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Notes on Utah’s DUI Laws

DUI Laws

Utah has complicated and strict DUI laws. If you are arrested for driving under the influence, the charge and penalties you face will depend on a number of factors, including your level of intoxication, if you were involved in an accident that caused injury, and if you were previously convicted of driving under the influence. 

In Utah, the law prohibits you from being in “actual physical control” (Utah Code Section 41-6a-501) of a vehicle with a blood alcohol level of .05 or greater (Utah Code Section 41-6a-502). That means you don’t even have to be driving a car to get a DUI. The law also prohibits you for being in actual physical control of a car while under the influence of any drug (or combination of alcohol and drugs) to a degree that renders you incapable of safely operating a vehicle. 

Generally, a first-time offense for DUI will be a class-B misdemeanor, unless there was a child in your vehicle or if you caused injury to another person. If you have prior convictions for DUI, a subsequent offense could be charged as a third-degree felony. 

Investigation of DUI Cases in Utah

If an officer pulls you over for a DUI, the officer will conduct an investigation to determine your level of intoxication. The police officer may ask you to perform certain field sobriety tests including the “one-leg stand” test, the “walk and turn” test, and the “horizontal gaze nystagmus” (HGN) test. The police may also ask you to take a portable-breath test, and later, may ask you to take a more formal breath test to determine your level of intoxication. If the police believe you are under the influence of drugs, they may also ask you to submit to a blood or urine test. 

Mandatory Sentencing

Utah has complicated sentencing laws for DUIs (Utah Code Section 41-6a-505), and the legislature frequently changes the mandatory minimum sentences. It’s important to know that the sentence you are facing depends on the factors mentioned above.

If you’re charged with a misdemeanor DUI, you face up to 6 months in jail and over $1,000 in fines. If you’re charged with a felony DUI, you face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. In addition to these jail times and fines, the court can order you to get a substance abuse evaluation and complete any recommended treatment. Treatment may include individual or group therapy, classes, and other counseling. The court may also order you to complete supervised probation, which requires you to report to a probation officer and comply with other terms of probation like drug testing. The court can even order you to install an ignition interlock device on your car. Finally, if convicted of a DUI you can get an “alcohol restricted driver” tag put on your license, meaning you aren’t allowed to drive with any measurable amount of alcohol in your body for a certain period of time. 

Your Driver’s License and DUI

One of the most difficult parts of being arrested for a DUI is the immediate impact that the arrest will have on your driver’s license. The arresting officer will serve you with notice that the Driver’s License Division intends to suspend your license. You have the right to have a hearing regarding your suspension, but that request must be made within 10 days of your arrest (Utah Code Section 53-3-223(6)(a). At the hearing, the arresting officer must testify about your arrest. The officer can also be cross examined by the driver or their counsel. We strongly encourage having representation at these hearings as the issues are complex and nuanced. After hearing the evidence, the hearing officer will determine whether there was reasonable grounds to believe you were DUI or Driving with a measurable amount of a controlled substance and whether you refused to submit to a chemical test (Utah Code Section 41-6-517). The length of your suspension will depend on your age and the particular circumstances of your case. 

Generally, if you are under 21 and you are arrested for a DUI, your license can be suspended until you turn 21 years old or for two years, whichever is longer. If you are an adult and this is your first DUI offense, the suspension time can range from 120 days to 18 months. If you have a prior conviction for a DUI, your license can be suspended for two or three years depending on the circumstances of your case. It’s important to remember that these are general guidelines, and the suspension period you face will vary depending on the circumstances of your case. (DUI | DPS – Driver License (  

However, as of May 3, 2023, the Utah Legislature changed the law to allow peoples whose license has been suspended to get their license back as long as they have an ignition interlock device installed on their car. (Utah Code Section 53-3-223(7)(a)(i)(A) and Utah Code Section. §41-6a-521(1)) If you refused to submit to a chemical test you must wait at least 90 days after your suspension to become eligible to have your license reinstated.

Laws change frequently and as with any criminal charge, it’s important to talk to a lawyer as soon as possible after a DUI arrest to make sure your rights are protected. 

See the Utah Driver’s License Division website for more information.

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