An arrest for driving under the influence (DUI) can mean facing jail time, license suspensions, and other penalties. Even if this is the first time you’ve been arrested or charged with DUI, you could still face these serious penalties, and you will need to go to court to defend yourself against the charges. In most cases, there will be ways to challenge the evidence against you, and your attorney may be able to fight the case and work to keep you out of jail or to reduce the penalties you face. It is important to work with a lawyer in most cases – especially DUI cases. The Salt Lake City DUI lawyers at Overson Law explain why.
How a Lawyer Can Help with a First-Time DUI Case in Utah
In any DUI case, you are not considered guilty until the government proves that you committed each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Alternatively, you can plead guilty and accept the penalties against you. Before a conviction, there is a complex process of criminal procedure and court appearances as the case progresses through the court system. Your lawyer can help challenge the case against you, advise you on when pleading guilty might actually help your case, and help guide you through the legal process.
Fighting DUI Charges
For the government to prove that you committed a DUI offense, they must produce evidence to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that you were intoxicated while you were driving. Evidence of intoxication usually comes in three forms: blood test results indicating your blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) was .05% or higher when you were driving, blood test results that show you had drugs in your system when you were driving, or observations that prove you were intoxicated or high to a degree that you could not safely drive.
Blood test results can be challenged in a few ways that might save you from charges. The first way to challenge these tests is to challenge their legality. Police must get your permission or a search warrant to perform a blood draw and get a blood sample to test. This means they need to go to court and prove that they have probable cause to obtain a blood sample before a court will authorize a blood test for drugs or alcohol. If they do not get a warrant, the blood test might be illegal, and any evidence obtained through the blood sample needs to be thrown out. Alternatively, your lawyer might challenge the evidence by showing that it was obtained through irregular procedures, it was not tested properly, or the test was tainted by mistakes or biased testing practices.
If the police provide other testimony about how you were drunk or high, this evidence can also be challenged. Police often testify that drivers had blood-shot eyes, that they were slurring their speech, that they had an odor of alcohol on their breath, or that “field sobriety tests” indicated they were intoxicated. Many of these pieces of evidence can be present when someone is not drunk, and some of these issues could confuse drunkenness for sleepiness, neurological disorders, or other reasonable explanations. The field tests might also have been performed improperly, and the results might be unreliable. Your lawyer can challenge these facts to try to get the charges thrown out.
Plea Agreements for DUI and Reduced Charges
Some states allow drunk driving charges to be “pled down” to a lesser offense. DUI charges in Utah can come in a few basic types of charges:
- Impaired driving, which is the lowest level of DUI charge
- A class B misdemeanor DUI, which is the basic DUI offense
- A class A misdemeanor DUI, which carries enhanced penalties for drunk driving involving injuries, an underaged passenger in the car, or other specific issues
- A felony DUI, which carries enhanced penalties for serious injuries or repeat driving offenses like other DUIs or vehicular manslaughter
In some cases, charges for a higher level of DUI might be amended to a lower level of DUI if the defendant is cooperative or performs certain requirements. In some cases, a prosecutor might allow a defendant to participate in programs to increase driver safety, seek treatment for drug or alcohol abuse, and monitor the defendant on probation. Successful completion might allow the charge to be reduced and the ultimate penalties to be lowered. This will also enter a reduced charge on the defendant’s record.
Charges for DUI can sometimes be reduced to impaired driving charges under processes described in Utah Code § 41-6a-502.5, potentially saving a first-time DUI defendant from jail time and other penalties. Your lawyer can help you seek these reduced penalties and negotiate an agreement with the prosecutors to allow a guilty plea to result in lesser charges.
The Legal Process for DUI Cases
DUI charges are misdemeanor offenses in Utah. The court system in Salt Lake City – like in any local court in the country – handles DUI cases nearly every day. To the judges, police, and prosecutors in the courtroom, the process is business as usual. However, especially if this is your first interaction with the law, you could be quite confused as to what is happening in your case.
Your lawyer can help guide you through the process, helping to keep you apprised of when your next court date is, what happens at that court appearance, and what you need to do to stay on top of your case. Many times, this kind of direction is necessary to help you avoid failure to appear issues, additional penalties for driving with a suspended driver’s license, and other complications in your case.
Call Our Salt Lake City DUI Lawyers for a Free Legal Consultation
If you were charged with a DUI, you should speak with a lawyer immediately. Even if this is your first DUI – or your first time facing any criminal charges – the court might not look kindly on your case and might still issue steep fines and penalties that could interrupt your life. For a free legal consultation on your DUI case, call the Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyers at Overson Law today at (801) 758-2287.