Is Utah a Zero-Tolerance Drunk Driving State?

Salt Lake City criminal lawyer

The phrase “zero-tolerance” with regard to drunk driving usually refers to a few different types of programs that carry a lowered blood alcohol “limit” for driving under the influence (DUI) charges.  While no state in the country has a general “zero-tolerance” drunk driving limitation, Utah does have “zero-tolerance” policies for underage DUI and lower DUI limits for commercial drivers.  The Salt Lake City DUI defense attorneys at Overson Law explain some of these zero-tolerance laws and how they can affect your DUI case.

What is the Legal Limit for DUI in Utah in 2019?

Up until December 30, 2018, the legal limit for DUI was .08% blood alcohol concentration (BAC).  After that, the limit went down, creating stricter DUI laws.  Now, anyone driving with a BAC of .05% or higher can be arrested and charged with DUI.  DUI laws are also more complex than this in most states, Utah included.

While most people know that .08% – or .05% in Utah – is called the “legal limit,” they do not know that you can typically still be arrested and tried for DUI with lower levels of alcohol in your system.  While part of the point in reducing the DUI limit in Utah was to create more strict yet clear rules, it didn’t change the little-known laws that allow you to still be arrested and charged for driving with a BAC under .05%.

The limit of .05% is simply a “per se” rule, which the government used to draw a line in the sand and say that anyone driving with a BAC over this limit is, by definition, intoxicated.  However, you can still be charged for driving under the influence if you are intoxicated or too dangerous to drive regardless of what your BAC is.  This allows low-BAC cases to be charged as well as cases where the driver refuses a BAC test.

What is the “Not a Drop” Law BAC Limit for Underage DUIs in Utah?

Many states have lower BAC standards for drivers under 21.  Since people under 21 cannot drink anyway, it becomes a more serious offense to mix underage drinking with driving under the influence at that age.  Many states create a reduced “legal limit” of .02% for underage drivers.  This gives some leeway for drinking communion wine at church or using mouthwash with alcohol in it.  Utah’s “not a drop” law actually states that it is illegal for an underage driver to operate a vehicle “with any measurable blood, breath, or urine alcohol concentration in the person’s body.”

This is an extremely strict zero-tolerance policy that makes it so you can be charged with a DUI as a minor if the testing used is sensitive enough to measure any amount of alcohol in your body.  Because traffic tickets for underage DUI can lead to driver’s license suspensions, fines, and even jail time, it is absolutely vital to talk to a lawyer and get help with your case even if you had a small amount of alcohol in your body when you were charged with DUI.

Zero-Tolerance DUI Laws for Commercial Drivers with CDLs in Utah

People with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) are also held to more strict standards with DUIs.  In Utah, the DUI limit was lowered for all drivers down to .05%, but it has been .04% for commercial drivers for a long time.  When Utah lowered the general BAC limit for DUI, it kept the CDL DUI limit at .04%.  This limit is by no means a “zero-tolerance” policy, but it is a bit more stringent than the general DUI limit everyone else must follow.

Facing a DUI will likely mean having your driver’s license suspended in Utah.  If you rely on your CDL for work, a suspension can affect your livelihood.  In many cases, once your CDL has been suspended for drunk driving, you cannot get it back for some time, putting a hold on your career.  Moreover, future employers might look at the conviction of a DUI offense as a black mark on your record, potentially affecting your ability to get hired.

Zero-Tolerance Laws for Convicted Drunk Drivers

People who have been convicted of drunk driving already might face more stringent rules in the aftermath of their DUI conviction.  Typically, a conviction for drunk driving comes with a license suspension, but it may have additional terms of probation or a requirement that the driver use an ignition interlock.  These could essentially function as zero-tolerance policies.

If you have a suspension for driving under the influence, you will certainly face additional penalties if you are found driving with any alcohol in your system while your license is still suspended.  Additionally, if you are required to drive with an ignition interlock, you will not be able to start your car until your interlock registers a clean breath sample.  If you drive a vehicle without an interlock while alcohol is in your system, or if you have someone else blow into the breathalyzer on your interlock, you could face additional DUI charges that typically have strict standards as well.

Talk to a lawyer about what standards and conditions you will be met with in the aftermath of a DUI conviction.

Call Our Salt Lake City DUI Attorneys for a Free Consultation

If you were arrested or charged with drunk driving in Utah, call our Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyers today.  Our attorneys fight to help keep drivers out of jail, and we work to fight blood test results and evidence that would unfairly lead to a DUI conviction.  For a free legal consultation on your case, call Overson Law, PLLC today at (801) 758-2287.