Criminal Law Defense
*See Blog Section for additional facts and information
Drug Charges and Paraphernalia: Most people don’t know that in Utah if you are convicted, or plead guilty to possession of illegal drugs, marijuana or otherwise, or possession of paraphernalia, that in addition to fines, possible and counseling, you lose your driver’s license for 6 months. It does not have to be in a vehicle. You, at least, now know otherwise. People will consistently call up after entering a guilty plea to one of these charges, and complain that they were just notified by the Division of Public Safety of the loss of their license. Much of the time something can be done to reverse the conviction, depending on timing, facts, and jurisdiction, but not always. Forewarned is fair warned. Notice we have not referenced how a conviction of one of these charges could adversely affect future job prospects either. It can and does. Get counsel.
Avoid Converting DUI into Disaster: Sure, a DUI is a downturn, but failure to make the right decision after making the wrong one, can transform the downturn into disaster. Disaster in your present, your future, your family, your job and, often most important, your self-esteem. DUI is never a great experience, but it’s crucial to take steps, make the right decisions, to keep it from becoming a life long tattoo, and not one that you’re proud of. The morning after a DUI may be a time of regret, but it is also the time to pick yourself up, as you have always done, and choose to make the best of a bad situation. Choose the DUI lawyer that knows the language, the case law, the terrain, the process, and the dangers that a DUI arrest brings. Choose the DUI lawyer that has spent over two decades focusing on DUI defense. Or choose disaster.
Drug DUIs: As a follow-up, relating to DUIs based on drugs, prescribed or otherwise, you can be convicted of DUI, when you only have lawfully prescribed meds in your system. The question becomes have those drugs made you too impaired to safely operate a vehicle. Usually blood is drawn if the officer suspects meds, but they really need to know what to look for in the blood to find it. Volunteering this info is not a good idea and is considered testimony. Therefore, it is protected by your right to remain silent. Remember that. Many officers and prosecutors jump to the conclusion that drugs are the culprit, as soon as they find that they may be involved. However, based on statistics, fatigue, distraction (cells, texting, etc.) driving, inclement weather, and excessive speed all play as great or greater role in causing accidents than does alcohol or drug involvement. When any of these things are present, the better road is to stay away from or get off the road. Know your limits and your med limits and ensure that they are not interfering with your ability to drive safely.
Prescribed Drugs and DUIs: Can prescribed drugs found in the driver’s system establish a basis for a DUI charge and the possibility of a conviction? They’re prescribed and therefore legal, correct? Correct, but so is the intake of alcohol, if you are of age. The important point is whether, due to the prescribed medication or the alcohol, the driver is “too impaired to safely operate a vehicle” because of either or the combination of both. The prosecution must show both the impairment level and the causation of the substances of the impairment in order to prove their DUI charge. It’s a little easier in the case of alcohol DUI, because of the presumptive level of .08, but even there, they have to show reasonable or probable cause of impairment to justify the arrest. The answer is: Yes, a DUI can rely on only legally prescribed medications in the system, if the required level of impairment, due to those drugs, can be shown beyond a reasonable doubt. Of course, illness, physical limitations, fatigue, and other conditions must all be highlighted, and taken into account.
Refusals and DUIs: Many attorneys, for years, have recommended refusing the breathalyzer, blood test, or the chemical test, when it comes to a DUI arrest, and many drivers have heeded this advice, as it has turned into urban lore. Now days, with electronic warrants available within mere minutes from judges, and with almost all departments having immediately available phlebotomists (a person certified to draw blood), it makes little sense to refuse. If there is a refusal, and the hearing on the refusal is lost, the driver’s license is suspended for 18 months rather than 4 months on a first action in 10 years and much longer on a second action within 10 years. Hence, refusals carry a significant penalty on the license, and in a very high percentage of the cases, law enforcement gets what they wanted and needed for the DUI anyway! Refusal hearings can and are won by lawyers with sufficient experience, but the exposure is not worth the risk, since, again, most of the time, the officer gets a blood or drug alcohol reading anyway.
It must be pointed out that a driver can refuse field sobriety tests or a preliminary breath test (PBT) without it being the kind of refusal I’m talking about here. If the officer has formally requested a blood alcohol test in the form of breathalyzer, blood or urine, following a lawful arrest, along with an admonition advising of the effect of the results of that test, then the refusal penalties may apply.
The bottom line: know the true exposure before the refusal, or take the test.
Expungements: You may be able to use the expungement avenue provided by statute to rid yourself of that mistake you made years ago. The whole process can take time, so if you’re thinking about it, at least check into it now to see if your record qualifies. The result of a successful expungement can clear your record and seal any access to charges, arrests and convictions, which you may have undergone in the past. This may open up job opportunities, and who knows, satisfy political ambitions. But, if you wait until you’re in trouble again, it is probably too late to qualify. See an attorney to determine your eligibility. No one should have to live with their past forever, if there is an avenue to expunge it.
Traffic Tickets: The most common question I get concerning traffic tickets is, if it’s just $150, why not just pay it, especially when attorney fees would be more? But, that question never comes from someone who has paid attention to their insurance bill after they or someone in their family has been convicted of a traffic violation. The increased rates paid on insurance premiums over the life of that traffic violation will often result in paying that fine or attorney’s fee many times over. And far more often than not, there are solutions to keep that moving violation from going on the driving record. So, next time you think about just sending the check in to the court, look for an alternative.