Practical Law Blog

Driving in Utah: What to Do When You’re Pulled Over

Police officers in Utah have the right to pull drivers over who they think are driving erratically or who they observe breaking traffic laws. However, police don’t have the right to demand answers to questions after pulling a driver over. As with any other police matter, drivers have the right to refuse to answer questions without an attorney present. It’s important to realize this and to be prepared in advance of a traffic stop so that you don’t accidentally incriminate yourself.

Stay in Your Vehicle

The number-one rule when being pulled over in Utah is to stay in your vehicle. Remember: the police don’t know who they are dealing with when they make a traffic stop, so if you do anything that could be construed as a threat to the officers who stopped you, they have the right to take defensive action—including drawing their weapons.

When you are pulled over, stop on the right side of the road as soon as it is safe to do so. (In some cases, the police may verbally direct you to make a turn before stopping or to pull into a parking lot. Always obey their instructions.) Turn your car off and put your hands on the steering wheel so the officers can see them. Then sit tight, roll down the window, and provide the officer with your driver’s license and registration when asked.

Don’t Answer Questions

Do not answer any questions the officer may pose, as your answers may incriminate you and lead to your arrest. Be especially alert if the officer appears to be making small talk. For example, if the officer says, “You seem like you’re in a good mood. Just come from hanging out with your friends at the bar?” don’t answer.

Never admit that you have been drinking, smoking pot, or doing anything else that could incriminate you.

In the majority of DUI cases, the defendant admits to the police that he or she is intoxicated and/or has drugs in the vehicle. Don’t make this mistake. If the officer keeps pushing you for answers, tell him or her that you want a lawyer present before you answer any questions.

Submit to Tests Only After Arrest

In Utah, there are severe consequences for refusing to take a blood or breath test after being arrested for DUI. You can lose your license for 18 months to three years, depending on whether it is your first refusal—and that’s before you get to court, where the prosecutor may use your refusal as evidence of your guilt.

However, you cannot be compelled to take these tests prior to arrest. If an officer asks you to do so, ask if you are under arrest.

Cooperate with Arrest

If you are arrested, don’t try to resist. Obey the officer’s instructions as far as getting out of your vehicle, allowing yourself to be handcuffed, and taking all required tests. As soon as you are arrested, let the officer know that you want an attorney. After you are brought to the police station, do not answer any questions until your attorney arrives.

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