Do I Need a Lawyer for a First-Time DUI in Utah?
In the state of Utah and across the country, drunk and drugged driving is unfortunately much more common than many people realize. While it one of the more common crimes, however, it is also one of those taken most seriously by the police and other authorities, and it can result in severe penalties, including mandatory jail time. While it can be tempting to think that you can deal with a first-time DUI on your own, this is a very dangerous mindset to have. At Overson Law, PLLC, our skilled Salt Lake City DUI defense lawyers have years of experience guiding our clients charged with DUI to a successful resolution of their cases. Below, we explain how your stop and arrest for DUI will typically work, when you should retain a lawyer in your DUI case, and how our lawyers can help you bring the matter to a successful resolution.
How Does a First-Time Arrest Work in Utah?
You can be charged with the crime of DUI if you drive with a blood alcohol content of 0.05% or more, or with any amount of illegal, non-prescribed drugs in your system, even if it is just metabolites. Usually, the police will pull you over for a traffic violation or some sort of erratic driving that leads them to believe the driver of the vehicle may be driving under the influence. Sometimes, there can be random DUI checkpoints where all cars are checked, usually on holidays like the Fourth of July or after big events like concerts.
In some cases, it is possible for a person to be arrested for being in constructive possession of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A defendant is considered in constructive possession of a vehicle if they have dominion or control over a vehicle. For example, if you fell asleep in your vehicle with the keys to the car in your possession, this could be considered constructive possession of a vehicle.
The officer will ask you where you have been and how much you have had to drink and will make observations such as if you are slurring your words, if the car smells like drugs, or if you have the smell of alcohol in your breath. They will then ask you to take a series of roadside sobriety tests. You do not have to speak to them or take the roadside tests.
If they place you under arrest, however, you will have to comply with a Breathalyzer test as well as a urine or blood test is required. This is because the holder of a Utah driver’s license or motorists using Utah roads are under complied consent to the laws of Utah. As a result, Utah law enforcement does not require your express consent if they take you into custody on suspicion of you operating a vehicle while intoxicated. If you do not comply, you will be charged with the separate crime of refusal, which comes with its own steep penalties. Even if you refuse and your BAC is never measured, you can still be charged and convicted based on the officer’s observations.
Prior to speaking with your defense attorney, you should avoid making any type of admissions to law enforcement. If you provide a statement to law enforcement after your arrest, this information could be used against you when litigating your case. If you wish to make any statements to law enforcement, you should first speak with an experienced attorney to determine how it could impact your case.
If you wish to know more about why you should consider hiring a lawyer for your first DUI case, you should continue reading and speak with an experienced Salt Lake City DUI defense attorney today.
Why Should I Hire a Lawyer to Help with My First-Time DUI Case?
There are many opinions about whether a first-time DUI offender should hire a criminal defense attorney to litigate their case. In some cases, a defendant may be concerned about the cost of hiring an experienced DUI defense lawyer. In fact, members of law enforcement may even encourage that you avoid hiring a DUI defense lawyer as they insinuate the court may go easy on you for a first offense. However, there is no way of knowing the prosecutor or judge you could receive for your case. If you receive a judge or prosecutor that is tough on DUI crimes, you will want to have a skilled defense attorney by your side to assist you through the case.
From the beginning of your DUI case, things are likely to go much smoother, and you have a far greater chance of getting off without the most severe penalties being imposed if you have an experienced Salt Lake City DUI defense lawyer like those at Overson Law, PLLC on your side. Right from the start, you will want an attorney for your bail hearing, which will occur within 72 hours of your arrest. At this hearing, the judge will decide whether to set bail or if you must be held in jail for the remainder of the case. While the judge is unlikely to hold you on a first-time DUI, our skilled Utah bail hearing attorneys at Overson Law, PLLC, can work to get you released on minimal or no bail. We know the most persuasive arguments to make and the factors the judge considers in making a bail decision, including your criminal record and ties to the local community.
