Frequently Asked DUI Questions

A: Depending on your situation, DUI can cost you thousands of dollars even if it’s your first, and even more if it’s your second, third or fourth. When determining whether or not you should hire a lawyer, one thing I tell my clients is that part of my job is to save you money. Don’t think of it as wasting money on an attorney, but as a way to save you money on things like fines and interlock devices, substance abuse treatment providers; things like that that.

If you have an attorney, you will be able to save a lot of money on that stuff. For one thing, we may be able to get your case dismissed, or get an acquittal at trial, which will save you the most money possible because there will be no fines or consequences, including the cost of public transportation if your license is suspended, or the cost of having an ignition interlock device installed in your car, which will save thousands of dollars. Usually, they say that a DUI costs you between $10,000 and $20,000, so you’d save most of that.

Even if you end up pleading guilty or being convicted of DUI, an attorney will save you money because they can sometimes get a charge lessened to something with a lower fine, or they may be able to reduce the consequences, saving you the amount you’d have to pay for a substance abuse treatment or supervised probation provision that you otherwise might have had to do. That may also save a lot of money on your car insurance.

There are many ways that we can save you money by reducing your sentence or lessening the charge you’re pleading guilty to. Another way we can save you money is that DUI attorneys have networks, just like any other business; we have people who offer us special deals on the things you’ll have to spend money on if you’re convicted of DUI.

For instance, we may be able to get an ignition interlock device installed for free, or we may be able to get you a substance abuse evaluation for free, to spend less money on classes like PRIME for life, or other substance abuse classes that you may be sentenced to. There are many different ways we can save you money, so while hiring an attorney sounds like an expensive proposition, the reason DUI attorneys exist is because we actually save you money.

The way you know that you have the right attorney for the job is to make sure they focus on DUI laws because there is a lot of science and many laws that are unique to DUI. For instance, they need to know about the science behind field sobriety tests, and the studies that have proven them accurate and not accurate, and that officers are supposed to administer them a certain way, down to very minute details.

They also need to know the science behind breath and blood tests, so that they can attack their accuracy, including whether they were administered the wrong way. They need to know all proper procedures and to recognize a problem with your case when they see one. That’s why it’s important to hire an attorney who specializes in DUI law.

Meet with an attorney and talk with them in person; get a feel for whether or not his or her personality is a good match for yours. Not every attorney is right for every client, so someone may not be the best attorney for you, even if they’re great for someone else; it’s important that you and the attorney have a rapport and that you trust that they’ll spend the time required on your case and they have the experience necessary.

A: If you go to court and tell a judge you plan to defend yourself, the judge will generally make it hard for you; they will ask you why you’re doing that and they will ask you questions to determine whether or not you are mentally sound and competent, to put it bluntly, to make sure you’re not crazy. The reason is, defending yourself is a kind of crazy thing to do; why create a situation that requires such deep knowledge and experience to be successful, like defending yourself against criminal charges?

Everything about defending you requires knowledge and experience, including going to trial, examining and calling witnesses, handling a jury, knowing when, why and how to object to questions asked by the prosecution, how to evaluate the strength of your case is at trial. There are problems to deal with throughout the entire process, including knowing how to handle a pre-trial conference and how to determine whether the plea offer a prosecutor is making to you is a good offer or not.

There are also a lot of technical details in DUI law, including specifics about the field sobriety tests and how the officer is supposed to perform them, whether or not they read you your Miranda right, and if not, what that means and how it can help you or not. You also need to understand the Constitution and how it relates to the traffic stop and your DUI charges. All of those things are extremely important to the success of your case and you don’t any of that stuff. Lawyers go school to learn that and then they have years of experience on top of that formal training.

If you’re defending yourself against a criminal charge, you are essentially saying that you think you can do a better job than someone with experience and training, so understand why a judge might think you’re a little crazy and will want to make sure you’re competent to stand trial and defend yourself. You do have that right under the Constitution, but the judge will think it’s a horrible idea, and they’re usually right.

A: Public defenders get a bad rap; they tend to be better lawyers than people give them credit for, but the problem with public defenders on a DUI case is that they simply don’t have the time to invest on looking at your case. I’ve talked to public defenders who have as many as 80 cases they are working on simultaneously, which is 2-3 times the caseload of a private attorney, which means they spend far less time on the client, looking at the discovery, the police reports, watching the video, talking to the prosecutor or the officers, visiting the scene of the DUI; everything that has to be done to represent a client as well as possible.

