Maybe you went out for a nice meal with your spouse and both of you decided to indulge in a glass of wine (or two). When it came time to leave the restaurant, you decided that you were totally fine to drive, despite imbibing alcohol. After all, it was only one glass (or two). There’s no way you could have been over the legal limit and you certainly didn’t feel impaired. Unfortunately, the cop that pulled you over for swerving or driving erratically didn’t feel the same, especially once you’d taken a breathalyzer test and blown a 0.05% blood alcohol concentration (BAC). But wait, the legal limit is 0.08%, isn’t it? Indeed it is, but a DUI, which stands for Driving Under the Influence, can actually be issued at any time that an officer feels you are too impaired to drive, regardless of your BAC, and the charge comes with stiff penalties.
For one thing, you can have your license suspended for up to 120 days. But even aside from the fact that you lose the freedom of driving yourself around, you could also lose your freedom, period. A first offense carries with it the penalty of a minimum of 48 hours in jail, in a work service program, or in home confinement. Generally, you’ll also receive a year of probation, likely combined with some sort of mandatory DUI class or substance abuse education program. And there’s also the little matter of a $700 fine (minimum) that you’ll have to pay with an 85% surcharge stacked on top of that for a total of almost $1500. Clearly, Utah takes a firm stance on the issue of drinking and driving. However, a DUI doesn’t have to ruin your life. As long as you resolve to use it as a learning experience (and a mistake that you will never repeat), there’s no reason you can’t try get your sentence reduced and keep the ticket off your permanent record.
Because a DUI is a Class B misdemeanor, generally, you’ll start in municipal (or city) court. If you are convicted and sentenced at the municipal level, you may want to appeal the ruling in order to avoid the penalties associated with a DUI conviction. From here, the first thing you’ll want to do is secure the services of a lawyer. Although you can appeal a DUI on your own, you’ll have more luck if you go in with someone on your side that is well aware of the laws. For starters, you may not know that while you are appealing you can sometimes get your sentence stayed (so that you won’t have to begin serving it). This is just the sort of information your lawyer can provide.
Next, your appeal will be heard in district court. Although rulings are often upheld, you never know when a different judge might take your side (especially if the original ruling appears to have been unfair or unjust in some way). Even if the ruling is not overturned, you may be able to secure a more lenient sentence. But you’ll have a much better chance of getting your conviction overturned or your sentence commuted if you have a lawyer’s help.