Utah DUI Sentencing Aftermath

Here is a story that was in the Standard Examiner regarding issues of violating probation and driving while your license was suspended.  This was published June 13, 2007.

What if Paris were in Utah?
Local attorneys talk about how DUI sentences compare
Standard-Examiner Davis Bureau jfruhwirth@standard.net

FARMINGTON — While nationwide pundits decide whether Paris Hilton’s “celebrity justice” means she’s being let off easy or treated too harshly, two local attorneys agree her sentence has been comparable to “Utah justice.”
Deputy Davis County Attorney Richard Larsen nor Ogdenbased defense attorney Glen Neeley claim to be experts on California’s DUI laws. Each state legislature sets its own rules on how driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is to be penalized.
Both men, however, have extensive courtroom experience with Utah’s DUI laws. They answered questions on how a defendant who had been convicted of a first DUI and twice caught driving on a subsequently suspended license might fare in Top of Utah courts.
First-time DUI offenders, Larsen said, will usually receive a sentence similar to Hilton’s.
“It is fairly standard in Utah. The fine is $1,332, then a requirement of either two days in jail or 48 hours of community service,” he said. “Generally, what happens is, the judge allows the community service.”
More punishment, Neeley added, comes from the driver’s license suspension, which forbids the recent DUI offender from getting behind the wheel for any reason.
“You’ll get 90 days suspension for a first offense,” Neeley said. “Your second offense is one year. … In Utah, it’s black and white. Other states have a ‘needs necessary’ license, but Utah has no permit for driving to work.”
Even then, the punishment is not over, and this is before any probation violations occur.
“If your license is suspended for a DUI, you’re normally going to have an ‘alcohol-restricted license,’ ” Neeley said.
New in 2005, the sometimes-referred-to “not-adrop” law states that, for two years, first-time DUI offenders are not allowed to operate a vehicle if they have even the slightest amount of alcohol in their system.
Nonoffenders can consume alcohol and operate a vehicle lawfully, provided the driver’s blood-alcohol level is lower than 0.08.
Violating the 90-day suspension — even while completely sober — or the twoyear alcohol restriction usually won’t land a person in jail, Neeley said.
“It can be jail time, but if it’s the first time they’ve been caught, it’s usually just a fine, community service, things like that,” he said.
But there is no framework for penalizing probation violators the way there is for the initial DUI, Larsen said, so a judge is legally allowed to sentence up to six months in jail.
“When you get to the point of a probation violation … ultimately, it’s the judge that makes the final decision,” he said.
Depending on the community, Larsen said, courts will consider jail overcrowding when sentencing a first-time probation violator. Also, he said, Top of Utah courts typically allow work release to individuals who have steady employment.
“If somebody has a job, we generally consider it to be in the community’s best interest to allow them to keep working rather than causing them to lose their jobs,” Larsen said.
Of course, people on work release won’t be able to drive themselves to their job. They’ll need to take the bus or catch a ride from someone else.
But what about a second probation violation? Could a person really evade jail time after a second violation of a court order?
“They may not get jail time if the defendant understands the circumstances and is getting the message,” Larsen said, “and if not, a judge asks, ‘What can I do to get through to this defendant?’ ”
It appears as if Hilton, after two probation violations, might serve as many as 40 more days in jail.
Both Neeley and Larsen stopped short of saying whether that is unusual. They agree that it simply depends on the policies, attitudes and judgments of the judge.

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