Should I spend the Money on a Highly Trained DUI Lawyer, or Shop for the Cheapest?

This is a good question that a person often asks.  A person arrested for DUI is involved in a sinking money pit.  First they spend money on bail.  Then, they spend money paying impound fees, state taxes, and other associated costs.  The person is facing court costs, fines, driver license reinstatement fees, alcohol class fees, evaulation fees, ignition interlock device fees, and other associated costs.  Here is the problem, it is getting worse.  The government, under certain circumstances, can now seize your car and sell it.  "What about my loan?"  The government says, "that is your problem."  The laws are changing.  Your lawyer better know the law and know what to look for to get you out of this mess.  It is more important than ever before to hire a lawyer that specializes or emphasizes his practice on DUI Defense.  The suspension period of your driver license was just extended.   Here is a summary of laws that come into effect in May 2009 in Utah.

       HB 21 Rep. Richard Greenwood

This bill amends section 53-3-231 governing driver licence reinstatement for a driver
previously found in actual physical control of a motor vehicle with a measurable amount of alcohol
while under 21 years of age. Before this amendment, the driver could not have their driver license
reinstated before meeting the condition of completing any action recommended by a local substance
abuse authority or substance abuse program (meaning the usual evaluation and compliance with
whatever treatment was ordered) regardless how much time had elapsed since the denial or
suspension order. This bill modifies that requirement in that if five (5) years have elapsed since the
order denying or suspending the driver’s driver license, the driver need not complete the action(s)
recommended by the local substance abuse authority or substance abuse program prior to
reinstatement of their driver license.


The purpose of this bill is to provide a means for justice courts to establish specialized DUI
courts. There has been considerable controversy surrounding this issue over the last few years. A
division of opinion among prosecutors has been especially troubling for SWAP. Over the interim
we were able to get the parties in interest together and find this solution.
First the bill provides that the “driving under the influence court” is to be established by the
Utah Judicial Counsel.
To get into a DUI court program the person must enter a guilty plea to DUI. The court then
enters a conviction of “impaired driving” under current law.
This bill provides both a “carrot” and a “stick” to motivate the person to complete the
program. While the person is participating in or has completed the DUI court program the public
report of the DUI is not put on his motor vehicle record.
In compliance with federal law this advantage cannot be applied to a holder of a commercial
driver’s license.
If the person is complying with the program his driver’s license will be immediately reinstated.
This reinstatement does not apply to repeat offenders.
The “stick” portion of the bill has been changed to 41-6a-509(2)(c)which provides any
person (whether in a DUI court or not) fails to comply and has the impaired driving conviction
amended to DUI he gets no credit for suspension time which has already been served and the
suspension starts over.



HB 151 Rep. Christopher Herrod
Forfeiture of a vehicle amendments is a new DUI prevention tool enacted this year. Under
this law, a vehicle becomes subject to forfeiture where:
a. The current offense is a DUI or DUI-metabolite, AND
b. The driver has a prior conviction for a felony DUI offense or an automobile homicide
offense which was entered after May 12, 2009; AND
c. The driver is driving on a suspended license for a DUI related offense, AND
d. All of the forfeiture procedures and safeguards of Section 24-1-1 et. seq. will be met.
In practice this means officers should be conducting a criminal history check soon after a
driver is arrested on a DUI (and the vehicle has likely been state-tax impounded) to determine
whether the driver has a post May 12, 2009 felony or automobile homicide conviction, and whether
the driver was also driving on a DUI revoked license. If all that is true, prepare an “asset seizure
notification” form for the vehicle and be sure it is delivered to the defendant within 30 days of the
initial seizure.
Of course, keep in mind that a prosecutor must follow 24-1-1 et. seq. before the vehicle
could be subject to forfeiture. So, if there is an innocent owner to the vehicle, or kids won’t get to
school, or somebody will be put out of a job, or there isn’t enough equity in the vehicle to make it
worthwhile, it’s probably best not to seize the car for forfeiture.


