Difference Between DUI Vs. DWI

A DUI is an acronym for Driving Under the Influence. This is generally assessed by using a breathalyzer test to find the blood alcohol content/blood alcohol concentration or BAC. The federal limit is 0.08 percent, but some states have stricter limits. For underage drivers, limits are typically set at 0.02 percent. However, many states have adopted zero-tolerance policies for underage drivers. Additionally, limits may also be lower for drivers operating a commercial vehicle. In some cases, a driver can receive a DUI without taking a breathalyzer test or even if a driver’s BAC is below the legal limit. In these cases, the charge is usually based on a field sobriety test or if the arresting officer witnessed weaving and other erratic driving. However, many states can also issue a DWI, which stands for Driving While Impaired.

Typically, the purpose of using a DWI is to charge people who are impaired by substances other than alcohol. These substances can be both legal (like prescription or over-the-counter drugs) and illegal. Also, note that some states define DWI as Driving While Intoxicated; these charges are treated the same as a DUI. Typically, a DWI is more severe than a DUI, as it signals higher levels of intoxication. As such, a DWI will have harsher penalties. In some cases, a first-time offender may get a DWI downgraded to a DUI. Even so, both offenses are serious and will result in both administrative and criminal charges. These can include:
• Tickets, fines, and court fees
• Loss of driving privileges
• Alcohol or substance abusers classes
• Community service
• Jail time
• Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device
• Increased costs for car insurance

Please also note that in states with “implied consent” laws, drivers are required to take a breathalyzer test at the request of a law enforcement officer. Refusal almost always results in a mandatory suspension of driving privileges. Some states will even revoke a motorist’s driver’s license. Much like a DUI, a DWI charge means significant changes for your insurance. Rate increases could mean spending hundreds more on insurance every year, for anywhere from three to ten years after the charge. Rate increases usually constitute the majority of expenses incurred due to a DUI or DWI charge. Many states require that drivers provide proof of insurance by having their insurance company file an SR-22, or similar form, directly with the DMV. If your DWI is accompanied by other violations, especially an accident, the complications get even more difficult. It also increases the likelihood of an insurance company dropping your coverage altogether. In some cases, you made need to go through the state to find coverage. You should also be aware that each insurance company will treat a DWI offense differently, mainly depending on how long ago the offense took place. For example, one company may lower rates after two years, while another may wait four years to reduce rates.

Utah Drunk Driving Laws, Penalties, and Consequences

Utah officially uses the term “driving under the influence” (DUI) instead of “driving while intoxicated” (DWI). However, some people still use DWI and DUI interchangeably to refer to drunk or drugged driving. Utah’s DWI 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.

Getting a DUI without Actually Driving

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 .08% or more. 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 with an actual-physical-control DUI.
Utah Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Limits and Per Se DUIs
A drunk driving offense based on BAC (rather than the driver’s level of impairment) is called a “per se” DUI. The amount of alcohol a person must drink to exceed the legal limit depends on a variety of factors such as gender, body size, and number and strength of drinks. Take a look at our BAC table to get an idea of what your BAC might be at after a certain number of drinks. But remember the values are just estimates. Lots of factors that can affect BAC aren’t accounted for. It’s always best not to drive if you’ve been drinking.

Arrest and Consequences

No matter what the offense is called in your jurisdiction, if you are arrested for impaired driving, you will be facing serious consequences. If you are convicted or plead guilty, you will probably lose your driver’s license and pay fines and court fees. For a second offense, you may spend some time in jail. It is also likely that you will be placed on probation and be required to perform community service. To get your driver’s license back, you will probably have to attend defensive driving classes. In most states, you will probably undergo an evaluation of your drinking or substance use patterns as well. Based on the results of that evaluation, you may have to take part in a drug or alcohol treatment program. That program could range from attending a few support group meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous to entering a residential treatment facility.

After a Conviction

When you get your driver’s license back, you will likely need SR-22 insurance. This could double or triple your premiums, depending on the laws in your state. On average, you can expect to pay higher premiums for three years. Depending on the state in which you reside, you may also be required to have an ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle, which makes it so you can’t start your car unless you blow into the device and it determines you have not been drinking alcohol. This requires that you pay for the device, its installation, and a monthly monitoring fee. If you get a DUI in Utah, you will have to appear before the Driver License Division. The DLD will grant you a hearing in which you can state your case within the first 10 days of having received your request. If you do not appear before the court within this time frame you will automatically lose your driving privileges for a period of no less than 90 days and up to several years.

Pleading to Impaired Driving in Utah

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. If you are charged with driving under the influence (DUI) in Utah, you may be allowed to enter a plea to a reduced charge of impaired driving, but only under certain circumstances.

Advantages of 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.

When Does A DUI Become A Felony Charge In Utah?