Public defenders have a lot of experience with particular judges and prosecutors, so they can tell you whether a prosecutor’s offer is good based on the average DUI case, but they can’t get into specifics that might tell them whether there is an issue with the case, such as a problem with the stop, upon which a motion to suppress can be made that could result in your case being dismissed. They’ll have a hard time determining how well you do at trial if they don’t have a chance to talk to the officers and witnesses, or they don’t have time to look at your case and prepare questions in a thoughtful way; they just don’t have time to do what a private attorney does; that’s why you hire them.

I do all of those things for every case I have, which means I will defend your case better than a public defender just because I will understand the case more, I’ll talk to all the witnesses, I will visit the scene and look at where everything happened from every angle, I will watch the dash-cam video from the stop; I will do everything necessary to get the best possible result every DUI case, because they are so fact-sensitive and there is a lot of science involved. A public defender can’t help you with a lot of that; it’s important to have someone on your side who has the time to spend on your case; often it’s the minor details that make the difference on a DUI case.

A: Whether or not you should blow will depends on each individual situation, but in many cases, it’s something you should do. This is kind of a highly contested area and it really depends a lot on different state laws, so if you’re researching this from a state other than Utah, it may not be accurate.

However, in Utah, there is an 18-month license suspension just for refusing to take a breath test it, which means you should consider taking it, even if you feel like you’ll fail it. Even if you are convicted of a DUI, you’re looking at a 4-month suspension in most cases, which is a lot less than 18. So, if driving is, you may want to take a breath test whenever it’s asked, no matter what.

Another concern is that, even if you refuse to take a breath test, an officer can usually get a warrant to do a blood draw and so in that case, which means you have an 18-month suspension, and they will still have the results of the blood test and a DUI charge. That’s why it’s generally a good idea to take the breath test if requested, especially on a first offense.

That said, there are situations where you don’t want to take a breath test, such as if you have multiple DUIs previously, because the consequences of being convicted for, say, a third DUI are severe enough to outweigh the license suspension. In Utah, a third DUI is a felony, and you want to do everything possible to avoid getting a felony charge even if that means an 18-month license suspension.

A: Roadside sobriety tests are a sticky wicket, and I wish everyone knew that no one ever has to take them; they are completely voluntary. Obviously, if you’ve gotten a DUI and you already took them, that information doesn’t help you, but police officers have a way of asking you to do things that makes you think they’re necessary. For example, when they hold a pen in front of your eyes and tell you to follow it with your eyes, you actually don’t have to do that, and if you do, you’re doing it voluntarily; you don’t have to. When it comes to field sobriety tests, my advice is to not take them at all.

It’s important to know that the only three sanctioned field sobriety tests come from a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) as being the most reliable at detecting whether or not a driver is impaired. They are the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test, in which you follow a pen with your eyes; the Walk and Turn test, in which you walk a line heel to toe, nine steps out, turn around and nine steps in; and the One Leg Stand test, in which you balance on one leg while counting out loud.

While some officers will do alternative tests, like the alphabet test or touching your fingers to your thumb, but they’re not sanctioned because the science behind them is less reliable and the value is unclear, so they’re less useful as evidence in your case. When it comes to whether or not you failed, know that they’re not a pass/fail kind of thing; they’re watching you and looking for specific clues to impairment.

For instance, for the One Leg Stand test, they’re looking at whether if you raise your arms more than 6 inches from your sides to balance, or you put your foot down, those are clues to impairment. They will essentially count the clues and decide you’re impaired. In reality, when it comes to taking field sobriety tests, the pessimistic side of me says you’ve already failed because most sober people couldn’t make it through these three tests without exhibiting at least some clues.

Once you’re in the middle of those field sobriety tests, the officer is just gathering evidence to use against you once he’s arrested you, and he’s already determined that he’ll arrest you for DUI, in at least 95 percent of cases.

A: When the police ask you to say the alphabet backward, this is an alternative field sobriety test; one that is not certified, verified or endorsed by the NHTSA. Only the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test, the One Leg Stand test and the Walk the Line Test are sanctioned tests; if an officer asks you to recite the alphabet backwards or from a certain letter to a certain letter, it may be because they can’t give the regular field sobriety tests for some reason, like has an injury or the ground isn’t level enough or something. Such tests are not convincing scientifically, which means they don’t think they have much information on you yet.

That’s a good thing for your case, but you should still politely refuse to take any field sobriety tests, exercise your right to remain silent, and ask to speak to a lawyer. Remember; the tests are all voluntary; even if an officer has a way of interacting with you that makes you feel like you’re required to take them, you’re not. The same goes with an alternative test, like reciting the alphabet backward, or touching your finger to your thumbs in a certain order, or any coordination test not sanctioned by the NHTSA.

