Every year, thousands of people are arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. Utah is no stranger to this dangerous fact. As you will see in this article, recent years have included many arrests, accidents, and deaths related to drunk driving. However, some people are still unfamiliar with the consequences of a DUI conviction and the ways in which it can alter their lives. The Salt Lake City criminal defense attorneys at Overson Law, PLLC, expand on this subject below.
How Is a DUI Classified Under Utah Law?
The term DUI — short for “driving under the influence” — refers to the crime of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Despite efforts to prevent DUIs, many people still risk getting behind the wheel while impaired. According to Utah’s Department of Public Safety, in 2017, Utah police officers performed 10,766 DUI-related arrests. Moreover, drunk drivers were responsible for 36 deaths during the same year in Utah. DUI-related crashes are associated with people of all ages, including college students. A person charged with driving under the influence can face harsh consequences, depending on the circumstances surrounding their case.
For instance, a police officer may pull you over because you were swerving and driving slowly on the road. If they find that you were drunk while driving, they will likely arrest you and charge you with a DUI. However, there may be instances where aggravating factors can play a crucial role in your DUI case and the penalties associated with it. For example, if you were responsible for an accident that led to severe injuries or the death of another person, you will likely face additional criminal charges; if found guilty, you may have to pay steep fines and spend years in prison.
However, you may ask yourself what makes a DUI a felony in Utah. To answer this question, we must first examine how Utah classifies crimes. In Utah, criminal offenses are classified into three main categories: infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. Infractions are lesser offenses that carry minimum penalties, such as small fines. Misdemeanors are criminal offenses that can be punished with fines and jail time, while felonies are the most severe type of crimes and often carrying harsher penalties.
Misdemeanors are sorted into Classes A, B, and C. Each of these types of misdemeanors have their own set of penalties. For instance, if convicted of a Class C misdemeanor, you could face up to 90 days in jail and $750 in fines, while a Class A misdemeanor can mean up to a year in jail and $2,500 in fines.
As mentioned above, felonies are the most severe types of crime any person can be charged with. The penalties associated with this type of offense can lead to lasting consequences. Felonies in Utah are divided into first-, second-, and third-degree felonies; the lower the number, the greater the implications for convicted felons. For instance, third-degree felonies are punishable by up to five years in prison and $5,000 in fines. On the other hand, first-degree felonies can mean life in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
A DUI can be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on several critical factors. For instance, a first DUI conviction can be regarded as a Class B misdemeanor, which would mean up to six months in jail and $1,000 in fines. However, your charges can be elevated to a Class A misdemeanor if you caused bodily injury to other people in an accident. You may be charged with a third-degree felony if you had two prior DUI convictions within the past 120 months or were convicted of a previous DUI-related felony. In other words, you may face stiffer penalties compared to a misdemeanor.
Can I Defend Myself Against My DUI Charges?
As outlined above, DUI convictions can lead to severe consequences. In addition to jail or prison time and steep fines, a person can be left with a conviction on their criminal record, which can create difficulties moving forward. Fortunately, you can develop defense strategies with your attorney to make sure your rights are protected at all times.
In our legal system, you must be proven guilty, and the prosecution must make sure to follow the rules of evidence. An experienced Utah criminal defense attorney can provide you with strategic legal arguments that can challenge aspects of your charges, from your arrest and the chain of evidence to the proceedings themselves and the observance of related rules.
For instance, when an officer pulls you over under suspicion of drunk driving, they will likely ask you to take a breathalyzer test. Generally, you are required to blow into the breathalyzer machine, which will attempt to determine your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). These instruments must be calibrated in order to yield an accurate reading, and there may be instances where the machine can generate a faulty reading due to improper calibration and maintenance.
Your lawyer can then challenge this evidence, which can prove beneficial to your case. There are other strategies and defenses your lawyer can develop to help you fight DUI charges in Utah.
DUI Defense Attorney Offering Free Consultations
If you or someone you know is facing a DUI charge in Utah, there is no time to waste. Coming up against the criminal justice system can be a daunting experience. This is especially true for those who have never been involved in a criminal case before. That is why the Utah criminal defense attorneys at Overson Law, PLLC, dedicate our practice to fighting aggressively and strategically to make sure your rights are upheld at all times. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call our law offices today at (801) 758-2287.