Utah Drunk Driving Laws, Penalties, and Consequences

Learn about the penalties for a DUI conviction in Utah.

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 .08% 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.

Utah's New Legal Limit: the Lowest in All 50 States

In March 2017, Utah became the first state to enact legislation lowering the legal alcohol limit for driving. The new law—which takes effect on December 30, 2018—will lower the limit from .08% to .05%.

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. 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 of 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 calculator and 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 account for. It’s always best not to drive if you’ve been drinking.

Utah DUI Penalties

Utah DUI penalties vary depending on the facts of the case. However, the penalties ranges depends, in large part, on how many prior convictions the person has. Here are what the potential sentences generally look like for a first, second, and third DUI.

1st Offense

2nd Offense

3rd Offense

Jail

Maximum 180 days in jail (mandatory 2 days in jail or 48 community service)

Maximum 180 days in jail (mandatory 10 days in jail or 5 days in jail plus 30 days of electronic monitoring)

Maximum 5 years in prison (mandatory 62 days in jail if prison isn't ordered)

Fines

At least $1,310

At least $1,560

At least $2,850

License Suspension

120 days

Revoked for 2 years

Revoked for 2 years

Ignition Interlock Device (IID)

1 year mandatory with BAC of .16% or more (at judge’s discretion for lower BACs)

2 years (with one or more prior convictions within 10 years)

2 year (with one or more prior convictions within 10 years)

Implied Consent and Refusing a 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 the following license suspensions periods:

1st Offense

2nd offense

3rd Offense

License Revocation

18 months

3 years

3 years

For purposes of determining what is a second or third refusal, prior DUI convictions, refusals, and failed BAC test (.08% or greater) within the past ten years are counted.

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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