DUI is a serious offense that could affect your future and employment. Attorneys will tell you that you need to hire an attorney who focuses on defending drunk drivers. Attorneys promise they may be able to save your driver’s license or get your drunk driving charge reduced or dismissed. An attorney may be able to reduce charges or preserve your driving privileges, but this is not guaranteed. There was a time when hiring a drunk driving attorney could result in you being able to plead to a lesser charge such as reckless driving pay a fine and be done with it.
Blood-Alcohol Level Determines Guilt
What the per se laws say is, in every state in the U.S., if your blood-alcohol content (BAC) is above the legal limit, you can be found guilty of DUI. In 2020, this limit is .05 in Utah, and .08 in all other states. It does not matter that you were not staggering or slurring your words or in no other way appeared to be intoxicated, your BAC level alone is all the evidence needed to convict you of DUI. One key to determining if hiring a drunk driving attorney will do you any good is knowing your BAC level at the time of your arrest. If you recorded 0.08 or higher, there is little doubt that you will be convicted and have to pay all the fines, fees, and extra expenses involved with having a DUI conviction on your driving record. In some cases, having an attorney won’t make a difference. If your blood alcohol level measures .08 or above, you will lose your license, be required to pay fines and/or higher insurance rates, and will face conviction.
Your License May Be Suspended—Lawyer or Not
These laws allow your driver’s license to be suspended as an administrative sanction, completely independent from criminal court proceedings. The reason is since a state can give you your driving privileges; the state can take a privilege away. In those states that do not have administrative license suspension laws, your license are not suspended until you go to court, but it is suspended if you plead guilty or are convicted. In most states, if you refuse to take a breath test, your license is immediately confiscated and revoked. In the event that you are truly innocent, such as you were not drinking at all, but failed the field sobriety test or the breath test, then if you can, hire an attorney. You will need one. Do not try to represent yourself if you plan to argue your innocence, you should seek legal counsel. Mostly what an attorney can do for you is make sure you are prepared to go to court by helping you understand what is going to be expected of you. An attorney can help you complete some requirements prior to your court appearance. For example, your attorney may help you obtain SR-22 auto insurance and file the proper forms with the department of motor vehicles. Also, your attorney may have you complete an alcohol education or treatment programs required by your state in order to regain your driving privileges. In other words, your attorney can guide you through the process that he knows you will eventually have to go through anyway. But you can do so prior to sentencing so that your driving privileges will be restored as quickly as possible. If you can afford to pay a DUI lawyer’s fees, then hire the best attorney you can afford. If this is your first experience with breaking the law and you are baffled by the entire process, an attorney can walk you through the steps and make things go as smoothly as possible. But, if you are strapped for cash and all the fines and expenses of a drunk driving conviction are going to be a financial burden for you, hiring an attorney may not really change the outcome of your case in any meaningful way. In most cases, a lawyer represents just another bill you will have to pay.
How Does A DUI Conviction Affect Insurance Rates?
When an insurer is considering selling or renewing a policy, it will typically pull two sets of records:
• The driver’s DMV driving record, and
• The driver’s Utah criminal record.
Insurers decide whether to insure someone (and, if so, at what cost) based on their assessment of the risk the driver poses. Drivers who have a DUI or too many “negligent operator” points on their record are considered a higher risk than other drivers. Some insurance companies will not issue a policy at all to a driver with a DUI on his or her record. Others will issue a policy but at “high-risk” driver rates. These rates can be as much as double, triple or more than the rate for a driver with a clean record.
What Should I Expect If I Get a First DUI?
Driving under the influence is illegal in every state. Generally, you can get a “per se” DUI for driving with a blood or breath alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more. You can also be convicted of“impairment” DUI if you drive while actually impaired by drugs or alcohol.
Consequences and Penalties for a First-Time Conviction
The consequences of driving under the influence are serious. Penalties for a first-offense DUI often include fines, license suspension, and substance abuse education courses. Some states also require mandatory jail time and ignition interlock devices (IIDs) for first DUIs. And even if you aren’t ultimately convicted of a DUI in criminal court, the Department of Motor Vehicle might still take away your license if there’s evidence that you drove with a BAC of .08% or greater. Also, there are lots of costs of a first-offense DUI like attorney fees and insurance rate increases that can significantly increase the amount you’ll actually end up paying. Obviously, if it’s the first time you’ve ever been convicted drunk driving, your current offense will count as a first DUI. In some states, DUI convictions “wash out” after a certain number of years. For instance, in a state with a wash-out period of ten years, a 12-year-old prior wouldn’t count: The court would treat your present offense as a first DUI. In states that don’t have DUI wash-out periods, like Indiana, a second DUI counts as a second offense regardless of when the first happened.
Ways To Reduce Your DUI Charges
DUI charges can have a lasting impact on your life, from costing you jobs to dooming housing applications. With consequences like those, you want to present the strongest DUI defense possible, and, if you can, get the charges reduced. Here are five ways you can potentially mitigate the damage of a DUI charge.
