What is Utah’s Zero Tolerance Law?

Utah is known for strict alcohol laws, particularly pertaining to people under the legal drinking age of 21. People who engage in underage drinking and driving can be charged with DUI for having a blood alcohol content (BAC) as low as 0.01. This zero tolerance policy is known as Utah’s “Not a Drop” law, because it prohibits people under 21 from operating a vehicle with even a single drop of alcohol in their systems. Though well-intentioned, this extremely strict and harsh policy can create great legal peril for minors and young people accused of drunk driving, often high school or college students. If your teenage son or daughter was arrested for intoxicated driving in Utah, you should contact a Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer right away. In the meantime, this article will provide you with some additional information about Utah’s zero tolerance law – and the penalties for violating it.

What is the Zero Tolerance Policy for Minors in Utah?

Utah’s zero tolerance policy, otherwise known as the “Not a Drop” law, bans all people under the legal drinking age of 21 from driving with any quantity, however small, of alcohol in their bodies. Though most DUI arrests involve the operation of a car, the law applies to all motor vehicles, including scooters, motorcycles, ATVs, and even boats. Because the law applies to drivers age 20 or younger, it automatically includes all minors (people under the age of 18).

According to statistics assembled the Utah State Legislature, only a small fraction of Utah DUI arrests are Not a Drop arrests. However, thousands of people are still affected each year. For example, in 2010 more than 12,000 people were arrested for driving with a BAC of 0.08 or higher, with over 1,000 additionally arrested for Not a Drop violations. Most DUI arrests are made by city police officers, such as the Salt Lake City Police Department, followed by the Utah Highway Patrol and various Sheriffs’ Offices.

Underage DUI Penalties Under Utah’s “Not a Drop” Law

Utah DUI penalties can be quite harsh, even for minors who have never been in any legal trouble in their lives. While minors will not be incarcerated like adults, they can still face other consequences which can actually have even worse consequences in the long term.

One of these consequences is the suspension or even revocation of the underage driver’s license. The duration of the suspension period depends on two factors: whether it is the underage driver’s first or second offense within 10 years, and whether it is a felony DUI offense or misdemeanor DUI offense.

  • First Offense Underage Misdemeanor DUI – The person’s license will be suspended for 120 days (four months) or until the person turns 21, whichever is longer. If the person does not have a driver’s license, their application for a driver’s license or learner’s permit will be denied for 120 days or until the person turns 21, whichever is longer.
  • Second Offense Underage Misdemeanor DUI – The person’s license will be revoked for 120 days or until the person turns 21, whichever is longer. Revocation is more serious than suspension. The difference between suspension and revocation is that, while a suspended license can eventually be reinstated, a revoked license cannot, having been completely cancelled. If the person does not have a driver’s license, their application for a learner’s permit or driver’s license will be denied for two years or until the person turns 21, whichever is longer. Notice the huge increase from 120 days to two years for a second offense.
  • Underage Felony DUI – The person’s license will be revoked for two years, or until the person turns 21 – whichever takes longer.

While an adult offender may be released from jail after two days, the license revocation can last for two years – or even longer. This long-term denial of driving privileges can have absolutely disastrous effects on the person’s ability to keep or get a job, especially if he or she lives in a rural area with limited or no access to public transportation. Right at the age when most young people are applying for jobs, volunteer programs, or internships to participate in, those without driver’s licenses may miss out on invaluable opportunities, which can make it tougher to get into college or become financially self-sufficient.

To learn more about DUI laws in Utah, you may be interested in our page on the DUI Utah Code (Utah Code § 41-6a-502).

Contact an Experienced Salt Lake City DUI Defense Attorney

With over 16 years of experience handling thousands of criminal cases, Salt Lake City DUI lawyer Darwin Overson can provide you or your child with the aggressive legal defense your family is entitled to. Unlike many Utah criminal attorneys who exclusively represent adult defendants, Darwin Overson is also qualified to represent minors, who are subject to unique laws, court procedures, and sentencing considerations.

Allegations of underage DUI can derail your child’s life by depriving him or her of the ability to participate in academic or work opportunities. To speak with an experienced Salt Lake City juvenile defense attorney about your teenage son or daughter’s DUI charges in a free and confidential legal consultation, contact the law offices of Overson Law at (801) 758-2287 right away.