based on the officer's suspicion that the driver is less safe to drive.

After the arrest, the officer will also ask the driver to submit to the Intoxilyzer test and read the driver the chemical test admonitions verbatim off the DUI Report Form. The refusal admonition is often read verbatim off the DUI Report Form, which informs the driver that if they refuse to submit to the test, the driving privilege could be revoked for 18 months or until age 21 for a first refusal, or for 36 months or until age 21 for a second or subsequent refusal.

If the driver refuses after receiving the warning, the officer might attempt to obtain a warrant for the driver's blood to test it for the presence of alcohol or controlled substances. 

An experienced DUI defense attorney in Salt Lake City, UT, can look at every aspect of your case, from the typical scenario to the more complicated procedures used after a crash, to determine whether the law enforcement officer made any mistakes that might result in the suppression or exclusion of evidence.

Finding a DUI Attorney in Salt Lake City, Utah

After an arrest for a DUI, you need a qualified and experienced attorney on your side to protect your rights. Whether your case involves a refusal to submit to testing or a high alcohol concentration in the breath or blood, we can help you fight the charges. Call the DUI attorneys at Brown, Bradshaw & Moffat to discuss your case. We represent both adult drivers and young people under the age of 21 charged under Utah's zero tolerance statute.

With offices conveniently located in Salt Lake City, we are ready to meet with you to discuss your case. Find out what you need to do right now to protect your rights.

Call today for a free consultation at (801) 532-5297.

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