Can A DUI Charge Be Dropped?
Understanding what it means to have charges dropped as opposed to dismissed is very important if you are facing criminal charges. When you go to court, the prosecutor has a lot of flexibility to decide whether your charges will continue, and what crimes should be added or removed from your list of charges. This is called “prosecutorial discretion,” and is an important part of our criminal justice system in Utah and across the country. If charges seem overly harsh, do not fit the facts, or come from illegal police activity, the prosecutor can choose to drop charges. A prosecutor’s job is to ensure that justice is done, not to simply get convictions. This means prosecutors will often drop unjust charges. Alternatively, charges can only be dismissed by a judge. When your case goes to court, it is the government’s responsibility to prove you committed the crimes as charged. This means they must meet the burden of proof. At a preliminary hearing, the burden of proof is to show there was probable cause that you committed the crime. This means proving that it is likely that a crime occurred, and you were likely responsible.
At trial, the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt. This means showing that you undoubtedly committed the crime as charged. If the government cannot meet their burden or the judge finds the charges do not fit the alleged activity, the judge may dismiss the charges. Any criminal charge is eligible to be dropped or dismissed. However, many prosecutors may have instructions from their superiors or a personal rule that they will not drop charges. This may make it difficult to convince them your DUI charge is unjustified, but there is always the option of dismissal. Judges are held to a very high standard, and they cannot allow illegal or unjustified charges to go through. If your DUI charges do not fit the conduct or were the result of illegal police activity, your lawyer may be able to convince a judge to dismiss the charges. After a DUI arrest in Utah, you may be able to enter a plea to the reduced charge of impaired driving, but only under the circumstances described here. In Utah, impaired driving is a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1000.00. There are two ways that you may be allowed to enter a plea to impaired driving.
The first way requires that the prosecutor agree to an impaired driving plea, and that you complete all the requirements of court ordered probation. The second way that you can plead to impaired driving, requires that the prosecutor agree to it, and that the court find that the impaired driving plea is in the interest of justice.
What this means is that there are two types of impaired driving pleas. The first type of impaired driving plea is conditioned on the successful completion of probation. This means that you can plea to impaired driving, but if you fail to successfully complete the terms and conditions of probation, the court will change the reduced impaired driving plea to a full DUI conviction.
The second type of impaired driving plea is not conditioned on successful completion of probation; it is entered immediately as impaired driving and can never be changed to a DUI. Because an impaired driving plea depends on the prosecutor’s approval, (and each prosecutor is different), it is impossible to say for certain when a person will be offered a plea to impaired driving.
Advantages of an Impaired Driving Plea
There are several advantages to an impaired driving plea.
If your license has not already been suspended by Utah’s Driver License Division, it will not get suspended. If your license has been suspended, the Driver License Division will reinstate your driver license before the 120 day suspension is over, but no sooner than 90 days after the date of arrest. And, unlike a DUI, there is no mandatory jail or fine with an impaired driving plea. It is possible, though often very difficult, for DUI charges to drop against an accused offender. Having charges dropped requires solid evidence and strong legal arguments. Even if you find a so-called loophole in the law, don’t expect that to necessarily carry you to freedom, especially if your blood alcohol content is over 0.08%.
The first factor to consider is whether your DUI charge was genuinely valid in terms of you being in an intoxicated state while driving. If a DUI was a misunderstanding – for example, an equipment malfunction, or some other type of mishap that produced the wrong outcome, your best bet in getting your charges dropped will be getting a lawyer and directly pursuing the solid evidence of the case. That’s the quickest route to clearing your name. If, on the other hand, you were indeed in an intoxicated state but you have reasons for wanting the charge dropped from your record, then you’re going to have to find some other way to have the charge nullified. On some occasions, the following basis may prove sufficient:
• if you suspect discriminatory or other conditions were behind your stop, this may be your basis for clearing the charge (An officer must have a valid reason to stop a car and test the driver);
• Was the arrest done by the book? Were you read your rights, given breathalyzer tests using functioning equipment, and taken into custody according to standard rules? If not, any deviations from the normal could be a violation of your rights that provide a basis for dropping or modifying the charges.
• Did the trial proceed as it should have? Were you given access to a defense lawyer, and did the trial take place within the required time period? Any delays or unusual processes during the trial might be enough to render the charge invalid.
Getting a DUI dropped isn’t easy nor should it be. For such a serious crime, it makes sense that only a genuine mistake or violation of your rights would be enough to get it removed from your background record. However, if you did experience a mistake or violation, then you can and should look into ways to get the DUI removed, so it won’t haunt you for several years into the future. Getting the help of an experienced DUI lawyer can also make it easier for you to get charges dropped, so it is important to consult with an attorney as soon as possible after your DUI arrest.