Of the five proposed bills intended to prohibit text messaging and cell phone use while
driving, HB 290 emerged as the winner. This bill prohibits the use of a handheld wireless
communication device for text or sending email while operating a moving motor vehicle. It is a
class C misdemeanor for a first violation of this section. It is a class B misdemeanor for a second
violation within 3 years, or if serious bodily injury is caused. Under this section the judge may
suspend a driver’s license for 90 days for a violation of this section.
The bill also creates the crime of automobile homicide involving text messaging or electronic
mail communication while driving statute. It makes it a third degree felony to operate a vehicle in
a negligent or criminally negligent manner and cause the death of another while text messaging or
emailing. License suspension is mandatory for a violation of this section.


SB 147 Sen. Lyle Hillyard
This bill amends section 53-3-220 and permits the Driver License Division to extend a
limited driving privilege to and from a person’s place of employment when the person’s original
denial, suspension, revocation or disqualification involved certain driving under the influence
! if the person has had the first period of denial, suspension, revocation, or disqualification
extended for a period of at least three years;
! if the Driver License Division receives a letter from the person’s physician saying;
" that to the physician’s knowledge the person has not used any un-prescribed
substance or narcotic within the last three years, and
" that, to the physician’s knowledge, the person has no physical, emotional, or mental
impairment that would affect the person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle safely;
! if, for a period of one year prior to the date of the request for a limited driving privilege, the
person has not been convicted of a violation of any motor vehicle law or operated a motor
vehicle that was in an accident whether or not the person was at fault.
This privilege is limited to commuting to and from work or school and may be granted only once
during a denial, suspension, revocation or disqualification period.


As part of the negotiated compromise regarding alcohol laws in the state of Utah this bill was
filed and run at the end of the legislative session. It was the personal pet project of Senate President
Michael Waddoups. It had no public hearings. It passed the senate before any interested parties were
able to deal with it. Thereafter SWAP, the Sentencing Commission and the DUI Sub-Committee
met with President Waddoups and made some modifications to the bill.
This is the moderated version (really)!
Changes Regarding Drivers 21 years and Older
For drivers 21 years of age and older 41-6a-509 was amended to lengthen the driver license
suspension for DUI from 90 days to 120 days. This applies only to offenses committed on or after
July 1, 2009.
For repeat offenders, the revocation period was extended from 1 year to 2 years. That of
course applies to a person with a prior conviction within 10 years of the commission of the current
offense. Again the current offense must be committed on or after July 1, 2009. The
suspension/revocation periods were also extended under 41-6a-517 Driving with any Measurable
Controlled Substance in the Body. Again a first offense was lengthened from a 90 day suspension
to 120 days and a repeat offender’s revocation was extended from 1 year to 2 years.
Interlock requirements are now extended to first offenders. Under 41-6a-518.2 a first
offender is interlock restricted for 18 months from the date of conviction. This should have a serious
impact on the interlock provider industry. When the provisions of this bill are combined with Senate
Bill 12, a person who fails to comply with probation and has an impaired driving entry changed to
driving under the influence, that person’s interlock restrictions will be started as of the date the DUI
conviction is entered. A pretty serious consequence.
Revocation for refusal remains at 18 months, but revocation for a subsequent refusal is
extended from 24 months to 36 months. That modification is found in 41-6a-521.
The suspension of 120 days for first offenders and the revocation for 2 years for repeat
offenders also applies to the “per se” suspension.
For those under the age of 21 who are convicted of or adjudicated for a driving under the
influence offense their license will be suspended until they are 21 years old or for 120 days with an
18 month interlock restriction, whichever is longer. For conviction for a second or subsequent DUI
conviction, the suspension period is until they are 21 or 2 years, which ever is longer.
For a refusal for those under the age of 21 the suspension is until they are 21 or 18 months,
which ever is longer, for a first refusal, or until they are 21 or 36 months, whichever is longer, for
a second offense.
For those under the age of 21 convicted or adjudicated for a non-driving alcohol related
offense, the suspension period is 1 year for a first offense. However, during that year, the judge may
reinstate the license at any time if the minor completes an alcohol education series. For a second
offense, the suspension period is 2 years and the minor is required to complete an alcohol education
series and may be ordered to undergo a drug and alcohol evaluation.


One response to “Should I spend the Money on a Highly Trained DUI Lawyer, or Shop for the Cheapest?”

  1. I always recommend that you find an attorney that has DUI experience. I have heard multiple times where the defendants lawyer doesn’t know all the current laws and any new laws which they end up loosing out on some of their rights.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: