Salt Lake City DUI Attorney

Every justice court and district court in Utah is a little bit different in how they interpret the rules.  Every judge require things that other judges do not.  For example, the Salt Lake City Justice Court judges require a person convicted of  DUI in Utah to take an additional class called the MADD Impact Panel class.  Justice Courts in Ogden and other parts of the state do not require this class.  Some judges will allow home confinement in lieu of jail.  Some judges will not.  Some judges require two days jail, others will allow 48 hours of community service.  Some judges require a costly evaluation done before sentencing, others will simply sentence the day you enter a plea and give order the required prime for life class.  My office is based in Ogden Utah and I am a Ogden DUI Attorney.  However, I practice all over the state and I take the time, and have 15 years experience, that allows me to know the courts, the judges, and the procedures all around the state in any court.  Many people think they should hire a local attorney to “grease the wheels” or hire an attorney that knows the judge and the prosecutor, rather than hire a lawyer that specializes in DUI Defense.  This can be a terrible mistake.  I had this line of thinking.  The problem was that the local attorney got them the best deal they could, but the local attorney did not see the glaring issue that proved that the client was not guilty.  It was a blood case showing positive for a drug that the client had a prescription for and the client was only pulled over for failing to use a turn signal.  There was no impairment and the client had a prescription for the medicine in her system.  WHY plead to anything when the client was legally driving with a legal prescription in her system.  I want to be clear here, you cannot drive with any prescription in your system if you are impaired by the drug to the degree you cannot drive safely.  You can drive if you are not impaired by your prescription drug.  This is what the local attorney that did not specialize in DUI Defense was missing. 

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Seven Steps through a DUI case in Utah

Below, I discuss the seven steps through a DUI Case.  A Driving Under the Influence Charge is a serious offense and is very complex.  As a Board Certified DUI Defense Lawyer, I evaluate your case and look for the best possible outcome.  Below, I briefly discuss requesting a driver license hearing, hiring a DUI attorney, going to court for the first time and the arraignment, requesting the evidence against you, the pretrial conference, motions to be filed, and the trial.  This is an overview of how your case can proceed and will give you some idea as to how I will defend you from a DUI charge in the State of Utah. 

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Step 7: The DUI Trial in Utah

 When we take your case to trial, we always request a jury.  In Utah, you have the option to have a bench trial (with only a judge) or a jury trial.  Utah law allows four jurors for a class B misdemeanor DUI offense.  If the DUI is a Class A misdemeanor, Utah law allows six jurors.  If the DUI is a felony DUI because there has been two prior DUI convictions or offenses within a ten year period, then Utah law allows eight jurors to hear the case.

Voir Dire:  The process of selecting the jury is called Voir Dire.  It means “speak the truth.”  This is a process where they bring in a jury pool of about 16 to 20 jurors for your average DUI case.  Most of the time, the judge conducts the voir dire process meaning the judge will question the jury panel about their fitness to hear the DUI case.  People can be excused from the panel for many different reasons.  One of the main reasons is because they have very strong feelings about DUI because they have had some involvement with a DUI situation like being in a car accident.  Once the people are removed for cause, then the jury is selected by a process where the prosecution will strike three jurors and the defense will strike three jurors.  The remaining four people will be the jury to hear the case.

Jury Instructions:  After the voir dire process and the jury is selected, the judge will give the jury instructions on how to judge the case.  These are preliminary instructions.  The judge will usually read the formal charge at this time.

Opening Statements:  Both the Prosecution and Defense is allowed to give an opening statement to tell the jury their side of what the evidence will show through out the trial.  The Defense has the option to reserve their opening statement until the Prosecution is finished with its case.

Evidence:  Next the prosecution will call its witnesses to testify, present photographs, chemical test evidence, and any other relevant evidence.  The Defense has right to cross examine any of the witnesses that testify.  Once the prosecution is finished, the Defense then has the option to put on evidence.  In reality, many times, the Defense will rest without putting on evidence and argue that the prosecution has not met the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the client is guilty.  Once the Defense is finished, the prosecution has the option to call rebuttal witness and the Defense can then call rebuttal witnesses.

Closing Arguments:  When all of the evidence has been presented to the jury by both sides, the judge will then give closing jury instructions.  The prosecution will give a closing argument first.  It is reasoned that because the burden is on the prosecution to prove the case, the prosecution also gets to do another argument after the Defense.  So, the prosecution gives a closing statement, then the Defense gives a closing statement, and then the prosecution gives a final rebuttal statement.

Jury Deliberations and Verdict:  After the closing arguments, the jury is taken to a room to deliberate and to come up with a unanimous decision about the guilt or innocence of the charge.  There is no time limit on the jury.  I have had juries come back in 20 minutes and others come back 8 hours later.  The verdict has to be unanimous.

