DUI Costs and Jail Sentence in Utah

How Much is a DUI in Utah going to cost me? Fines, Fees and Jail Time

Most people in the public are aware of the high cost of getting a DUI. The cost of even a first-time DUI is used as a deterrent in anti drunk driving campaigns. And you may have seen advertisements for cab companies that say “A cab ride costs less than a DUI”. This is certainly true.

Over the years, I have heard different anti drunk driving advertising campaigns claim that a DUI costs anywhere from $8,000 to $20,000; and those figures are not overstatements. Of course, the cost of a DUI in one specific case will greatly depend on the circumstances of the DUI. Some factors that will affect the total cost of your DUI are:

  • Whether the DUI is a first, second, or third offense.
  • The BAC results of the driver’s chemical test.
  • Whether there are aggravating factors that will enhance the driver’s penalties.
  • The cost of court ordered treatment programs.
  • The cost of Ignition Interlock Devices.
  • The cost of Probation.
  • Future car insurance premium increases.
  • Attorneys fees.

First offense DUIs are much less costly than second or third offenses.

If your DUI is a first offense, then you are in luck. This may not make you feel much better right now, but trust me – things could be much worse than they are. In Utah, a first offense for Driving Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol is a Class B misdemeanor. What that means is that the maximum jail sentence is only 6 months, but don’t let that scare you. Judges rarely, if ever, give a 6 month jail sentence for a first time DUI. There is a good chance that a DUI lawyer can get you out of this mess without having to serve any jail time at all.

However, aside from the basic statutory jail sentence limits, there are special mandatory jail sentences for DUIs in Utah. By statute, the Judge is required to sentence you to 2 days (48 hours) of jail or community service for a first offense DUI. This mandatory penalty means that the Judge’s hands are tied – he cannot give you less than 48 hours. That being said, many Judges in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake and Utah County, and surrounding city justice courts will sentence first time offenders to community service instead of jail time due to the relative in-severity of the offense, and concerns with jail over-crowding. There is an unspoken guideline amongst Utah criminal defense attorneys that the further away from the large Salt Lake metropolitan area you get, the less predictable sentences will be for any given crime. Thus, you are more likely to receive a harsher sentence in outlying city and county courts throughout Utah. But you should always be aware that there is a 48 hour mandatory minimum sentence, and that the Judge could sentence you up to 6 months in jail for a first time DUI offense – although such a sentence would be extremely rare.

A Class B misdemeanor also carries a maximum fine of $1,000 plus a surcharge. The surcharge is generally 90% of the fine or more. So in practicality you are facing up to $2,000 in fines. However, it is rare to receive a $2,000 fine. The mandatory minimum fine for a first offense, class B misdemeanor DUI is $700 – and that is often the penalty given by judges. After the surcharge, your fine will probably cost you about $1,400.

There are some other hidden costs as well: There will be a $330 Impound fee for your car, there can also be additional fees and taxes added to that fee. Also, don’t hyperventilate over the size of these fees – courts will generally allow you to pay a fine off over the period of probation which is usually 12 months. Koehler Defense offers flexible payment plans for clients that are unable to come up with attorneys fees up front.

Second and Third Offense DUIs.

Penalties increase severely for a second-offense driving under the influence charge. For a second-time DUI, the mandatory minimum fine increases to $800, which will be about $1600 after the surcharge. But the really bad news is the mandatory minimum jail time which increases to 10 days! Many people could be away from their homes and jobs for a 2 day jail sentence without much disruption in their lives. But most people cannot put their jobs and families on hold for 10 days without consequence. Also, Judges are less likely to give drivers community service in lieu of jail time for second offenses. Even if a Judge did agree to give 240 hours of community service instead of jail, that is a lot of hours of community service to squeeze in on the weekends. In order to finish 240 hours of community service over the course of a 12 month probation, you would have to average nearly 5 hours per week.

In Utah, a third offense DUI is a felony, and carries a penalty of up to 5 years in prison! Needless to say, this is very costly financially, socially, and otherwise. If you are charged with a 3rd offense, felony DUI you are absolutely crazy not to hire an attorney to represent you. Even if you do think you can win your case at trial, an attorney with experience and knowledge of DUI laws and penalties will know some things that you do not. At the very least an attorney may be able to negotiate a plea bargain reducing a felony DUI charge to a Class A misdemeanor, which would carry no more than a maximum 12 month jail sentence, and $2500 fine.

