In Utah, it is always illegal to drive while drunk or under the influence of drugs, regardless of your age or driving experience. However, drivers who are under the legal drinking age of 21 face especially strict DUI laws – and especially harsh consequences. If you or your son or daughter was arrested for drunk driving under the age of 21, consequences could include jail time, fees and fines, loss or denial of your driver license, probation, community service, and other serious outcomes. You could also lose eligibility for certain scholarships, volunteer opportunities, or work and internship programs, creating obstacles that can get in the way of your career goals or academic pursuits.
If you or one of your family members has been charged with underage drinking and driving in Utah, you need a tough and experienced defense lawyer to fight in your corner. Darwin Overson is a Salt Lake City underage DUI lawyer with more than 16 years of experience fighting felony and misdemeanor charges involving drunk driving, drugged driving, impaired driving, public intoxication, underage possession of alcohol, possession of fake ID, and other charges involving underage drinking. For aggressive, cutting-edge legal help fighting minor DUI charges, look to Overson Law, PLLC – 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Contact us online for a free consultation, or call (801) 758-2287.
What is the BAC Limit in Utah for Drivers Under Age 21?
Your BAC is your blood alcohol content. The more alcohol is present in your system, the higher your BAC readout will be. However, it may be possible to challenge the accuracy of your BAC readings.
If your BAC exceeds certain limits, or if you appear to be driving in an unsafe and impaired manner, you can be charged with driving under the influence. In December 2018, statewide BAC limits were reduced from 0.08 to 0.05, giving Utah the country’s strictest DUI laws.
For drivers who are below the legal drinking age of 21, BAC limits are even stricter. Even before the new BAC limits took effect in December, Utah followed strict “Not a Drop” rules, which prohibit underage drivers from operating a vehicle with any measurable quantity of alcohol in their bodies. A BAC as low as 0.02 or even 0.01 violates Utah’s Not a Drop regulations, even if the driver is not actually impaired.
Utah is called a “Zero Tolerance” state for this reason. Zero Tolerance rules apply not only to passenger cars, but also scooters, motorcycles, and any other motorized vehicle.
How is BAC Tested in Utah for Minors?
BAC is most often tested using a breathalyzer device. If the police pull you over under suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, the officer will likely have you blow into a breathalyzer device. The device will measure the alcohol detected on your breath to calculate your BAC. A BAC result of .05% or more for a driver 21 years of age or older will result in DUI charges. For an underage driver, a BAC result that indicates any amount of alcohol will result in charges. Refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test may result in additional penalties.
Breathalyzer devices are the primary tool for measuring a driver’s BAC. However, these devices are sensitive pieces of equipment and must be properly maintained and calibrated by the police to ensure their results are accurate. It is possible to challenge your DUI by arguing that the breathalyzer device was not calibrated properly. You can also challenge your DUI charges by arguing the officer did not follow proper procedures when administering the breathalyzer test and the results should not be trusted.
Penalty for DUI Under 21 in Utah
There are two types of DUI offenders under the age of 21:
- Offenders age 18 or older, whose DUI cases are generally tried in regular adult court.
- Offenders under age 18, whose cases are heard by Utah’s juvenile courts.
- Though minors can sometimes be tried as adults, these types of cases generally involve violent felonies, such as attempted murder or aggravated robbery charges.
Alleged DUI offenders who go to adult court will face the possibility of being convicted and receiving criminal penalties, which are discussed in greater detail below. Juvenile courts are civil in nature, but can still impose harsh consequences on underage DUI offenders – who may also face additional consequences at school, work, or internships.
DUI Penalties for Minors
A teenager under 18 who is arrested for DUI faces the revocation, suspension, or outright denial of his or her license for an extended period of time – potentially several years, until his or her twenty-first birthday. He or she may also be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in his or her car. An IID acts like a breathalyzer that prevents the vehicle’s engine from starting if alcohol is detected. The IID requirement also applies to older drivers who are still under the age of 21.
An underage driver who does not yet have their driver’s license may be prevented from getting one until they are at least 21 years of age. This means if a teenager is convicted of DUI charges, they will be denied a driver’s license until they turn 21.
