Do I Need a Lawyer to Plead Guilty to a DUI in Utah?
Operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol will lead to a charge of driving under the influence (DUI). Most states issue DUIs for drivers who have a of .08% or more. Utah, however, is a bit stricter, and imposes a DUI for a BAC of .05% or more. Depending on your circumstances, a DUI charge might be a minor violation that carries a light penalty, or it might be a serious charge that carries a harsh punishment. You may plead guilty to a DUI, but you are not required to do so. Everyone has the right to fight their charges in a court of law instead of admitting to an offense. There are a number of factors to be considered when determining how to best approach a DUI case, and the Salt Lake City DUI attorneys at Overson Law, PLLC can help. Call (801) 758-2287 for a free consultation.
Definition of DUI in Utah
In the State of Utah, you may be charged with a DUI if your BAC is over .05% while driving. A driver suspected of driving while intoxicated will be pulled over by the police and tested to determine their BAC. A driver will either have their breath tested for alcohol or a chemical test of their blood will be performed. Perhaps the most commonly known test method is the breathalyzer, although other test methods may be used.
A driver can alternatively be charged with a DUI for driving under the influence of drugs rather than alcohol. If a driver is suspected of driving under the influence of drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol, the courts do not need to follow the BAC percentage standard. Instead, officers may issue a DUI when a driver appears so intoxicated and impaired that they are not able to safely operate a vehicle.
The seriousness of a DUI charge will depend on the unique circumstances of a person’s DUI charge. A driver who is facing their first ever DUI charge will probably be given a lighter sentence and the charge will be only a misdemeanor. A driver who has been convicted of multiple DUIs in the past will face harsher punishments, and their charge may be considered a felony. Whether or not you should plead guilty to a DUI in Utah will depend on a number of factors.
Misdemeanor vs. Felony DUI Charges in Utah
A driver who has never been charged with a DUI before or has been charged only once before will be charged with a class B misdemeanor DUI. A DUI may be upgraded to a class A misdemeanor or a more serious third degree felony if certain conditions are present. If you are thinking about pleading guilty, you must consider what kind of DUI charge you have.
When a DUI Becomes a Class A Misdemeanor
A DUI charge can be upgraded to a class A misdemeanor if any of the following elements are present:
- The driver causes injury to another person.
- The driver has a passenger under 16 years of age.
- The driver is 21 years old or older and has a passenger under 18 in the vehicle.
- The driver drives the wrong way down a road or drives drunk on the freeway.
When a DUI Becomes a Third Degree Felony
A DUI charge can be upgraded to a third degree felony when any of the following elements are present:
- The driver inflicts serious bodily injury on another person.
- The driver has two or more prior DUIs within ten years of the current conviction.
- The driver was previously convicted of automobile homicide or another felony DUI.
Additionally, the driver will be charged with a separate offense for each person who suffers bodily injury or serious bodily injury. This means that if three people are injured, the driver faces three separate counts of DUI charges.
DUI Sentencing in Utah
For a first conviction, a court may sentence a defendant to no less than 48 hours in jail or no less than 48 hours of community service. The court will also require the defendant to undergo drug and alcohol screening, participate in drug and alcohol classes, pay a fine of at least $700, and pay any administrative, impoundment, or towing fees. A defendant with a BAC of .16% or higher may also be put on probation.
A felony DUI defendant faces no less than 240 hours in jail or, in the alternative, 120 hours in jail followed by no less than 720 hours of home confinement. The court will also make the defendant participate in drug and alcohol screening, participate in drug and alcohol classes, pay a fine of at least $800, serve a term of probation, and pay any administrative or towing fees. For either a misdemeanor or felony DUI, the court may also, at its discretion, order a defendant to enter substance abuse treatment programs, serve a term of probation, and/or enter a 24-7 sobriety program.
Can I Plead Guilty to a DUI in Utah Without a Lawyer?
If you think pleading guilty to a DUI is in your best interest, it is possible to do so with or without an attorney. You might be wondering why you need an attorney if you just plan to plead guilty and accept the penalties imposed by the court. DUIs are far more complicated than they seem, and choosing to plead guilty without the assistance of a DUI attorney is risky. The penalties associated with any DUI conviction are more than simple fines or jail time. A defendant may be required to attend classes, be placed on probation, and undergo screenings for drugs and alcohol, which can all be a serious interruption to your life.
As with many other criminal charges, Utah prosecutors might be willing to offer you a plea agreement. Most often, DUI plea agreements involve downgrading the charge to impaired driving in exchange for a guilty plea. This is a class B misdemeanor and carries a lighter sentence than a DUI. You could choose to navigate this process alone, but an attorney will know how to get you the best plea agreement possible and help you avoid pleading to unjust charges.
Hire a Utah DUI Attorney for your Drunk Driving Charges
An experienced Utah DUI attorney will help you understand the nature of your DUI charges and the associated penalties. It is possible to plead guilty on your own as you are not legally required to hire an attorney if you do not want one. However, an attorney will be better equipped to defend your best interests in court. Should you choose not to plead guilty, an attorney will also be able to help you fight your DUI in court. To hire one of our Salt Lake City criminal defense attorneys to help you handle your DUI charge in Utah, call Overson Law at (801) 758-2287 to schedule a free consultation.