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.
In this article we will take a look at some of the more common mistakes that are made in a typical Utah DUI case, in order to avoid them and the damage they can cause to you and your future.
Not Taking the Charges Seriously
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 under 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.
As you can see, it is a major mistake to take any DUI charge in Utah lightly. The conviction and its effects will follow you around for years to come.
Deciding to Represent Yourself
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. The judge will see your failure to get an attorney as an easy way to get one more case off the court’s docket and act accordingly.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” Don’t be a fool. Hire a competent Utah DUI attorney and increase the chances that you will achieve the best possible results.
Hiring a Lawyer to Represent You Based on Fees
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 more true.
We’ve already established how serious a DUI charge in Utah can be. We’ve also discussed how foolish it is to try to represent yourself when you’ve been charged with DUI. So, now that you’ve come to the conclusion that a DUI is serious and that you need an attorney, why would you choose an attorney based on the low price of their fee?
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.