Why Are People Often Confused When Charged With DUI In Utah?

Interviewer: DUI is handled a little differently in Utah than in other places. It seems if someone is arrested for DUI, it is quiet for maybe a month or two after the arrest. Maybe the person thinks nothing is happening, or that they are not being charged and do not have to worry. What is the experience of people arrested? Are they confused?

Court: Yes, there is a lot of confusion; and for a couple of different reasons. The first reason is that once you get arrested for a DUI, you have a 10 day period to request a hearing with the Driver License Division. On the other hand, you have the court process.

So there are two things that happen. You have the criminal proceedings that go through the courts. Then you have the civil proceedings that go through the Driver License Division, and that regards your license suspension and what the Driver License Division is going to do about it.

So there are actually two totally separate things. What happens is people get confused because there is the 10 day limit to request a Driver License Division hearing, but when you are arrested the police officer will say you have to call the court within 10-14 days.

The deadlines are similar so people think they call the court in 10-14 days and that is all they have to do. Really, there are two separate things. If you wait more than that 10 day period, then you lose your chance to have a hearing with the Driver License Division. So that is one problem.

There is another problem and more confusion if you get pulled over for speeding. They issue a citation, and then the police officer sends that to the court where you are supposed to appear.

You are supposed to call the court within 10-14 days. Because a speeding ticket is just a minor crime or an infraction, most of the time people just call up and pay them. Technically what you are doing is you are paying your bail; and then forfeiting it.

Well, because a DUI is more serious, the court will not set an arraignment date until you have actually been formally charged. So when the police officer says you need to call the court in 10-14 days, you actually do not.

The first time you call the court, they are going to say, “It hasn’t come through yet. Keep calling every week until we get it filed. Then we can tell you what happens from there.”

Meanwhile, it can take a month or two for that to actually happen. Sometimes it takes up to four, five, six months even, depending on just how busy the prosecutor’s office is.

They have to get your file, look it over and decide whether to charge you or not. In the meantime people are calling the court, and the court is saying nothing has shown up yet. They say, “Just keep calling back every week to find out when you have been formally charged.”

However, that is just the court proceeding. They do not realize the Driver License Division is, in the meantime, about to suspend your license.

Interviewer: Are files ever lost? Are there people who never hear from the court again, or are they always charged?

Court: That does happen. Files do get lost, but it is pretty rare. When you get arrested for a DUI, there is a two year statute of limitations. They have to charge you within two years of your arrest date. After that, they cannot charge you anymore. It has been too long.

I have heard of people getting charged in the 24th month of that, but that is pretty rare. Most of the time, if there is a big delay it just has to do with the prosecutor’s office being busy.

Interviewer: So what is the typical time lag you have seen on cases you deal with?

Court: It is about a month before you are formally charged, usually.

By Court Koehler

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