Common Misconceptions About DUI Cases in the State of Utah

Interviewer: We’ll talk mostly about alcohol-related DUIs. First off, when people come to see you once they’ve been arrested, what’s some of the most common misconceptions they have about the whole process?

There Are Two Parts to a DUI case: Criminal and Civil

Court: A lot of people don’t realize that it’s kind of a two-part process. When you get arrested for DUI, you have the criminal process and that’s what everybody primarily thinks about. They only dwell on where you might get a fine or there could be a trial and you go to court in front of a judge. In Utah, there is also an administrative part of your DUI case. That section goes is handled civilly through the Administrative Driver’s License Division.

In Utah, After a DUI Arrest, Your Driver’s License Is Automatically Suspended for 120 Days

When you’re arrested for a DUI in Utah, there is a 120-day suspension of your license that occurs just because you were arrested for a DUI. They don’t have to find you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. They can suspend your license based on that arrest because that’s a civil action.

One thing that people don’t realize is that you need to take care of that administrative side just as much as you need to take care of the criminal side. It’s really important to make sure you request a Driver’s License Division hearing, and you have to request that hearing within 10 days of the arrest.

Attorney Koehler Finds Representation During the Civil Hearing Valuable to Building a Defense for the Criminal Proceeding

We typically handle the civil part as part of our representation. It’s a good opportunity to get some more information about the case. In the civil hearing, we can see firsthand what happened and see what the officer is going to say in court. During the officer’s testimony, we can see if there’s anything that he or she might have done wrong that could give us some ability to get the charges reduced or dismissed.

Your Driver’s License May Physically Be Taken From You During a DUI Arrest

Interviewer: Let’s talk about the license portion of the DUI arrest. Once you’re arrested is your license literally pulled from your hand and taken? What happens with your driver’s license?

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Court: If you’re arrested in Utah and you have a Utah driver’s license they can take your license from you. If you are out-of-the-state resident and you get arrested in Utah, they don’t have the right to take the license because it’s the property of another state, so to speak.

If Your License Is Confiscated, You Will Receive a 30-Day Temporary License

If you’re arrested in Utah with a Utah driver’s license, they typically will take your actual license, and they will give you a temporary license that’s just a printout and that will be good for a period of 30 days. On the 31st day after that arrest is when the automatic suspension kicks in.

Interviewer: That is the suspension for 120 days, right?

Court: That is the suspension that lasts for 120 days. There is a way to lower that suspension to 60 days if you plead guilty to an impaired driving instead of a DUI.

Interviewer: I’m sure it differs for a first versus a second or third offense, which we’ll get into later. In terms of license, can you dispute the license being taken away in a separate way from disputing the criminal charge or is it all handled together?

The Civil Procedure Is Heard By a Hearing Officer From the DLD and Is Relatively Informal

Court: I mentioned a little bit earlier that within 10 days of your arrest, you are eligible to request a hearing with the Driver’s License Division. That’s separate from court. I always do that in all of my cases, no matter what, because it gives me a really good opportunity to do some discovery on the case and see where we’re at in terms of a defense. The hearing takes place front of a hearing officer from the DLD. It’s relatively informal. You can even do it over the phone if you want.

But it is an opportunity for you to question the arresting officer about everything that happened with the arrest. What you are trying to do if you want to save your license is you have to show that the officer did not have a reasonable suspicion or reasonable grounds to arrest you for a DUI.

For instance, your attorney might question whether or not there was a driving pattern that led the officer to suspect you being impaired. Or he or she might question the officer about how he performed the field sobriety test, what tests were performed, and whether they were performed correctly. If the officer doesn’t have enough identifiable reason to arrest you for a DUI and he was just going on a hunch, that’s one way that you can get your license saved and you don’t have to undergo that suspension.

Another important factor with the Driver’s License Division hearings is sometimes the officer just doesn’t show up for the hearing for whatever reason. Maybe they were too busy or they mixed up the date of the hearing. But if the officer does not attend the hearing then you’ll get your license saved just by default.

Sometimes that does actually happen. It’s not really common but it’s good to try and make sure that the police officers in the state hold follow procedure and show up for court dates and hearing dates because if they don’t then you can be a beneficiary that way.

By Court Koehler

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