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Alcohol Crimes Defense in Utah

Utah Criminal Defense Attorney in Salt Lake City for Alcohol Charges

Utah alcohol laws impose stiff penalties for relatively minor misconduct. Penalties can include jail time, losing your driver's license, and more. If you are facing prosecution for alcohol-related criminal charges in Utah, an experienced Utah criminal defense attorney can make all the difference in your case.

Stephen Howard has defended literally thousands of serious criminal charges ranging from aggravated murder to white collar crimes to DUI. More important, he has a record of achieving real results for his clients. For clients facing alcohol-related crimes, Mr. Howard's track record includes, dismissals, not guilty verdicts, plea-in-abeyance agreements, and appellate reversal. Contact us to schedule an initial consultation.

Overview of Alcohol Crimes in Utah

Alcohol-Related Criminal Defense Salt Lake City UtahThis page will present a brief overview of information relating to some of the more common alcohol-related crimes in Utah, including DUI (drunk driving), driving with measurable controlled substance or metabolite, open container laws, public intoxication, minor in possession (MIP), contributing to the delinquency of a minor, selling alcohol to a minor, alcohol restricted driver violations, and ignition interlock restriction violations.

DUI / Drunk or Impaired Driving in Utah

Driving under the influence (DUI or DWI) is one of the most high profile and aggressively prosecuted crimes involving alcohol. But a Utah DUI charge can also be based on impairment caused by drugs (both "street" drugs as well as prescribed medications). A first-time DUI begins at the class B misdemeanor level. But enhancements can often increase the offense level to a class A misdemeanor or third-degree felony. Enhancements for prior convictions can be based on prior charges of  DUI, Impaired Driving, Driving with Measurable Controlled Substance, or Alcohol Related Reckless Driving (ARR). Other enhancements can be based on the presence of a child in the vehicle or on injuries caused by an accident involving DUI.

A charge of "Impaired Driving" cannot be directly filed against a person under Utah law. Instead, an Impaired Driving charge is one potential negotiated resolution to a DUI charge. While the Impaired Driving charge is still a class B misdemeanor, it does not carry the same mandatory sentencing provisions and driver license suspension requirements as a DUI conviction.

Driving with Measurable Controlled Substance or Metabolite

Driving with a Measurable Controlled Substance or Metabolite is sometimes considered Utah's "other" DUI. Unlike a standard DUI, this statute does not require any proof that the driver was "under the influence" or otherwise "impaired" by the presence of a controlled substance or controlled substance metabolite in the driver's system. Instead, this charge can be supported merely by evidence of a controlled substance or metabolite in a test of the driver's blood or urine. Penalties for a "Metabolite DUI" are similar to a DUI, and a conviction for metabolite can be used for enhancement purposes in a subsequent DUI case.

Utah Open Container Laws

Possession of an open container of alcohol in the passenger compartment of a vehicle can lead to criminal charges in Utah. Whether it is an open bottle of beer in the driver's hand, or a half-empty bottle of wine in the back seat, a container of alcohol that has had its original seal broken cannot be transported or placed in the passenger compartment of a vehicle. If the vehicle has a trunk that cannot be accessed from the passenger area, an open container of alcohol can be transported in the trunk. But because most SUV or minivan cargo areas can be accessed from a rear passenger seat, these areas cannot be used to transport an open container of alcohol.

Public Intoxication in Utah

The crime of Intoxication in Utah is commonly referred to as "public intoxication" because it often occurs in public. A charge of Intoxication can be committed either in a public place, or in a "private place where the person unreasonably disturbs another person." To support a charge of intoxication, the evidence must show that the defendant was under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or other intoxicating substance to a degree that the person was a danger to himself or herself, or endangered another person

Minor in Possession of Alcohol (MIP)

Possession of alcohol by a minor (defined in Utah law as including any person under the age of 21 years) is a criminal offense. In addition to jail time and fines, a minor convicted of possessing alcohol can also face a suspension of his or her driver license.

An MIP charge can be filed against a person under the age of 21 who either consumes, possesses, purchases, attempts to purchase, or solicits another person to purchase alcohol. An MIP charge can also be supported by evidence that the person had a measurable breath, blood, or urine alcohol concentration.

Furnishing or Selling Alcohol to a Minor

This charge applies commonly applies to store clerks and restaurant servers who accidentally sell alcohol to a person under the age of 21. Whether the clerk accidentally misreads the customer's ID or becomes distracted during a busy period and forgets to check the customer's ID, prosecutors can file a criminal charge against the cashier.

This charge is not limited only to employees who fail to properly check IDs. A charge of furnishing or supplying alcohol to a minor can also be filed against a person who buys beer or alcohol on behalf of a minor or gives a minor a drink at a party, sporting event, concert, or other event.

Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor

Under Utah law, a charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor can cover a broad range of conduct. Generally, this charge is filed against a person who has encouraged or assisted a minor (defined for purposes of this statute as being under the age of 18) to commit some act that would be a criminal violation of either state or federal law. Encouraging or assisting a minor to commit an alcohol-related crime would constitute a violation of this statute.

Alcohol Restricted Driver Violations

Convictions for various crimes (such as DUI, impaired driving, ignition interlock violations, automobile homicide) can cause a person to be classified as an "alcohol restricted driver." A person may also become an alcohol restricted driver by refusing to submit to a chemical test for the presence of alcohol during a DUI investigation.

A person who is classified as an alcohol restricted driver may not drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle if the person has any measurable or detectable amount of alcohol in his or her system. This statute does not require any evidence of impairment, but is still classified a class B misdemeanor (the same level as a first-time DUI offense).

Ignition Interlock Violations

Various alcohol-related convictions can cause a person to become an "interlock restricted driver." Even after a person has completed probation on the underlying criminal conviction, Utah law may still require the person to have an ignition interlock device installed in any vehicle that the person drives. Either driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle without an ignition interlock device installed and working can result in criminal charges.

Penalties for Utah Alcohol Crimes

Consequences of Conviction in UtahMost alcohol-related crimes in Utah carry misdemeanor level penalties. But even a single class B misdemeanor is punishable by up to six months in jail.

Some of the most serious alcohol crimes can be charged at the felony level in Utah. Automobile homicide (essentially a DUI charge in which a negligent accident causes the death of another person) is punishable as either a third or second degree felony. DUI charges can also be enhnaced to the felony level based on prior convictions.

Finding a Criminal Defense Attorney in Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake criminal defense attorney Stephen Howard has successfully handled thousands of cases during his career. His successes include some of the most serious charges on the books in Utah. With offices based in Salt Lake City, Mr. Howard offers legal services to clients throughout the state.

If you are facing alcohol-related charges, contact us now to schedule an initial consultation and case analysis.


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Serving Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Utah, Cache, Tooele, Summit, Box Elder, and Wasatch Counties, and all of Utah.

Attorney Stephen Howard practices as part of the Canyons Law Group, LLC and Stephen W. Howard, PC.

Offices in Salt Lake and Davis Counties
560 South 300 East, Suite 200, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
952 S. Main St., Suite A, Layton, UT 84041

Call now to arrange for a confidential initial consultation with an experienced and effective Utah criminal defense lawyer.

In Salt Lake City, call 801-449-1409.
In Davis County, call 801-923-4345.

Stephen W. Howard, PC

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