Utah’s DUI laws prohibit all motorists from operating a motor vehicle:
• with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05% or more, or
• while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
A driver is considered under the influence if incapable of safely operating a vehicle as the result of ingesting alcohol, drug or any other substance. Utah has a not-a-drop law that makes it illegal for motorists who are under the age of 21 years to drive with any detectable amount of alcohol in their system. In Utah, a motorist can get a DUI even without actually driving. In addition to driving or operating a car, a person may not be in actual physical control of a car while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or with a BAC of 0.08% or more. The gist of this law is to keep roads safe from even the potential danger that an intoxicated driver creates when getting behind the wheel.
Utah courts apply a totality of circumstances test to decide whether a particular driver is in actual physical control of the vehicle. Some factors courts consider include:
• where the driver was seated in the car
• whether the driver had the ignition key
• whether the driver was touching the steering wheel or other operating controls, and
• whether the driver was asleep or awake.
Determining actual physical control is fact specific. No two situations are exactly alike. It’s best to consult an experienced DUI attorney to see if you’ve been properly charged of an actual-physical-control DUI. The best case scenario if you’re charged with a DUI in Utah is the prosecution ends up dismissing the charge. But unless the court throws out evidence that’s critical to prove the charge, the prosecution is unlikely to agree to a dismissal. But in some cases, a reduction to an impaired driving charge is possible. An impaired driving charge is just an alcohol-related driving offense without the mandatory jail, fines, and license suspensions that come with a DUI conviction. A DUI charge in Utah is a serious matter. The penalties involved are severe and can have long lasting effects on your finances as well as your personal and professional life. Defending yourself against a DUI charge is also a serious matter. Utah’s DUI laws are complex. Any mistake you make will have a profound effect on your ability to drive, the amount of your fines, your freedom, your future insurance rates, and much more.
A conviction on a DUI charge will have immediate serious effects on your life. To begin with there are the court imposed fines. A first time DUI conviction carries a minimum fine and fee of $1,420. If the circumstances warrant, the judge has the discretion to raise the fines and fees to $1,920. In addition, if your DUI involved an accident where any person was injured, or if there was a child in your vehicle under 18 years of age at the time of your arrest, the conviction carries a fine and fee of $4,625. Next, there is the potential for incarceration. There is a mandatory minimum sentence of two days in jail for a first time DUI conviction. In general, judges usually order a defendant to perform two days of community service in lieu of jail time. If the circumstances warrant, this sentence can be increased up to 180 days. If your DUI involved an accident where any person was injured, or if there was a child in your vehicle under 18 years of age at the time of your arrest, conviction is punishable by up to 365 days in jail. Then you have the suspension of your driver’s license. If you are over 19 years of age but less than 21 years of age, a first time DUI conviction comes with a mandatory six month suspension of your driver’s license. If you are younger than 19, the suspension time is increased to one year. If you are 21 years of age or older, the suspension period is 120 days, if there was no refusal, which carries an 18 to 36 month revocation. Next, we have probation. A first time DUI conviction also comes with a possibility of a period of probation up to 18 months. This means that the court could keep your case open for 18 months following the date of conviction. During this time, the clerk of the court will verify that you have followed all the conditions of probation, including paying your fine, performing community service, and attending alcohol/drug education classes.
Finally, there are a number of other effects. You may need to have an ignition interlock device installed in your car which you’ll be required to pay for out of your own pocket. You will be required to keep this device installed for a period of 18 months. You will also be required to attend a mandatory alcohol/DUI education class. You will also find that your future auto insurance rates will likely rise by several thousand dollars.
In some sense, this is a form of not taking the charges against you seriously enough. You’ve just seen what the penalties are for a first time DUI conviction. When you represent yourself, you greatly increase the odds that you will be hit with each and every one of these penalties when your case goes to court. Utah’s DUI laws are complex. Utah’s judges and prosecutors know these laws inside and out. The prosecutor who handles your case has likely dealt with hundreds of DUI cases just like yours. The courtroom is their home court and the laws that govern it are a playbook that they know like the back of their hand. You will walk into that court as a rookie in a room full of seasoned professionals. Because of this, any chances that you may have had to avoid conviction or the worst aspects of the penalties for conviction will vanish like smoke. The prosecutor will see your case as an easy win and will treat you accordingly.
There’s an old Latin saying “caveat emptor” which means “let the buyer beware.” When it comes to selecting an attorney to handle your DUI charges, nothing could be truer. Not all Utah DUI attorneys are created equal. An experienced DUI attorney who knows the law and understands the court system is very different from an attorney who handles the occasional DUI in order to make ends meet. Attorneys will use their skill and knowledge to advocate on your behalf. They will use the evidence gathered in your case against the State, pointing out every mistake made by the police during your DUI stop and arrest. They will point out any potential inaccuracies in your blood alcohol testing. They will raise all available defenses that will mitigate the evidence against you in an attempt to have your case dismissed or to obtain a verdict of innocence. The other attorney will charge you a low fee and then likely advise you to plead guilty and accept the prosecution’s plea bargain offer. So, when you are considering which attorney to hire, remember caveat emptor. Sometimes you do get exactly what you pay for.
DUI Attorney Free Consultation
When you need legal help with a DUI Charge in Utah, please call Ascent Law today for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
itemprop=”addressLocality”>West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506