Driving under the influence (DUI) is a severe offense, and this is especially true for individuals who are under the age of 21. In Utah, the legal drinking age is 21, and it is unlawful for anyone under that age to operate a motor vehicle with any measurable amount of alcohol in their system. An underage DUI can have significant penalties, including losing driving privileges.
This blog will explore the consequences of an underage DUI in Utah and what you need to know if you face these charges. We will also discuss possible defenses against underage DUI charges and the importance of working with an experienced attorney.
What Is Underage DUI in Utah?
Underage DUI in Utah refers to a person under the age of 21 operating a vehicle with any measurable amount of alcohol in their body. In other words, even a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) below the legal limit for adults of 0.05% is prohibited for underage drivers in Utah.
The law is commonly referred to as the "not-a-drop" law. If an underage driver is suspected of violating it, they could be subjected to a chemical analysis of blood, breath, or urine to determine their alcohol concentration.
The penalties for an underage DUI in Utah can be severe. Thus, young people need to be aware of the law and its potential consequences.
How Does an Underage DUI Differ from a Regular DUI?
An underage DUI differs from regular DUI charges in Utah in several ways. The main difference lies in the threshold for blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Regular DUI charges apply when a person's BAC is 0.05 or higher. For an underage DUI, any measurable amount of alcohol in an underage driver's system is illegal.
Additionally, an underage driver does not need to be impaired by alcohol to be arrested and charged with an underage DUI. The mere presence of alcohol in their system is enough to trigger a violation of the "not-a-drop" law.
A person under 21 can still be charged with a regular DUI if their BAC level is at or above the legal limit of 0.05 or more or if they are found to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs while driving.
What Are the Possible Penalties for an Underage DUI?
The penalties for a first-offense underage DUI can be quite severe. One of the most significant consequences is the suspension of the offender's driver's license. In Utah, a first-time offender can face a driver’s license suspension of at least 180 days. If the offender does not have a driver’s license, the division would deny their application for a license for at least six months.
The penalties for repeat offenses can be even more severe, with lengthier driver’s license suspensions. A second violation within ten years can lead to a loss of driving privileges for two years or until the offender turns 21, whichever is longer.
The underage driver can request a hearing to contest the suspension. They must make this request within ten days of receiving a notice of suspension from the officer.
The scope of the hearing will be limited to specific issues, including the following:
- Whether the officer had reasonable grounds to believe the underage driver had alcohol in their system while driving.
- Whether the driver refused a chemical test.
- The chemical test results.
If the driver’s license suspension is sustained, the individual must fulfill certain criteria before they can get their driving privileges back. They may be required to participate in a substance abuse assessment, attend an education and prevention program, or complete a substance abuse treatment. The driver is responsible for paying all costs and fees associated with these services.
The Consequences of an Underage DUI
The underage DUI penalties can affect a young person’s life. The loss of driving privileges can make it difficult for the individual to get to school, work, or other important activities. Additionally, losing the ability to drive can limit a person’s independence and make it hard to socialize with friends.
In addition to the practical challenges of losing one's driver’s license, an underage DUI can also have financial consequences. For example, the offender may be required to pay for substance abuse treatment or counseling as a condition of their sentence, which can be expensive. These costs can add up quickly and strain a young person's finances, potentially limiting their ability to pay for other important expenses like college or housing.
Defenses Against Underage DUI Charges
If someone is facing an underage DUI charge in Utah, several possible defenses may be available.
Arguments that may be raised could include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Faulty or unreliable chemical test analysis
- No reasonable grounds to stop the driver
- Improper procedures followed when collecting a sample for analysis
- A substance other than alcohol resulted in a raised BAC
These are just a few examples of the many possible defenses that a defense attorney may use to challenge an underage DUI charge. Working with a lawyer knowledgeable in this area of the law is important, as they will have the insights and skills needed to effectively navigate the legal system and advocate on behalf of their client.
Hire a Lawyer for Your Case
Underage DUI charges in Utah can have severe and far-reaching consequences. It's essential for young people to understand the severity of these charges and to take responsibility for their actions on the road.
If you or a loved one has been charged, speak with an attorney about your case. They can help work toward a favorable outcome.