DUI Penalties for Adults
Adult DUI defendants face jail time, fines, and other criminal penalties, depending on factors like BAC, history of prior offenses (where applicable), and whether there were passengers below a certain age in the vehicle. DUI penalties for a first offense in Utah may include the following:
- 48 hours in jail
- Assorted fines totaling approximately $1,400
- Driver license suspension period ranging from 90 days to 24 months
- Evaluation, assessment, and, where appropriate, treatment for alcohol abuse
DUI penalties for subsequent violations will be punished more harshly. Generally, if you are convicted of a subsequent DUI within ten years of your first one, you will lose your license for a longer period of time and any fines you must pay will be increased. The more DUI charges you have on your record, the higher your penalties will be. Multiple DUIs can result in a lengthy prison term and you could lose your license for several years.
Penalties for Refusal to Submit to a Breathalyzer Test
As stated above, refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test may result in additional penalties. Under implied consent laws, drivers consent to BAC testing by virtue of operating their vehicles on Utah’s roads and highways. Officers will not force a driver to submit to testing, but refusal will result in additional charges and penalties.
In Utah, if a driver over the age of 21 is convicted of refusing to submit to chemical testing, they may have their license revoked for 18 months if they are a first-time offender. For someone convicted of a subsequent refusal within 10 years of their previous refusal, they may lose their license for 36 months.
A driver under the age of 21 will face somewhat different penalties. For a first-time offender under the age of 21, the driver will have their license revoked until they are 21 years old or for two years, whichever period is longer. For a subsequent conviction for a refusal to submit to testing within 10 years, the underage driver will lose their license until they are 21 or for 36 months, whichever period is longer.
These penalties apply to underage drivers who are yet to obtain their driver’s license. An underage driver operating their vehicle on a learner’s permit will have their application for a full license denied until they are 21 or for two years, whichever period is longer. If the conviction is for a subsequent refusal within 10 years, they will have their application for a full license denied for 36 months or until they are 21., whichever period is longer.
Penalties for Minors who Bypass or Remove Ignition Interlocks in Utah
The ignition interlock device is placed in your vehicle to prevent you from starting your vehicle if you have any alcohol on your breath. Some people find the IID to be incredibly burdensome and embarrassing. If you try to tamper with or remove your IID, you will face legal consequences.
It is illegal for anyone to tamper with their IID. Trying to remove it or prevent it from functioning will result in criminal charges. Additionally, an interlock restricted driver may not attempt to circumvent their IID by driving another vehicle that is not equipped with an IID. For example, if a man has an IID placed in his car after a DUI, he may not drive his wife’s car instead. An interlock restricted driver may only drive their vehicle with the IID.
An interlock restricted driver may not have someone else blow into their IID in order to start their vehicle. The point of installing an IID in someone’s vehicle is to prevent them from driving while intoxicated. Not only will the interlock restricted driver face charges in these instances, but the person who blew into the IID for them will also face legal consequences.
It is also against the law for an interlock restricted driver to rent, lease, or borrow another vehicle without an IID for the purpose of circumventing the IID in their own vehicle. Any of the above-mentioned offenses will result in charges for a class B misdemeanor. Such a charge may be punishable by a prison term of up to 6 months.
This restriction does not apply to an interlock restricted driver who operates a vehicle owned by their employer within the scope of their employment. The interlock restricted driver must carry on their person verification from their employer that they are authorized to drive the car as part of their job duties. However, the use of the vehicle must be within the scope of the driver’s employment. They cannot simply borrow their employer’s vehicle to run errands or do something unrelated to their job.
Underage DUI Defense Attorneys in Salt Lake City
Make sure you take action today to protect your child’s future tomorrow. If your daughter or son was arrested for drunk driving in Salt Lake City, you need a DUI defense lawyer with specific experience handling cases involving minors and juveniles. DUI penalties could follow your son or daughter well into adulthood and prevent them from obtaining a driver’s license, getting certain jobs, or going to school. To set up a free legal consultation concerning an underage DUI arrest, call Overson Law, PLLC at (801) 758-2287, or contact our law offices online today.