We can then work to collect all the outstanding evidence and argue to the prosecutor that your charges merit being downgraded or dismissed. For your first DUI offense, you will typically be charged with a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,500. Utah mandatory sentencing guidelines for DUI offenses also mandate at least two days in jail. However, if certain conditions are met, such as your drunk driving being the proximate cause of someone suffering bodily injuries or if you had a passenger under the age of 16 with you in the vehicle at the time that you drove under the influence, the charge can be raised to a class A misdemeanor. Class A misdemeanors are punishable by up to a year in jail and up to $2,500 in fines. In some cases, such as where serious bodily injury is caused, the charge can be upped to a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in jail and fines up to $5,000.
Our skilled Salt Lake City criminal defense attorneys at Overson Law, PLLC, can work to mitigate the damage and get these penalties reduced. Possibilities of a deal include the prosecutor agreeing to downgrade the charges to something less serious like reckless driving, or the prosecutor recommending a lenient sentence to the judge in exchange for you entering a not guilty plea and saving the state the cost and time of putting on a trial. If you do not wish to take a deal or are not satisfied with the deal offered, there are a number of defenses we can employ at trial, including challenging the findings of the Breathalyzer test. Our battle-tested trial attorneys will leave no stone unturned making their case to the judge or jury that your guilt cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt and that you should therefore be found not guilty.
Ultimately, it is your choice to decide whether you should work with a Utah defense lawyer who is highly familiar with the state’s criminal justice process or determine whether you should consider handling the case alone.
How Criminal Sentencing for First-Time DUIs Work
As you undoubtedly are aware, the judge in a criminal case determines the sentence of a defendant once they are convicted of a crime. When determining a sentence, there are a number of aggravating and mitigating factors that a judge may use to determine a sentence.
Aggravating Factors for Sentencing
Aggravating factors are issues that can increase the severity of a sentence. For example, if a defendant committed a DUI and ended up causing an accident that injured another motorist, this would increase the possibility of a defendant’s sentence being increased. There are other examples of aggravating factors that increase the severity of a defendant’s sentence:
- Whether the offense was extremely cruel or depraved
- Whether the defendant had authority over a victim
- Whether a victim was unusually vulnerable
- The defendant committed a DUI in the presence of a child
- The defendant is a habitual offender with multiple DUIs on their record
This is not an exhaustive list. Many aggravating factors involve a defendant’s interactions with a victim.
Mitigating Factors for a Criminal Sentence
In terms of criminal sentencing, a mitigating factor is an event that may decrease the possibility of facing stiff criminal penalties for a crime. For example, if a defendant was completely cooperative with law enforcement through all stages of their arrest, the court may use this as a factor to issue a lighter sentence to a defendant. A court may also consider mitigating factors if a defendant is a good option for rehabilitation. For instance, if a defendant is willing to attend classes for alcohol abuse and driver responsibility, the court may decide to reduce the severity of an offense.
It is important to have an experienced criminal defense attorney for the sentencing portion of a case as they will fight to ensure that the court understands all the mitigating factors of your case. For example, if you do not have any prior DUIs on your record, our firm will work tirelessly to make the court understand that you committed an isolated mistake, and you are not a danger to others.
As mentioned, ff your DUI case was graded as a felony; you could face multiple years in prison. If you are convicted of a felony offense, the court may request that Utah’s Department of Corrections’ Division of Adult Probation and Parole to compile a report prior to sentencing. This report would include the following:
- The police report of the case
- The defendant’s criminal record
- The drug and alcohol history of the defendant
- Whether there was a victim of the crime and the impact on the victim
- Probation history of the defendant
- A sentencing recommendation
We understand that it can be frightening to deal with a criminal case, and we are here to help you through this difficult time. You should not hesitate to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney for your case. You do not want to leave the adjudication of your case up to chance. Speak with our dedicated criminal defense lawyers to weigh your options for your DUI case.
Call Our Experienced Utah DUI Defense Attorneys Today
If you or a family member needs legal assistance to handle a first-time DUI, you should consult with an experienced Utah criminal defense lawyer today. DUI is a very serious charge that can come with life-changing penalties and consequences. As such, it is vital that you reach out to and retain an experienced Utah criminal defense attorney like those at Overson Law, PLLC as soon after your arrest as possible. The quicker you engage us, the better chance we have of getting your charges downgraded or dismissed. Call our firm today at (801) 758-2328 for a free consultation. You may also contact our defense team online to schedule your free consultation today.