Is DUI a Felony in Utah?
DUI is typically a misdemeanor crime in Utah. However, there are also a few scenarios where driving under the influence can lead to felony charges. Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer Darwin Overson explains when intoxicated driving is a felony in Utah, with an added look at penalties for felony DUI and some recent drunk driving arrest statistics.
Utah DUI Arrest Statistics
Every year, more than 100,000 people get arrested in Utah. In 2013, a total of 133,310 people were arrested. In 2014, just over 117,000 people were arrested. In 2015, the most recent year for which data is available, 116,763 people were arrested.
Driving under the influence (DUI) accounted for a significant number of these arrests, as you can see by looking at the chart below.
|Adult DUI Arrests||9,098||7,888||8,702|
|Underage DUI Arrests||81||152||148|
|Total DUI Arrests||9,179||8,040||8,850|
|Total Arrests Overall||133,310||117,050||116,763|
|DUI Percent of Total Arrests||6.9%||6.9%||7.6%|
In 2013 and 2014, DUI accounted for about 6.9% of all arrests in Utah, despite fluctuations in other numbers. Even though fewer people were arrested for DUI in 2015 than in 2013 (though more than in 2014), a larger portion of arrests were for DUI (7.6% versus 6.9% in previous years). These figures come from the annual “Crime in Utah” report, which is based on arrest data submitted by various police departments throughout the state.
When is a DUI a Felony Charge in Utah?
Because DUI is such a common offense, some people make the mistake of assuming it’s “not a big deal.” However, this is a dangerous way of thinking. DUI charges are serious, because they can:
- Give you a criminal record.
- Cause you to be jailed and/or placed under house arrest.
- Lead to expensive fines.
- Result in suspension of your driver’s license.
- Cause you to be put on probation.
- Make it harder to get hired, keep your job, or earn special professional licenses.
Even misdemeanor DUI charges can result in these consequences. Felony DUI charges are even greater cause for concern, because the penalties can be more severe than those you might receive for a misdemeanor. The bottom line is that if you have been charged with driving under the influence, you need to get legal help from an experienced Salt Lake City DUI lawyer as soon as possible.
Whether you will be charged with felony DUI or misdemeanor DUI depends on the circumstances at the time of the offense. The difference between felony drunk driving and misdemeanor drunk driving is explained by Utah Code § 41-6a-503, which lays out criminal penalties for DUI in Utah.
Usually, DUI is charged as a misdemeanor when it is the person’s first offense. However, there are other situations where a drunk driving arrest can lead to DUI felony charges.
There are a few different types of felonies, separated by degrees. They are known as “first degree felonies,” “second degree felonies,” and “third degree felonies.” Any crime below a third degree felony is a misdemeanor (or, if the offense is minor, an infraction). DUI is a felony – specifically, a third degree felony – if any of the following statements are true:
- Somebody (other than the driver) was seriously injured because of the DUI, like a passenger or pedestrian.
- The driver already had at least two prior misdemeanor DUI convictions from during the past 10 years. (In other words, a third DUI is a felony.)
- The driver had a prior felony DUI conviction.
- The driver had a prior conviction for vehicular homicide in Utah (automobile homicide).
Otherwise, DUI is typically a misdemeanor.
Utahans (and visitors) should be advised that the Utah State Legislature – in a somewhat controversial move – recently lowered the intoxicated driving BAC from 0.08, which is standard throughout the U.S., down to 0.05. In other words, you can now be arrested for DUI with a lower BAC.
Penalties for DUI Felony Charges
Felonies are more serious crimes than misdemeanors. Therefore, defendants who are convicted of felonies can receive tougher penalties. This applies not only to DUI convictions, but all types of criminal convictions. See the chart below to learn the consequences of a felony conviction for driving under the influence in Salt Lake City or other parts of Utah.
|Mandatory Penalties||Possible Penalties|
|Prison/Jail Time||0-5 years in prison OR 62 ½ days in jail||House arrest (“electronic home confinement”)|
|Fines||$1,500 plus surcharges*|
|License Suspension||Varies||Court-ordered 90-day, 180-day, 1-year, or 2-year extension of license suspension|
|Probation||Up to 36 months (3 years)*|
|Other||Screening for treatment||Ignition interlock; assessment and treatment*|
*These penalties may differ if the defendant is sentenced to 0-5 years in prison (as opposed to 62 ½ days in jail).
Not only do felonies have worse formal penalties – the unintended or collateral consequences can also be harsher. For example, many employers are willing to overlook prior misdemeanors, but will reject applicants with felony records.
To learn more about Utah DUI laws and penalties, see our article on driving under the influence in Utah.
Get Legal Help from a Salt Lake City Felony DUI Lawyer
Darwin Overson is a Utah DUI attorney with over 16 years of experience handling thousands of criminal cases. Darwin handles DUI cases in Davis County, Utah County, Cache County, Weber County, Tooele County, Summit County, Box Elder County, Wasatch County, and other areas of Utah. For a free legal consultation with Darwin concerning DUI or related charges, such as open container violations, underage drinking, or breathalyzer refusal, call the law offices of Overson Law at (801) 758-2287 right away.