Delicious irony alert.

Fred S. Swain, a former commander of the Utah Highway Patrol’s DUI unit, has pled guilty to driving under the influence while operating tractor-trailer. The conviction, a class B misdemeanor, comes on the heels of a plea agreement, which allowed Swain to avoid a separate charge for being an alcohol-restricted driver that prosecutors dismissed, according to Desert News. It’s unclear whether Swain must surrender his commercial driver’s license as a condition of sentencing.

Fred Swain DUI

Photo Credit: Purgatory Correctional Facility

Swain reportedly resigned from the Utah Highway Patrol in 2006 after he crashed his unmarked patrol car. Breathalyzer tests performed by authorities at the time showed Fred’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.116 – well over Utah’s .08 legal limit. Back then, Swain received a suspended sentence that included 180 days in jail,12 months probation and a fine of $782. After his latest conviction, the former police officer must serve 10 days in jail, pay $1,540 in fines and serve 12 months probation. The big difference here is that with his first conviction, due to the suspended sentence, Swain served no time behind bars.

Deaths in Utah Due to Drunk Drivers

Alcohol-related fatalities are a major problem in states across the country, including Utah. In 2011, there were 63 alcohol-related deaths in the state, according to DUI Alert. High visibility enforcement actions by authorities, in cooperation with state Youth Alcohol Programs, have managed to keep these rates relatively low compared to the rest of the country. In 2012, there were nearly 10,000 DUI cases pending in Utah courts and 13,301 DUI arrests, according to state government officials.  Consider the following statistics compiled by the state legislature:

  • 72 percent of DUI offenders were male, though the number of women arrested was on the rise.
  • DUI checkpoints, saturation patrols and overtime actions by authorities resulted in 972 DUI arrests.
  • The average BAC found was .14 – nearly double the legal limit.
  • From 2010 to 2011, the number of alcohol-related crash fatalities in Utah increased from 9.9 percent to 16 percent.

Part of the Problem or the Solution?

Utah DUI defense lawyers

Law enforcement as a whole has been part of the solution in reducing drunken driving fatalities. However, when an official, active or otherwise, commits the act they’re supposed to be preventing, it weakens the entire system and damages public confidence. Losing that kind of credibility casts doubt on the thousands of arrests made.

That Swain was able to receive a suspended sentence, and serve no jail time, for his first offense may be indicative of a system that tends to go light on law enforcement personnel when they’re facing criminal penalties. Utah’s own “Best Sentencing Practices” calls for judges to levy jail sentences of six months for “chronic offenders” who don’t go to prison. Swain will only serve 10 days in jail for his latest conviction.

The man was behind the wheel of a massive commercial vehicle when police arrested him. The kind of injuries he could have caused behind the wheel of a tractor-trailer is on a scale I don’t want to contemplate. If he’d had his CDL stripped the first time, perhaps this latest incident would never have occurred.

If you’re facing your own DUI, an experienced Salt Lake City DUI attorney is the only thing that matters when you enter a courtroom. You want diligent case preparation, and a legal team that’s going to fight to clear your good name. Call our firm today to talk about your arrest, and what we can do to help.