A: When fighting any criminal case, especially DUI, the less information you give police the better; always exercise your right to remain silent and give them as little information as possible, since every bit of information you give helps them build a case against you. Often, one of the first questions an officer will ask when they pull you over for DUI is whether the driver has been drinking, and it’s a scary question; you don’t want to lie because it looks bad and it won’t help you in court. And if you say you weren’t drinking, but a breath test shows alcohol in your system, you will lose credibility with the jury, if and when it gets there.

On the other hand, you also don’t want to admit to drinking alcohol because that gives the officer reasonable suspicion to extend his stop and investigate you for DUI. What you really want to do is remain silent; refuse to answer the question. Assuming that you haven’t done that, though, and assuming you’ve admitted to having drinks, that gives the officer reasonable suspicion, which allows him to investigate you for DUI, although it doesn’t give him probable cause to arrest you, since it’s not actually illegal to drink and drive.

What you can’t do under the law is you can’t drink so much that it impairs your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. If you had two beers, depending on how long ago that was, how much alcohol was in the beers and other factors, you may not be too impaired to safely operate a vehicle, and you may very well be below the 0.08 BAC; those are all defenses to a DUI charge.

If you tell an officer you only had two beers and he arrests you for DUI, then you have to defend the case based on the information the officer has gotten from you, which means attacking the results of field sobriety tests or even breath and blood test results and all those other things. However, claiming you had two beers, which many people arrested for DUI claim just means you’ll have to go through the process and it forecloses some of your ability to make some reasonable suspicion arguments. But it’s still defensible because it’s not illegal to just have a couple of beers and drive.

A:To defend your DUI, you want to have as much information as possible showing that you either weren’t drinking at all or were drinking very little and that you were operating your motor vehicle safely. You do that by documenting the case with your own recollection and you want to write everything down so that you remember it and can refer to it and tell your attorney exactly what happened. Write down everything the officers asked you and when, how long it took for them to pull you over, how long it took to ask you questions about drinking and whether or not they asked you questions about other things before they asked about drinking; everything is important to your case, even though you don’t realize it at the time.

You’ll also want to provide witnesses, if possible, especially someone who was with you that night and knows that you weren’t intoxicated, or someone who can testify as to how little alcohol you drank, if any. If you have documentation to show how much alcohol you purchased. Your attorney needs witnesses, receipts, your own documentation; everything you can provide, in order to defend you, and convince a jury that you were not drinking as much as they say.

When you hire a lawyer, they will go through all of your evidence, look at the constitutional issues surrounding the stop, whether the officer had probable cause when he arrested you, whether the field sobriety tests and the breathalyzer test were administered properly and things like that. The lawyer’s job is to look at everything and to use his knowledge and expertise to investigate the case from every angle and come up with every defense possible, so your side of the deal is to get him as much documentation as possible. Do that, and you will have a better chance of getting a not guilty verdict or getting your case dismissed than if you don’t.

A: A Utah DUI is usually a class B misdemeanor, but can become a class A misdemeanor or even a felony if there are certain aggravating circumstances such as previous DUIs, having a minor in the car at the time of the offense, causing an injury, etc. It is estimated that a first time DUI in Utah can cost you more than $10,000 including all fines, surcharges, attorney’s fees, and increased insurance costs. Furthermore, you face a mandatory sentence of 48 hours of jail or community service.

A: Yes, unfortunately, you are facing the possibility of a license suspension. The loss of your driver’s license is one of the most troubling aspects of a Utah DUI. In fact, Utah is particularly tough on DUI offenders in this regard. In Utah you face a license suspension of 120 days with no option for a limited permit for transportation to and from the work place. These penalties are harsher than many other states that do provide for limited work driving permits during the suspension period.

A: Typically the first thing we will do is request a hearing with the driver’s license division in attempt to get your temporary license suspension lifted. This hearing must be requested within 10 days of your arrest. (so please call us immediately at 801.200.3795 if you’ve been arrested!) This hearing is very important, not only for the purpose of trying to keep your license, but also because it gives us a chance to question your arresting officer on the record. This is our first opportunity to expose any procedural errors police may have made during your investigation and arrest.

A: A good Utah DUI attorney will build a defense by independently investigating your charges and the law enforcement officers who participated in your arrest. We will fight your DUI charges by reviewing video, audio, and dispatch records from your arrest, visiting the scene of the arrest and interviewing any potential witnesses. Through our independent investigation, we are often able to identify procedures that law enforcement failed to follow during your DUI arrest. Failure by law enforcement to follow these procedures correctly can result in infringements on your rights as well as inaccurate test results and insufficient cause to make your arrest. In short, this may allow us get your charges reduced or dropped, or help you win at trial.

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