Attend Drunk-Driving Education
Many states allow those charged with DUI to complete some form of an education program in lieu of jail time, more serious charges, and other penalties. Also called DUI education classes, these programs explore the dangers of high-risk driving behaviors and the effects of alcohol and drugs on the body. In some states, an alcohol education program (AEP) is a mandatory component of a DUI sentence or probation, but other states offer it as a mitigating option. For example, some states only allow those who have completed a DUI education class to have their licenses reinstated.
Take A Plea Bargain
If there are any issues with the evidence the state is presenting, your lawyer might want to negotiate with the prosecutor for a plea bargain. With a plea bargain, a prosecutor offers reduced charges and/or sentencing in exchange for a guilty plea. The state may consider a plea bargain if its case has shortcomings, such as a lack of probable cause for pulling you over or insufficient evidence due to your refusal to provide a breath or blood sample. The state may, for example, reduce your DUI charges to reckless driving with a plea. Keep in mind that, in some states, reckless driving carries harsher penalties than first-offense DUI. However, your attorney may still advise you to plead to that charge just to keep a DUI off your record.
Accept and Complete Probation
If you have no other DUI charges besides your current offense, you may be eligible for probation instead of jail or prison time. Usually, states will offer you probation if you have an otherwise-clean criminal history. In many cases, if you complete probation successfully, you will not face a DUI conviction. The terms of your probation may include:
• Receiving a substance abuse evaluation
• Attending a DUI education class
• A driver’s license suspension
• Payment of court fines
• Random drug testing
• Probation fees
• Meeting with a probation officer
Complete a Rehabilitation Program
If you have repeat offenses, you don’t have as many options for your DUI defense. Repeat DUI offenders typically face considerable jail or prison time. This may also be the case for a first-offense DUI that resulted in an accident or injury. One way to mitigate your sentence for these enhanced charges is to agree to attend an inpatient alcohol and drug rehabilitation program in lieu of a prison sentence. The court may give you the option of going to inpatient treatment for the same amount of time you would spend in jail or prison. Remember that your treatment will be court-mandated, which means you will have to finish treatment and successfully maintain sobriety to fulfill your sentence.
Have Your DUI Charges Expunged
If your DUI sentence involved probation and no prison time, you might be eligible to have your DUI charges expunged upon successfully completing probation. Expungement is typically only available to first-time DUI offenders whose criminal records are otherwise clean. For instance, some states offer a deferred adjudication where the court withholds judgment and sentencing for a specified period. When that period expires, if the defendant has complied with all the conditions of probation, the DUI charge is completely expunged, or erased, from the record. Once the charge is expunged, only law enforcement will be able to see it. DUI charges don’t have to have devastating consequences.
Factors Affecting DUI Costs
The actual costs of a DUI conviction in Utah will vary from situation to situation, depending on several factors such as:
• The number of DUI convictions you have had in the past 10 years
• Your BAC level
• How many of your vehicles must have an ignition interlock device installed
• How many of your vehicles must be covered with SR-22 insurance (expensive premium coverage for drivers convicted of DUI)
• Whether you are a commercial vehicle driver
• Whether you are a student
• What your future career, education and financial goals are
Other penalties imposed can also have a direct impact on your income, even though they are not actual fines.
Most of the consequences outlined below have one thing in common – they affect your ability to get to work or to get a job that pays well. These additional DUI consequences include:
• Driver’s license suspension or revocation, depending on your BAC level and your number of convictions in the past 10 years
• Commercial driver’s license (CDL) suspension or revocation
• Vehicle immobilization for a period of months for a second offense and above
• Jail time
• A permanent criminal record that cannot be expunged
• A tarnished reputation
• Possible job loss if you are a commercial vehicle driver
• Possible dishonorable discharge or other disciplinary action for military personnel
• Significantly reduced job, education and personal loan prospects
• Scholarship loss and suspension or expulsion from school for students
Even if your insurer agrees to defend you for damages relating to your DUI accident, it will still not defend you against a claim of intentional misconduct, or pay for damages relating to a charge of intentional misconduct. As you may know, the majority of personal injury claims are based on the fault concept of negligence (which means carelessness or the failure to act with reasonable caution). That is because most people and companies do not act intentionally to injure someone. But occasionally someone will cause harm through an intentional act (which is usually defined as an intentional tort). Sometimes a lawyer in a personal injury case involving a DUI will add a claim for intentional misconduct against the at-fault DUI driver. If the case goes to trial, and a jury awards the plaintiff damages for the driver’s intentional misconduct, the DUI driver’s insurance company will not pay for those damages. The defendant will have to pay for intentional misconduct damages out of his/her own pocket. For financial liability purposes when it comes to the intentional conduct charge, it’s the same as driving without insurance.
When you need a DUI Defense Lawyer in West Jordan Utah 84084, please call Ascent Law LLC for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506