How Do Prescription Drug DUIs Differ from Alcohol DUI Charges in Utah?

Salt Lake City criminal lawyer

Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI) is a serious crime in Utah. The state policy against drunk and drugged drivers must be taken seriously, or you could face severe penalties. Salt Lake City DUI defense lawyer Darwin Overson invites you to read on as we explain the differences between drug and alcohol DUIs in Utah.

What Are the Differences Between Alcohol and Prescription Med DUIs?

It is illegal to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but investigations, trials, and convictions for drug and alcohol DUIs have some differences. Below, we discuss both charges and how they differ from each other.

Alcohol DUI

Utah is very strict in matters of drunk driving. Their legal statutes are aimed to punish anyone caught driving while under the effects of alcohol. Under Utah law, no person is allowed to drive a vehicle if he or she has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% in their system. Keep in mind the statute is not limited to driving. The legal statute, Utah Code § 41-6a-502 also extends DUI to individuals who are in physical control of a vehicle while under the effects of alcohol; you don’t need to be driving the car to face DUI charges.

Utah separates crimes into what is known as misdemeanors, which are lesser crimes, and felonies, which are the most serious. While drunk driving charges are generally considered misdemeanors, they can have long-lasting consequences in the defendant’s life. For instance, if you are charged and convicted of a first DUI offense, you can face up to three months in jail and up to $750 in fines. In addition to these penalties, you can have your license suspended for 180 days or more.

If you are convicted for DUI on three different occasions for 10 years, your penalties can be substantially more severe. Utah makes a third DUI offense a third degree felony, which can carry up to 5 years in prison, steep fines, and the suspension of your driver’s license.

Prescription Medication DUI

Drugged driving is contained in the same legal statute as drunk driving – Utah Code § 41-6a-502. Like with alcohol DUIs, drugged driving penalties are severe. A person charged with driving under the influence of drugs can face a Class B misdemeanor, which carries a jail sentence, hundreds of dollars in fines, driver’s license suspension and more. If you have drugs on you when you are pulled over, you can also face charges for drug possession.

Penalties for drug DUI can be worse if you have previous DUI convictions. Additionally, you could face years in prison if you cause bodily injuries to another person or cause the death of another driver (vehicular homicide).

The government divides controlled substances into “schedules.” Each schedule has a group of controlled substances that are banned from use by the general population. For instance, if you get pulled over by law enforcement, and they discover you were transporting controlled substances in your vehicle – such as marijuana – you could be charged with drug possession or drug distribution.

Differences Between Alcohol and Drug DUIs

Drug and alcohol DUIs are often different in how they are investigated, but the trial process is very similar. First, police look for different signs of alcohol intoxication and drug use. To spot drunk driving, police look for slowed actions, slurred speech, inability to walk a straight line, and the odor of alcohol on your breath. They may also look at details of how your eyes move and track motion. For drug DUIs, police look for medicinal smells on your breath (to spot things like meth or cocaine use), the odor of burnt marijuana, constricted pupils, confused or slow motions, and other effects of drug use.

When trying your case, the processes are quite similar. Police will seize and test any drugs you possess during the traffic stop, and if the lab results show they are drugs, this will help them prove you were on drugs. They will also draw blood and test it to see what substances are in your system. Whether there are drugs or alcohol in your system, you can still be convicted for DUI.

Can I Defend Myself Against Drunk and Drugged Driving Charges?

There are several ways a Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer could help you challenge your DUI charges. Law enforcement is required to comply with rules that govern the way to interact with you, from how to perform a traffic stop to when they can arrest you. Police officers need to have “probable cause” to arrest you, based on the facts and circumstances they observe. They must follow these rules against illegal searches and seizures for the stop and arrest to be constitutional. If an arresting officer does not follow the law, you could get evidence or arrests thrown out.

DUI Defense Lawyer Offering Free Initial Consultations

If you or a loved one was charged with drugged or drunk driving anywhere in Utah, the time to act is now. Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer Darwin Overson can help. To schedule a free consultation, call Overson Law at (801) 895-3143 today.