Utah DUI bill could make convictions easier at low BAC levels

Utah lawmakers are considering a proposal that could make it easier to be convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The bill, known as HB303, would modify the language of Utah's DUI law to lower the standard for conviction in certain cases.

Currently in Utah, like the rest of the U.S., the law provides that drivers whose blood alcohol content (BAC) levels meet or exceed 0.08 are considered legally intoxicated. This means that a driver whose BAC is 0.08 or higher can be charged with DUI even if there is no other evidence of impairment. This aspect of the Utah DUI law would not be affected by the proposed changes.

However, what many people do not realize is that it is possible for a driver to be convicted of DUI in Utah even with a BAC of less than 0.08 if there is other evidence that he or she is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The proposed changes, if enacted, could make it easier for drivers to be convicted of DUI without exceeding the 0.08 BAC threshold.

Proposed changes to Utah DUI statute

Currently, Utah's DUI statute prohibits driving while "under the influence of alcohol or drugs . . . to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely operating a vehicle." If passed, the recent proposal would rephrase that portion of the statute to prohibit driving while "impaired to the slightest degree by any substance or any combination thereof."

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Lee Perry (R), says the change would make it easier for prosecutors to obtain conviction of drivers charged with DUI in Utah. In some cases, he says, it can be difficult to prove that a driver meets the legal standard for intoxication under the current law unless he or she has been stopped for erratic driving, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. The proposed change would ease the burden on police and prosecutors by lowering that standard.

Exercise your rights if stopped for DUI in Utah

If you are stopped by police for suspected DUI in Utah, it is important to remember that you have a right to remain silent and get help from an attorney. Apart from basic questions regarding your name, driver's license, insurance and vehicle registration, it is generally in your best interests to politely but firmly refuse to answer any other questions until you have had a chance to speak with an attorney.