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Road Trip. State Law. DUI… Know Before You Go.

“Road trip” – the words evoke a feeling of carefree fun and good times. Along the way,  adventures, sightseeing, and pit stops to revive tired drivers are plentiful. But don’t be too carefree at your next pit stop before you’re versed on the driving laws of the state you’re visiting. For example, did you know that you can be charged for a DUI even if you are not driving? There’s a lot to know, and since there may not be enough time before your trip to complete a full bachelor degree in law, we’ve compiled some of the more important details for travelers in Utah, California, and Nevada. There will be plenty of time to submit your law school application when you return.

Comparative DUI Law

Every one of the states in the U.S. has laws that prohibit driving under the influence, commonly known as DUI. The offense is called different names in the various states, with some referring to it as driving while intoxicated (DWI) and operating under the influence (OUI). Apart from the definition of what constitutes a DUI offense, state laws also differ on the consequences of a conviction. When you’re traveling from state-to-state on a road trip, it’s important to know the facts on drunk-driving as well as the relevant laws. This will not only help to prevent you from putting yourself and other road users at risk but will also ensure you avoid common driving law violations. Here are some commonalities and differences in DUI/DWI laws in Utah, Nevada, and California.

Utah DUI Laws

The state of Utah uses the term DUI. The relevant state laws prohibit operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs as well as with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05% or more. Utah has the lowest BAC in the entire U.S. while the rest of the country’s limit is 0.08%. Utah has a “Not a Drop” policy when it comes to minors drinking. It is illegal for motorists under the age of 21 to drive with any detectable amount of alcohol in their system.

In Utah, you can be charged for a DUI even if you are not driving, haven’t put the key in the ignition, or the car is parked. The prosecutor does not need to prove you were in the drivers’ seat, but simply that a person has “an apparent ability to start and move a vehicle while intoxicated.” Utah DUI law states it is illegal to have “actual physical control” of a vehicle while under the influence. The court will consider many factors for “actual physical control” when determining a DUI for someone not driving such as whether the keys were in the ignition, whether the driver was sleeping or awake, whether the offender was alone, how law enforcement discovered the car, and other factors.

  • A first offense will result in a maximum jail term of 180 days, a fine of at least $1,310, a license suspension of 120 days, and an ignition interlock device.
  • Second DUI penalties include a maximum of 180 days in jail, a fine of at least $1,560, license revocation for 2 years or an ignition interlock device for two years in case of one or more prior convictions in 10 years.
  • Consequences for a third offense are a maximum of 5 years in prison, fines from at least $2,850, revocation of the driver’s license for 2 years or an Ignition Interlock Device for two years in the event of one or more prior convictions in the last 10 years.

The ‘implied consent’ law in Utah requires that drivers arrested for a DUI take a test. In case you get pulled over for DUI, but you refuse to take a blood, breath, saliva or urine test, there are specified penalties. A first offense may result in an 18-month license suspension, while a second and third offense will both carry a 3-year license suspension each.

When it comes to minors and underage drinking, the laws are tougher, and the penalties are more severe than those listed for people over 21 years of age. If the defendant is just caught drinking, not even driving, they could still have their license revoked for up to two years.

Nevada DUI Laws

The state of Nevada uses the term “driving under the influence.” It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle in Nevada with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more or while under the influence of drugs. If a person is impaired to a level where they cannot drive safely, they are considered to be under the influence. Commercial drivers can be cited for operating a vehicle with a BAC of 0.04% or more, while underage drivers can get a DUI for 0.02% or more.

The DUI penalties in Nevada will vary based on the facts of the case. In most cases, they will depend on whether it is a first, second or third DUI conviction.

  • A first offense conviction will attract a maximum of 180 days in jail, a fine of $400 minimum, at least 185 days of license revocation or an ignition interlock device for 185 days if BAC is below 0.18%, and between 1 and 3 years if more than 0.18%.
  • A second DUI conviction may mean 180 days maximum in jail or home confinement, a minimum of $750 in fine, license revocation for a year or ignition interlock device for 185 days with a BAC of less than 0.18% and 1 to 3 years for more than 0.18%.
  • A third DUI offense could earn you 1 to 6 years in prison, a fine of $2,000 minimum, license revocation for 3 years or 1 to 3 years of an ignition interlock device.

Nevada allows individuals to be charged with a DUI even if you weren’t driving but had “actual physical control” of the vehicle. In case you are lawfully arrested for a DUI, Nevada’s “implied consent” laws require that you submit to a breath, urine or blood test. A refusal may lead to one-year license revocation for first-time offenders and 3 years license revocation for second or subsequent offenses. 

California DUI Laws

In California, it is illegal for all motorists to drive while under the influence of drugs or with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more. If a person is substantially affected as a result of ingesting alcohol, drugs or a combination of both, they are considered to be under the influence. The BAC standards for commercial drivers is 0.04% or more. California has “zero tolerance” laws for underage drinkers that prohibit drivers under the age of 21 from getting behind the wheel with any detectable levels of alcohol in their system. In California, a DUI conviction requires proof of driving.

  • A first offense conviction in California attracts a maximum of six months in jail, a fine of between $390 and $1,000, license suspension for six months, or ignition interlock device for up to six months or 12-month restricted license.
  • A second DUI offense may mean a jail term of between 96 hours and one year, a fine of $390 to $1,000, license suspension of 2 years or ignition interlock device  for one year.
  • For a third offense, the defendant could get between 120 days and one year in jail, a fine of up to $1,800, license suspension for 3 years or an ignition interlock device for two years.

In the event of lawful arrest for driving under the influence, California’s “implied consent” laws require all drivers to submit to BAC testing. This could be either a breath or blood test. Drivers who refuse to submit to the test will pay a fine of $125 and face license suspension. License suspension periods for the first, second and third refusal are one year, two years and three years respectively.

How DUI Attorneys Can Help

Once you are arrested for a DUI offense, you should remember that the burden of proof of guilt is on the prosecution. Since this must be beyond a reasonable doubt, you should hire a lawyer to examine your DUI case. A DUI attorney can help if the sobriety test was improperly conducted, advise on pleading to a lesser charge than DUI, help you explore different defenses against a DUI charge, and even get the charge dropped all together.

If You’ve Been Hit by a Drunk Driver

If you sustain injuries as a result of being hit by a drunk driver, you may be entitled to financial compensation. You can seek compensation by filing a personal injury claim against the person or their insurance company. To win your case, you will need to prove the other party’s negligence caused your injuries. In all states, a motorist is considered negligent if they are operating a vehicle while under the influence.

In order to increase your chances of a successful outcome and fair compensation, you should consider hiring an experienced personal injury attorney. An attorney will help gather the proof needed and ensure you take all the steps necessary to avoid insurance companies finding loopholes out of paying for your pain and suffering. Almost all personal injury attorneys will take your case on a contingency basis. This means you don’t pay anything unless the law firm successfully wins your case in court or comes to a settlement agreement you approve of with the opposing insurance company. The attorney will then be paid a previously agreed-upon portion of the settlement.

About the Author
Wasatch Defense Lawyers can help you understand your legal rights and options when charged with a crime in Utah.

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