Practical Law Blog

Steps to Take After Being Arrested for a DUI in Utah

Being arrested for DUI can be a scary experience, especially if you are generally a law-abiding citizen who has never been in legal trouble before. In Utah DUI cases, you are facing potential jail time and other serious legal consequences, as well as humiliation or embarrassment. Don’t panic, though—there is plenty you can do to help yourself following your arrest. Be prepared in advance in case you are ever arrested and need to follow this plan.

Step 1: Call Your Attorney

If you are arrested for DUI in Utah, your first step is to call your attorney as soon as possible. Never answer any questions without your attorney present. The police may try to get you to incriminate yourself by asking seemingly innocuous questions or playing on your fears. Thus, even though the police may try to talk you out of it, it’s important to have legal counsel present before saying anything.

Tell your Utah DUI attorney about any tests the police required you to take. In Utah, field sobriety tests—such as saying the alphabet backwards or walking in a straight line—are not mandatory. If the police imply that they are required and then make an arrest based on the results, your attorney may be able to argue that the arrest is invalid because of improper police procedures. On the other hand, chemical tests after your arrest, such as a breathalyzer or blood tests, are mandatory; if you refuse them, you will lose your license for a longer period of time and the prosecutor might use your refusal as evidence of guilt.

Another reason to call your attorney is so you can secure representation for your arraignment. In most Utah cases, people are released on their own recognizance, which means they don’t have to pay bail, or pay a relatively low bail amount as soon as they sober up. However, it’s a good idea to have an attorney present at your arraignment in case the prosecutor pushes for an unreasonably high bail. In addition, you should never plead guilty to a DUI at arraignment without discussing your options with your attorney.

Step 2: Schedule an Administrative Hearing with the DMV

In Utah, the DMV automatically suspends your license as soon as you are arrested for DUI— even before you are found guilty. You usually have ten days to contest the suspension before it becomes permanent.

Don’t let this happen to you. As soon as possible, contact the DMV to schedule an administrative hearing. At the hearing, you and your attorney will have to challenge the arresting officer’s testimony in order to prove that there were no reasonable grounds to arrest you for the DUI. For example, if your attorney can demonstrate that there is reasonable doubt that the testing apparatus worked properly or that there was no probable cause to demand a chemical test from you, you may be able to regain your license. However, you will still have to go to court to contest the criminal DUI charges; that is a separate matter from your driver’s license.

Step 3: Discuss Your Case with Your Attorney

In Utah, a DUI conviction means at least 48 hours in jail, a fine of at least $700, and the loss of your license for at least 18 months. Discussing your options with your attorney can help decrease the chance of facing these consequences. In many cases, your attorney will advise you to plead guilty to a “wet reckless,” which means you were slightly over the legal limit (.08 percent in Utah) but did not hurt anyone—i.e., there was no accident. This is considered a lesser offense. However, if you are convicted of DUI within ten years of a wet reckless conviction, you will be charged with a second offense DUI. If a wet reckless is not an option for you, your attorney may recommend that you opt to take drug and alcohol treatment instead of jail time or work out a similar alternative sentencing agreement with the prosecutor. Finally, in some cases, your attorney may be able to secure an acquittal by questioning police procedure.

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