On March 23, 2017 Utah became the first state to reduce its DUI threshold. When Governor Gary Herbert signed H.B. 155 into law, the legal limit for DUI fell from .08 to .05 BAC. The new limit went into effect on December 31, 2018.
Under the law, all motorists in Utah are prohibited from operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05% or more. Furthermore, they are prohibited from driving while influenced by drugs or alcohol to any extent. This is the tricky part for drivers.
Safely Operating a Vehicle
Utah law defines being under the influence as being incapable of safe operation of a motor vehicle due to the use of any substance. So a driver could be charged with DUI with a BAC of .04% if police believe that he or she is not capable of driving safely.
These sorts of cases require the help of an experienced lawyer, according to Salt Lake City DUI attorney Anita Dickinson. Without experienced counsel it may be very difficult to convince the court that a driver was not impaired to the point of being unsafe.
A first DUI offense in Utah can result in up to 180 days in jail, a $1300 fine, a 120-day license suspension, and an ignition interlock device mandate. Second and third offenses carry higher penalties.
Being Charged Without Driving
Utah drivers should also know that they can be charged with DUI without actually driving. How is that possible? By being in control of a motor vehicle while under the influence. Let us say a police officer comes across someone sleeping in the driver’s seat of a car. Let us also say that person’s hands are on the steering wheel and he is slumped over, clearly intoxicated.
A breathalyzer test revealing a BAC of 5% or higher is likely to trigger the police officer to consider the totality of circumstances for that particular case. If the officer determines that the intoxicated individual was in physical control of the vehicle while under the influence, charges can be levied.
Again, this is another situation in which an experienced DUI attorney can prove invaluable. It is exceedingly difficult for prosecutors to prove a totality of circumstances when no driving is taking place. It is the defense attorney’s responsibility to force prosecutors to prove their case.
DUI and Young People
One last thing to know about DUI in Utah is the state’s stand on younger drivers. Utah law prohibits any driver under the age of 21 from operating a motor vehicle with any amount of illicit drugs or alcohol in his or her system. The law is considered a zero-tolerance law, meaning courts are not likely to show mercy to younger drivers whose tests reveal detectable substance amounts.
A good DUI attorney will know how to defend underage drivers charged with DUI. In fact, this is one particular area of law for which experience is invaluable. It takes a certain skill set and body of knowledge to defend against zero-tolerance charges, especially in a state as conservative as Utah.
Utah became the first state in the nation to reduce the DUI threshold from .08 to .05 back in 2017. If nothing else, the action proves that Utah leaders are serious about preventing car accidents caused by people driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
The lesson is clear: do not drive while under the influence. If you are charged with a DUI offense, be sure to seek out the advice of an experienced DUI attorney. You still have the right to legal representation.