What is the Statute of Limitations on DUI Charges in Utah?

Salt Lake City criminal lawyer

Being arrested for DUI is often an extremely quick process. To get the necessary evidence and bloodwork to prove a DUI case, police are often extremely quick and efficient. However, most crimes can be charged even after a significant period of time has passed since the incident. This time limit, called a “statute of limitations,” dictates how long the government has to arrest you and charge you with a crime. Salt Lake City DUI defense attorney Darwin Overson, of Overson Law, explains how Utah’s DUI statute of limitations works, and why police usually never let the limitations period run.

DUI Statute of Limitations in Salt Lake City

DUI crimes in Utah are punished in different ways based on whether they are your first offense, second offense, or third or further offense. The first and second DUIs are both misdemeanor offenses, punishable by a maximum of one year, and a third or subsequent DUI is a felony punished by a possibility of over a year in prison. Under Utah Code § 76-1-302:

  • Every misdemeanor (1st or 2nd offense) has a statute of limitations of 2 years, and
  • Every felony (3rd or further offense) has a statute of limitations of 4 years.

The statute of limitations for a criminal offense dictates how much time the police and prosecutors have to file the charges. This means that your case could actually extend beyond this period, but charges against you cannot usually be filed after that 2- or 4-year period has run.

There are, however, exceptions to the statute of limitations. If you leave the State of Utah, the time limit’s clock will pause. This means that if you commit a drunk driving offense, but leave the state, police and prosecutors will not be subject to any time limit until you re-enter the state. This is to prevent people from avoiding apprehension for a crime by simply fleeing Utah.

Utah Criminal Defense Attorney

If you were already cited for drunk driving at the scene, the government will not be subject to these deadlines. By that time, the case against you has already begun. If you were released on bail or on your own recognizance (RoR), this time limit does not affect you. At that point, you are required to appear at all court dates that have been set, and failing to appear can lead a judge to put a bench warrant out for your arrest. This means police can re-arrest you for failing to appear, and physically take you back to court – and jail.

DUI Cases Start Immediately

In nearly every case, DUI charges start immediately after you are pulled over. It is extremely rare that police would fail to file charges, then return with charges at a later date. The only time that this might happen is if you are suspected of DUI along with another serious offense, such as vehicular homicide or hit and run. Only then might the police arrest you later, and add the DUI charge alongside the other charges.

In the vast majority of cases, police will arrest you and charge you with DUI immediately after pulling you over and gather evidence that you were driving under the influence. Because your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) will continue to reduce as your body processes any alcohol in your system, police need to get a blood sample as quickly as possible after they witness you driving. To get a test of your BAC, police can use a breathalyzer test. Though this test might not hold up in court, police can legally have you submit to a breathalyzer at the time of arrest. To get a blood test, police need a search warrant. This will usually mean they arrest you, get the warrant, and perform the blood test as quickly as possible to get the evidence before you sober-up.

Salt Lake City DUI Defense Lawyer

Police could (technically) arrest you, take a blood sample, then wait to charge you with any crime. This would be permissible under the appropriate statute of limitations, since police would have 2-4 years to file charges against you. However, this almost never happens. Police and prosecutors have a goal to quickly and surely punish offenders. Waiting years to file charges strongly cuts against that goal. One instance this may happen is if you were on the line for the “legal limit.” If your BAC was close to .08% (or .05% starting in 2019), police may wait to charge you until they know your BAC was indeed over the limit. Alternatively, police may charge you, then drop charges if the blood results come back under the legal limit.

Salt Lake City DUI Lawyer

If you were arrested and charged with DUI – or you think charges may be filed against you – talk to an attorney right away. An experienced defense attorney can talk to police and convince them not to file charges, negotiate dropping low BAC charges, and fight the evidence in court if charges are filed. Salt Lake City criminal defense attorney Darwin Overson of Overson offers free consultations on new cases. Call (801) 758-2287 today for your free consultation.