Utah has taken a strict stance against driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). There two ways in which a person may commit DUI. The first is based on blood alcohol or breath alcohol levels (also called DUI per se). The second is based on impairment.
The best way to avoid being convicted of DUI is not to drive if you have had any alcohol at all. But if you have been charged with DUI in Utah, you need a skilled DUI defense attorney on your side. At Corbett Gwilliam, PLLC, we have substantial experience with Utah DUI cases and will protect your rights.
Give us a call today to discuss your specific situation. We serve clients in South Jordan and throughout the Salt Lake City area.
Utah’s DUI per se law has nothing to do with whether or not a person’s ability to drive is impaired by alcohol or drugs. It is based on the presumption that a person is impaired when his or her blood alcohol or breath alcohol concentration is at or above .08. But this presumption is not accurate for everyone depending on their body composition and experience with alcohol. Some people would be intoxicated with a blood alcohol or breath alcohol concentration as low as .04, while others exhibit no signs of impairment with a blood alcohol or breath alcohol concentration at or above .30. Interestingly, the person who is intoxicated at .04 would not be guilty of DUI per se, but the person showing no signs of intoxication at .30 would.
A person’s alcohol levels are measured either with a Breathalyzer machine or by a blood test. Utah’s law enforcement generally uses the Intoxilyzer 8000 to measure a person’s breath alcohol. If a person’s breath alcohol concentration is at or greater than .08 grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath, their alcohol level is over the legal limit. To conduct a blood test, a sample of a person’s blood is taken and analyzed by a lab technician. Of the two tests, the blood test is the most accurate.
If a person’s blood alcohol or breath alcohol is at or above .08 at the time they were operating or had actual physical control of a motor vehicle, they have committed DUI per se. Also, if the person’s blood alcohol or breath alcohol concentration is at or above .08 at the time of the test after they operated or had actual physical control of a motor vehicle, they have also committed DUI per se, even if their blood alcohol or breath alcohol was below .08 at the time of the operation or actual physical control.
In addition to Utah’s DUI per se law, a person commits DUI if they operate or are in actual physical control of a vehicle and “under the influence of alcohol, any drug, or the combined influence of alcohol and any drug to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely operating a vehicle.” Utah Code Ann. § 41-6a-502. This standard does not depend on a person’s blood alcohol or breath alcohol concentration. In fact, a person who has committed DUI per se may not have committed DUI based on impairment, and a person who has not committed DUI per se may have committed DUI based on impairment.
The key phrase in the DUI based on impairment is that a person must be “incapable of safely operating a vehicle.” A prosecutor will try to prove a person is incapable of safely operating a vehicle with four types of evidence: (1) driving pattern evidence, (2) evidence obtained from face-to-face contact with an officer or other individuals, (3) evidence obtained from standardized field sobriety tests, and (4) evidence obtained through chemical tests. The prosecution is not required to present evidence from all four of these categories. In fact, in at least one case, a person has been convicted for DUI based solely on the observations of people who observed a person at a public park who was “clearly intoxicated” and an officer’s interactions with him. See State v. Van Dyke, 2009 UT App 369, 223 P.3d 465. The person did not commit any traffic violations and did not submit to any field sobriety or chemical tests.
Our lawyers have handled hundreds of DUI cases. They can help you know whether it would be best for you to take your case to trial or accept a plea deal. Call now to schedule a free consultation about drunk driving charges. Or, if you prefer, complete the online form.