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Prosecutors seeking felony DUI charge by holding trio of trials

In Utah, prosecutors have the option of charging a defendant with felony drinking and driving if the defendant is arrested on suspicion of DUI and has two prior DUI convictions on his or her record. This is true regardless of if the current case involves injuries or other factors normally associated with felony DUI.

In most cases, the "third strike" felony charge comes after the previous cases have been adjudicated. But in a Cache County case, prosecutors sought to charge a man with felony DUI despite having no DUI convictions at all.

The defendant was arrested three times on suspicion of DUI over two days last July. All of the cases are still pending, with only one case appearing to have had a court date set. However, the Cache County Attorney's Office attempted to charge the man with felony DUI based on the three strikes law.

The defendant's attorney successfully argued that prosecutors could not legally use the three strikes law unless the defendant was convicted of two prior DUIs. The judge gave prosecutors the option to reduce charges in the third case to a misdemeanor, but the county attorney said he will pursue the first two cases, hoping to win convictions so that he can seek legally seek felony charges.

Trial related to the second arrest has been scheduled for mid-April. It does not appear a date has been set for the first arrest. Having to go through three DUI trials in rapid succession could present unique challenges, such as possibly complicating the defendant's right to appeal any possible conviction. It could also be that prosecutors are hoping to pressure the defendant into accepting a plea deal.

Source: The Herald Journal, "Prosecutors look for ways to bring felony against man charged with 3 DUIs," Amy Macavinta, Jan. 16, 2013

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