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BAC chemical test results

One of the first things attorneys, prosecutors, and judges want to know about a DUI case is the driver’s “BAC”. “BAC” stands for Blood Alcohol Content, and it refers to the amount of alcohol that can be found in a person’s blood. The higher the alcohol concentration, the more likely the driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle is impaired. As an aside, it is not a crime in Utah to be “under the influence of alcohol”, it is only a crime to be under the influence to the extent that your ability to safely operate a vehicle is impaired. That is the letter of the law found in Utah’s DUI statute: Ut. Code. Ann. 41-6a-502.

There is a caveat here, however, and that is that you are guilty of a DUI if your BAC while you were driving, or at the time of a subsequent chemical test, is above .08. This provision of the statute is the ire of DUI attorneys everywhere because what it means is that the prosecutor does not have to prove that you were incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle if he can prove that your blood alcohol was above the .08 limit. The .08 limit is an arbitrary number to the extent that different people react to drugs and alcohol in different ways, some have naturally higher or lower tolerances. In fact, not too long ago the “legal limit” as it is known was .10.

As a defense attorney, I want to make it very clear that the results of your chemical test are not set in stone. There are ways to challenge the test results, and many Courts throughout the country have found chemical tests and breath test machines to be unreliable. The reason that your BAC number is so important has to do with two things: plea bargains, and enhanced penalties.

City and County attorneys offices have policies, just like other government agencies and private companies. Many of their policies have to do with how they go about prosecuting DUIs. The bottom line is that the lower you BAC, the more likely you are to get a plea bargain offer of “impaired driving”. A plea to impaired driving is often a good deal for a driver to take – it will save you a lot of money as opposed to being found guilty of a DUI.

The other reason your BAC can affect the cost of your DUI is that if it is particularly high, you are going to face additional penalties. In Utah, if your BAC is above .16 you are guilty of a “High BAC” DUI. The consequences of a high BAC DUI are as follows:

  • By statute, the Judge must give you supervised probation, as opposed to general court probation. Court probation requires that you obey the law, and don’t get in trouble with police. Supervised probation is much more intense, it may require regular visits with a probationer, regular drug and alcohol tests, and regular reports to be filed. Even worse, supervised probation is not free, and guess who is required to pay for it? You are!
  • You are also required to undergo alcohol dependency treatment if you are convicted of a high BAC DUI; whereas in a standard first time DUI, the Judge has the option of requiring treatment, but will likely only require a screening for alcohol dependency and an educational series called Prime for Life.

Ignition Interlock Device Costs

If you are convicted of a first time DUI in Utah, the Judge may order you to install an ignition interlock device on your car. The Utah Drivers License Division can also order you to use an interlock device even if the Judge does not. The typical time period required for ignition interlock devices is 18 months. If you are caught driving any vehicle during this 18 month period without an ignition interlock device, you will be guilty of an additional class B misdemeanor and required to have an ignition interlock for an additional 3 years.

For second offense DUIs, you will become an “Interlock Restricted Driver” for 3 years instead of 18 months. And for a third offense DUI, the period is 6 years.

Ignition interlock devices are one of the more costly consequences of a DUI. You will have to pay up to $200 to have the device installed, and you will also have to pay a monthly service fee ranging from $60-$125. Over the course of 18 months, your ignition interlock requirement is going to cost you around $2000.

Opportunity Costs

The real costs of a DUI are not the actual fines. They come in the form of “opportunity costs”. For instance, there is mandatory jail time (at least 2 days) and drivers license suspensions (4 months). This could cost you a lot of money in terms of missed work. There’s also the extra money that your car insurance will cost you. And, maybe worst of all, the cost of that black mark on your record when it comes to getting a job, applying for any kind of professional license, etc.

It’s tough to calculate these costs, they all depend on individual situations. But it’s more than fair to say they will cost you far more than an attorney’s fees in the long run.

I look at a DUI lawyer’s fees as an investment. That may sound like a biased opinion, but it’s a simple truth that defendants who are represented by DUI attorneys are more likely to end up with lower fines, lesser jail time, or plea bargains to lesser offenses that do not carry the stigma of a DUI. And, of course, there’s always the possibility that your lawyer can get the charges dismissed, or get you acquitted!

By Court Koehler

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