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How Does A Chemical Test Refusal Impact A DUI Case?


An administrative hearing on a person’s privilege to drive in Utah can severely impact a DUI case in the sense that it gives the defense an opportunity to cross-examine the officer. In addition, the officer’s testimony is recorded, meaning that I can ask the officer questions about the investigation and have his responses on record. If the officer comes into court and changes the story, then that’s the impeachment evidence and it can be used against him. Alternatively, if the officer provides something useful in the driver’s license hearing, then I can develop that later in court. Keep in mind, however, the decision handed down by the driver’s license division is not binding in any way upon the prosecutor or the court. In other words, even if the division decides that there wasn’t reasonable ground for the officer to think that there was a DUI, the prosecutor can still go forward in their pursuit of proving you guilty in court. {COMMENT: This paragraph is an answer to how the driver’s license hearing can effect the DUI case in court. It has nothing to do with a chemical test refusal.

A person does have the right to refuse to submit to a test. If they say, “I refuse,” then the officer is required to read verbatim a written admonition informing them that the subject has the right to refuse, but that the subject’s refusal will result in an automatic 18-month suspension of their privilege to drive in Utah. The standard suspension for a first time DUI is 120 days or 4 months, so that time is substantially increased when a refusal occurs. In most cases, the officer will just apply and obtain a warrant to draw a person’s blood. If the warrant is not granted or the evidence for obtaining a warrant is arguable and questionable, then the blood draw can be challenged later in court. This can be useful for an attorney and advantageous for the client. Whether or not it is a good decision to refuse the test is impossible to say because there are benefits and risks to each course of action.

Similarly, a person may on the roadside request their right to an attorney. In the event that a person requests their right to an attorney, the officer is similarly required to read verbatim an admonition explaining that they do not have the right to an attorney at that point in time. Failure on the part of the officer to read verbatim the admonition for either a refusal or a request for an attorney may, among other things, be grounds for a client to avoid a driver’s license suspension.

What Factors Can Enhance Or Aggravate DUI Charges In Utah?

DUI charges are most often enhanced as a result of prior DUIs on a person’s record within the previous 10 years, which is dictated by statute. Other statutory factors causing enhancement of DUIs also includes serious injuries and/or death, and/or the presence of minor children in the vehicle. The whole slew of punishments (fines, mandatory minimum jail time, etc.) stem from the level of the offense and increase as the level of offense increases. To be sure, though, even non-DUI related prior offenses, such as prior drug or alcohol related offenses, can harm a defendant, where they paint the picture of a person who has substance abuse issues needing to be addressed. In cases like that, a person can expect fewer leniencies from the prosecutor. Accidents involving property damage (broken fences, mailboxes, etc.) or a BAC at or above twice the legal limit are also usually punished more severely.

What Are The Penalties Associated With A DUI Conviction In Utah?

DUI sentencing is prescribed by sentencing matrixes that courts are required to follow. A first time offense is considered a class B or A misdemeanor. If there is bodily injury or passengers involved, then it may be an A misdemeanor, which carries a mandatory minimum of two days in jail. The court can order alternative sentencing in the form of 48 hours of community service or electronic home confinement, at least a $700 fine plus a surcharge, a screening and assessment, and an educational series of possible treatment. There is also the possibility of supervised probation and an ignition interlock device. If the breath or blood alcohol concentration is 0.16 or more, then an ignition interlock device becomes mandatory.

A second DUI is considered a B or an A misdemeanor, which carries a mandatory minimum of 10 days in jail, 240 community service hours or home confinement. In addition, it requires an $800 minimum fine plus the surcharge, mandatory screening and assessment, education, optional treatment, mandatory supervised probation and an optional ignition interlock device. If someone registers a value of 0.16 or higher, then the ignition interlock device and supervised probation become mandatory. A third or subsequent offense within a timeframe of 10 years is considered a felony. If bodily injury, a prior felony DUI or an automobile homicide conviction is present, then the offense would be considered a felony. The associated sentence is zero to five years in prison and a mandatory minimum of 62 ½ days or 1,500 hours in jail.

The court may order electronic home confinement for all of that time, a $1,500 minimum charge, mandatory screening and assessment, intensive treatment, inpatient treatment for no less than 240 hours, an optional ignition interlock device and mandatory supervised probation if a prison term is not imposed.

For more information on Impact Of Chemical Test Refusal, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (801) 455-1743 today.

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(801) 455-1743