Drunk Driving Defense Laws in Utah

Utah has laws against drunk driving just like every other state. Although several states differentiate between driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol, Utah makes a different distinction: driving while under the influence and driving while over the limit. The two sound similar, but the state considers one more severe than the other. Driving while under the influence means the person was impaired, regardless of the blood alcohol level. Driving while over the limit simply means a person was caught driving with a BAC over the legal limit of 0.08.

If a driver fails the BAC test, the officer confiscates the driver's license on the spot. The driver's car is impounded and the driver is charged with DUI or driving over the legal limit. The driver is given a 29-day temporary license. On the 30th day, the temporary license expires and the court-ordered suspension goes into effect, usually for 120 days. Repeat offenders could face a license suspension for several years, as well as jail time, community service and fines and fees. An interlock device might also be required to be installed in the driver's vehicle. This machine requires a driver to pass a breathalyzer test before the vehicle can be started.

BAC levels in Utah

Recall that it is not a crime to drink any alcohol and drive in Utah. But you may not legally drive if your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) has exceeded the maximum percentage allowed under Utah law (generally 0.08% for most, but not all, people).  If you are under the age of 21, and you are driving with a blood alcohol level (BAC) greater than 0.02%, you may be convicted of underage DUI.

Probable cause to stop a motorist in Utah

Utah peace officers are trained to recognize the signs that a driver might be impaired. If an officer observes any of these signs he or she could pull a driver over:

  • Driving at night without headlights
  • Driving into oncoming traffic
  • Erratic or uneven braking
  • Ignoring turning lanes and going straight
  • Speeding
  • Stopping in the middle of the road for no reason
  • Tailgating
  • Weaving in and out of lanes

After pulling a driver over, the peace officer will investigate for further evidence of driver impairment. The officer will look for signs such as:

  • A distinct odor of alcohol on the driver's breath
  • The driver's face is flushed and red
  • A disheveled appearance
  • The driver has thick or slurred speech
  • Red or glassy eyes

If the peace officer observes any of the above, he or she can charge the driver with DUI.

Impact of a DUI Conviction

A conviction for drunk driving can seriously impact a person's life. A driver with a DUI on one's driving record will pay more for car insurance, and might be required to carry a SR22 to prove financial responsibility. In Utah, people who have DUI convictions have their alcohol consumption reviewed for two years. Anyone who is facing a serious charge such as a DUI or driving over the limit should seek the advice of a legal professional. This person can help a driver design a strong defense against the charges. A legal professional will also know how to challenge the legality of the officer pulling you over, as well as thoroughly review the procedures the officers used to gather evidence such as the BAC test.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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