Can a First Offense DUI Be Dismissed in Utah?

Salt Lake City criminal lawyer

Getting criminal charges against you dismissed is usually the ideal goal for any criminal defendant.  When charges are dismissed by a judge, your case usually ends right there, meaning that you will face no further penalties, bail will often be returned, and you can proceed without having to defend yourself from any more legal issues.  The Salt Lake City DUI defense lawyers at Overson Law explain when you might be able to get first offense DUI charges dismissed or reduced to a lower-level offense.

Can DUI Charges Be Dismissed or Dropped in Utah?

When you face criminal charges, there are usually 4 potential outcomes you could face:

  • You are found guilty and convicted then sentenced to penalties
  • You plead guilty to the crime and are sentenced to penalties
  • The prosecutor drops the charges and stops the case from moving forward
  • The judge dismisses the case and stops the charges

Either of the first 2 options is usually considered a “loss” and will result in you facing whatever penalties the judge finds appropriate.  However, sometimes pleading guilty to an offense as part of a plea deal with the prosecution will actually be a better outcome than trying to fight the case and being found guilty.

If a prosecutor stops the charges against you, it is known as having charges “dropped.”  This usually happens as part of a plea deal where only some charges will move forward because the prosecutor realizes there is not enough evidence to charge you, or because they found evidence that you did not actually commit the crime.

Charges are “dismissed” by a judge.  Judges dismiss charges “with prejudice” so that they cannot be refiled, usually because the judge found that the prosecution shouldn’t have brought the charges or made certain mistakes.  If charges are dismissed “without prejudice,” the prosecution can re-file them after getting more evidence or sending police to investigate the case more closely.  If charges are dismissed after a jury is already sworn in on your case, it is considered an acquittal, and you cannot be charged for the same crime again.

DUI charges can be dismissed or dropped, but most DA’s offices have internal office policies that tell prosecutors not to drop these charges.  This is usually done as part of an effort to strictly police drunk driving and ensure that people who drive drunk face punishment for it.  However, charges might be dropped or reduced through official processes to help first-time offenders face lighter penalties.

Can You Plead Down First Time Drunk Driving Charges in Utah?

Drunk driving charges come in 4 types in Utah:

  1. Impaired driving, which is a lesser form of drunk driving charges
  2. Driving under the influence, which is the standard class B misdemeanor DUI offense
  3. Class A misdemeanor DUI, which carries upgraded penalties for injuries or driving with underage passengers
  4. Felony DUI, which is charged for repeat offenders or a record of serious prior traffic offenses.

The elements of the crime are essentially the same for each form of DUI, but the penalties are upgraded based on different circumstances.  If your first DUI is a standard misdemeanor DUI charged for driving with a BAC (blood-alcohol concentration) over .05% or for drugged driving, then you would face charges for a class B misdemeanor.  This normally carries up to 6 months in jail, up to $1,000 in fines, and other penalties like a suspended driver’s license.

Pleading Down DUI to Impaired Driving

In some cases, you can get DUI charges “pled down” to a lesser offense.  For charges above a class B misdemeanor, this might mean getting the charges reduced to a standard DUI offense.  This is unlikely to happen for felony DUI charges since they usually cover repeat offenders, which a court is unlikely to be lenient on.  Alternatively, a standard DUI might be reduced to “impaired driving.”

Utah Code § 41-6a-502.5 has rules for pleading down charges for driving under the influence to impaired driving.

Pleading Down DUI to Reckless Driving

Utah also allows DUI charges to be “pled down” to reckless driving under some circumstances.  However, when DUI charges are reduced to reckless driving, they will still be flagged as alcohol-related so that your record reflects that this was a reduced DUI crime.

Getting DUI Charges Reduced in Utah

As discussed, Utah Code § 41-61-502.5 allows DUI charges to be reduced from driving under the influence to impaired driving.  This is a reduction in charges even though both offenses are still class B misdemeanors, as other penalties and a criminal record for impaired driving are usually lower than for DUI.

To get your charges reduced, you will need to arrange a plea deal with the prosecution that allows your charges to be reduced.  Alternatively, the judge might find that a guilty plea without a deal set in place will still work, but this is risky.

After pleading guilty, you will need to successfully complete probation and meet other requirements.  After that, the judge can reduce the charges and change your record.

Charges can be reduced to reckless driving as part of a plea negotiation with the prosecution.  Talk to a lawyer for more information about this kind of plea deal.

Call Our Salt Lake City DUI Lawyers for Help on Your Case

If you were charged with drunk driving in Utah, call the Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyers at Overson Law today.  Our attorneys work to help drivers get DUI charges dropped and dismissed, and we offer free consultations to help you understand your options for pleading down DUI charges and having charges dismissed.  For your free legal consultation, call our lawyers at (801) 758-2287.

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