There are a couple of different ways a DUI can become a felony in the state of Utah. However, the most common way is when a driver has two prior DUI offenses and then gets a third offense within ten years. That third offense will be considered a felony. Another way is if a driver is involved in an accident and caused serious bodily injury to someone else, while driving under the influence. Then that serious bodily injury will bump the normally class B misdemeanor up to a third degree felony. A third way a DUI can becomes a felony in Utah is often overlooked and that is if someone already has a prior felony DUI. For example, there was a gentleman who had a felony DUI from when he was in his twenties. He was nearly 40 before he got another DUI and he could not understand why this one, his most recent, was charged as a felony DUI when his first had been over the ten years. That means once you get a felony DUI, every DUI after that is going to be a felony as well. Those are the main ways that we see felony DUI charges here in Utah. Many people don’t realize or remember they had these previous charges. DUI convictions from other states can be used to enhance a current DUI for sentencing purposes if it’s within the ten year period in Utah. Basically it says, “Statutes or ordinances in effect in other states which would constitute a violation under our law.” That’s pretty broad language to say out of state DUI charges and convictions, impaired driving convictions and driving with a measurable amount of controlled substance convictions can be used in Utah to enhance the current DUI. The prosecutors do have to go to some effort to find the prior conviction because they have to show a court record. What they would have to do is contact that court in the other state and wait for a response. In most cases, the other court will send them the information. However, it does happen where they do not respond at all or can’t find the file. When dealing with prior out of state DUI conviction, the prosecutor to get him the actual proof of conviction, which can sometimes be hard to find. Often the prosecutors will show a driving record that shows a prior conviction. However, when asked specifics on where, what and when, they don’t always know.

Penalties For A First-Offense Dui In Utah

When a person is convicted of a crime, the sentencing judge will impose certain penalties. If the same person is later convicted for a second or third time, the penalties are likely to be much more severe. This is true of all criminal offenses, including DUI (driving under the influence), which is also called drunk driving or intoxicated driving. In Utah and every other state, the BAC (blood alcohol content) threshold for DUI charges is 0.08%. If a driver’s BAC is 0.08% or above, he or she can be charged with DUI. Keep in mind that for certain motorists, like commercial drivers and people under the legal drinking age, the BAC limit is lower. DUI can also be charged for driving under the influence of drugs, but in those situations, since BAC is irrelevant, charges are based on the signs of drug impairment, which officers known as D.R.E.s, or “Drug Recognition Experts,” are trained to detect. If the DUI involves narcotics, the driver can also be charged with drug crimes like possession of controlled substances. Under Utah Code § 41-6a-503, a first-offense DUI may be charged as a Class B misdemeanor, or a Class A misdemeanor, which is more serious. It depends on whether the DUI causes injury, and the age of any passengers who were in the vehicle. The penalties for a Class B misdemeanor normally include a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail, while the penalties for a Class A misdemeanor normally include a fine of up to $2,500 and up to one year in jail. However, the DUI sentencing matrix, which judges refer to when imposing DUI sentences, provides different penalties.
The judge will order:
• 48 hours in jail
• Various fines and fees amounting to $1,370
• A 120-day suspension of your driver’s license
• A screening, which may result in mandatory education and/or treatment
The judge may order:
• Supervised probation
• Installation of an ignition interlock device, which will prevent your car from starting if alcohol is detected on your breath
• Up to two years of additional driver’s license suspension
How Intoxicated Driving Penalties Increase for Second and Third Offenses
Utah Code § 41-6a-503 lumps first and second DUI offenses together, describing “A person who [commits DUI] for the first or second time…” before classifying the charges. This may lead one to believe that a person convicted of DUI for a second time will receive the same penalties as he or she would for a first offense. However, a look at the Utah DUI sentencing matrix tells a different story.

For a second-offense DUI (within 10 years of the first offense), the judge will order:
• 240 hours (10 days) in jail
• Various fines and fees amounting to $1,560
• A two-year suspension of your driver’s license
• A screening, which may result in mandatory education and/or treatment
• Supervised probation
Additionally, the judge may order:
• Ignition interlock
• Up to two years of additional driver’s license suspension
If you are charged with DUI on a third occasion, you can expect the penalties to increase even more. A third-offense DUI is no longer a misdemeanor – it is a third degree felony, which is much more serious. If you are convicted of DUI in Utah for a third time, or felony DUI, the judge will order:
• Up to five years in prison, or about 63 days in jail
• Various fines and fees amounting to $2,890 (unless the defendant is sentenced to prison)
• A two-year suspension of your driver’s license
• Screening, assessment, and treatment for at least 240 hours (unless the defendant is sentenced to prison)
• Supervised probation (unless the defendant is sentenced to prison)

Additionally, the judge may order:
• Ignition interlock
• Electronic home confinement (“house arrest”)
• Up to two years of additional driver’s license suspension.

DUI Lawyer

When you need legal help with DUI Charges in Utah, please call Ascent Law LLC for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506
Ascent Law LLC

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