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Step 6: Utah DUI Motions

In analyzing and evaluating your case, we look at possible motions to file with the court to suppress evidence that the prosecution wants to use against you.  We look at everything from whether the officer had a legal reason to pull you over to whether the chemical test was correctly administered.  The starting point is whether the officer had a legal reason (reasonable suspicion that you have committed a crime) to make contact with the driver.  If the officer cannot articulate a legal reason to pull over the driver, then the case is dismissed because all evidence obtained after the illegal detainment is suppressed.  If the officer had a legal reason to stop the driver, we look at whether the officer had a legal reason to arrest (probable cause that you have committed a crime).  We analyze the field sobriety tests and all the characteristics that the officer wants to use against you to form his opinion that you were too impaired to drive your car safely. If the officer did not have a legal reason to arrest, again, the case is dismissed.  Then we analyze your statements and whether they should be suppressed.  We also look at whether a breath test or blood test should be suppressed because it was not administered properly.  There is a myriad of motions that can be filed and argued in defending a DUI.  It is important to have a lawyer that specializes in DUI Defense to look at the complex issues involved in a DUI arrest. Many times, the motions filed prior to trial is where the case is won.

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Step 5: The Pretrial Conference

After the Arraignment, the Court will schedule a Pretrial Conference Hearing.  This hearing is designed to allow possible negotiations with the prosecutor, scheduling of further hearings, scheduling of motion to suppress hearings, and/or scheduling of  a trial. 

The DUI Defense attorney will meet with the prosecutor to engage in negotiations.  Generally, the client does not participate in this meeting.  I do not want the client to participate for two reasons:  First, I do not want my client to say anything to the prosecutor that would be incriminating.  Second, I want to learn what I can from the prosecutor without the client interfering by voicing an opinion as to how things happened to the prosecutor.

After the meeting, the DUI Defense attorney will come out and discuss the options with the client.  If the offer to plead to a lesser charge is accepted by the client, then the attorney and the client address the Court and enter a plea.  The Court will then sentence the client or schedule another time for sentencing.  If negotiations are unsuccessful, the client and the attorney will address the Court to either schedule further hearings or to schedule a trial date. 

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Step 4: Requesting the Discovery and Evidence for your Utah DUI arrest

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next step after you have hired a lawyer is to obtain all the evidence concerning your case.  As soon as you leave our office, we make a request for several items.  There is a laundry list that we request and that every DUI attorney should request depending on the circumstances:

All Cases:

The Police Reports

The Video

Supplemental Reports by witnesses and other officers

Photographs

Breath Test Case:

Video of the Breath test room if conducted in the room

Breath Test Result

Intoxilyzer Maintenance Records

Intoxilyzer Certificates of Calibration

Officer’s Intoxilyzer Certification Records

Jail Booking video

Blood Test Case:

Video of Blood draw

Blood Drawer Certification

Chain of Custody documentation

Equipment used to draw blood

Gas Chromatograph documentation

Blood Test Results

Maintenance logs

Toxicology litigation packet

These are just some of the items we request as the circumstances dictate.  Sometimes, if there is no video, we contact local merchants to see if they have video cameras depicting the arrest and field sobriety tests.  In certain cases, this has been very effective in exonerating innocent people.  When we request these items, we provide a copy of everything we get to the client.  The client’s file will match our file.  We find it effective to give a copy of everything to the client so that they can assist us with ideas and facts on the case.  Just because a police officer put it in a report, doesn’t mean it happened that way.  Clients have been very helpful in shedding light on “the rest of the story”.  Such as, “the officer didn’t put in the report that I was wearing 6 inch high heels to do the Walk and Turn test.”  Or “it was 5 degrees outside and I didn’t have a coat.”  We want our client’s involved with the case and work together to find the best possible outcome. 

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Step 3: Going to Court on your Utah DUI for the First Time

The Arraignment:  The first court hearing is called the arraignment.  The citation will tell you to contact the court not less than 5 days and not more than 14 days.  This is preprinted on the citation forms all over Utah.  However, if you are booked into jail, many times the releasing agency will give you a court date.  Further, if you use a bail/bonding company to bond out of jail, the bonding company may give you a court date.  TRUST NO ONE.  Call the court daily to determine your court date.  If you fail to appear on the court date that the court schedules, the court can issue a warrant for your arrest.  If you hire a DUI attorney, the attorney will take steps to help you through this process.

 

Hiring a DUI Attorney:  When you hire a DUI Attorney, the attorney will enter an appearance, which is a letter to the court telling the court that you have retained the attorney and that you enter a plea of not guilty.  Most of the time, with the letter from the attorney, the court will cancel the arraignment and set the case for the next hearing called a pretrial conference.

Purpose of Arraignment:  The first initial appearance, the arraignment, is for the court to ask how you plea and set further proceedings.  Your choices are guilty, not guilty, or no contest.  It is advisable to always plea not guilty at the first hearing.  If you enter a plea of guilty or no contest, the case is over and you will be sentenced.  You have just waived your right to challenge the evidence and to make the prosecution prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.  A no contest plea is essentially treated as if you entered a plea of guilty.  It means that you are not contesting the charges. Once you enter a not guilty plea, this would be the time to tell the court that you cannot afford to hire your own lawyer and would like an attorney appointed to represent you, or to tell the court that you plan on hiring your own lawyer and would like time to do so.

When should I hire a lawyer?  It is best to hire a lawyer as soon as possible so that evidence can be preserved and collected.  The sooner you hire the lawyer, the easier the process will go.  The lawyer will set court dates with the court, request discovery and videos from the prosecution, prepare motions, and prepare the best possible defense. 

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