Utah Drunk Driving Laws and Conviction Consequences and Penalties

Learn about the penalties for a DUI conviction in Utah.

By , Attorney · Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law

In Utah, the penalties you'll face for a DUI conviction depend mostly on how many prior convictions you have. This article covers the basics of Utah's DUI laws and the consequences of a first, second, and third DUI conviction.

Utah's DUI Laws

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:

A driver is considered "under the influence" if "incapable of safely operating a vehicle" as the result of ingesting alcohol, drugs, or any other substance. (Utah Code Ann. § 41-6a-502.)

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.

You Can Get a DUI in Utah 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 or drugs or with a BAC of .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 with an actual-physical-control DUI.

Utah's First-Offense (Misdemeanor) DUI Penalties

A first DUI within 10 years is a misdemeanor in Utah and generally carries:

  • two to 180 days in jail (community service can be performed in lieu of the minimum jail time)
  • $700 to $1,000 in fines, and
  • a 120-day license suspension.

With a BAC of .16% or more, the driver will also face a one-year ignition interlock device (IID) requirement.

Utah's Second-Offense (Misdemeanor) DUI Penalties

A second DUI within 10 years is a misdemeanor in Utah and generally carries:

  • 10 to 180 days in jail (five days of the minimum jail time can be satisfied with 30 days of electronic monitoring)
  • $800 to $2,500 in fines, and
  • a two-year license revocation.

The driver is also looking at a two-year IID requirement.

Utah's Third-Offense (Felony) DUI Penalties

A third DUI within 10 years is a felony in Utah and generally carries:

  • 62 days to five years behind bars
  • $1,500 to $5,000 in fines, and
  • a two-year license revocation.

If at least one prior conviction was within the past 10 years, the driver is also looking at a two-year IID requirement.

Utah's Underage DUI Law

In Utah, it's illegal for drivers who are under the age of 21 to operate a vehicle with any amount of alcohol in their system. Drivers who violate this rule face a license suspension of six months for a first offense and a license suspension of two years or until reaching the age of 21 (whichever is longer) for a second or subsequent offense.

The driver will also be required to complete a substance abuse evaluation and any recommended treatment prior to license reinstatement.

Refusing a DUI Blood or Breath Test in Utah

Under Utah's "implied consent" laws, all drivers lawfully arrested for a DUI are required to submit to a blood or breath test. A refusal will result in license suspension.

Plea Bargaining in Utah DUI Cases

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.

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