Some of Utah’s criminal laws — especially misdemeanors — have never been challenged in the state’s highest court. Most often, this is because doing so is not cost-effective and takes a great deal of time and effort. That is, until recently. The Utah Supreme Court recently issued a ruling upholding the constitutionality of the state’s DUI-metabolite law.
According to Utah law, it is a class B misdemeanor to drive with any measurable amount of a controlled substance in the body — including metabolites, which are byproducts of anything ingested. An individual may be charged with this crime even if not impaired at the time. Since 1994, courts have failed to consistently rule on the legality of the statute.
The case arose out of the investigation of a car accident back in 2014 on Interstate 15. A trooper with the Utah Highway Patrol smelled marijuana and saw signs of use on a driver. Regardless, the driver passed field sobriety tests. The fact that the driver was not even impaired was never disputed. It was the presence of metabolites in his system that gave rise to the appeal to the state’s highest court.
It appears that the precise wording of the statute led to the court’s decision to uphold the law. The law does not specify that impairment must be present in order to be charged for DUI-metabolite. This precedent may now change how criminal defense attorneys view their client’s cases since the court essentially removed any doubt about the legality of the statute. It was not reported whether an appeal will be pursued at the federal court level.
Source: sltrib.com, “Utah Supreme Court upholds state’s drug ‘metabolite’ law“, Stephen Hunt, June 9, 2017