What do I do if I am charged with DUI in Ogden or Weber County?
Facing prosecution for DUI (sometimes referred to as DWI) in Ogden or Weber County can involve serious consequences, both in the criminal court system and in other areas of your life. Having an experienced defense attorney on your side can be critical to achieving a positive outcome. Contact us today to see the difference that having the right attorney can do for your DUI case.
The following questions and answers regarding DUI in Ogden and Weber County are intended as general information only, and should not be viewed as legal advice. DUI defense is often very fact-specific. Small differences in fact patterns can dramatically affect the outcome of a case. Consultation with an experienced defense attorney is strongly encouraged.
Q: What is the first thing I need to do after I have been arrested or cited for DUI?
A: Time can be critical in a DUI defense case. In order to have a chance at avoiding suspension of your driver license, you must request a hearing with the Driver License Division within 10 days of being cited or arrested for DUI. Failure to request the hearing can result in an automatic driver license suspension. It is also important to contact an attorney quickly to discuss possible strategies for defending your DUI case.
Q: What do I need to do at the driver license hearing in order to keep my license?
A: The answer to this question is going to depend on the specific facts of your case. But keep in mind that if you choose to testify at the administrative driver license hearing, statements you make could potentially be used against you in the criminal case. It is important to obtain legal advice from a qualified attorney before deciding how to approach the driver license hearing. It is also important to understand that the hearing officer only needs to determine that the police had reason to believe that you were driving with a BAC greater than 0.05, that you were impaired by alcohol or drugs, or that you had a measurable controlled substance or metabolite in your body while operating or in actual physical control of a vehicle. There is no jury and there is no requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Navigating the driver license hearing process can be an uphill fight. Having a good attorney on your side is important.
Q: The police officer had me do field sobriety tests before he arrested me. I think I passed. Can I still be charged with DUI?
A: There are a variety of “tests” that some police officers will perform when investigating a DUI, such as asking you to touch your nose while tipping your head back, asking you to touch the tips of your fingers while counting to 10, reciting the alphabet backwards, and others. But the tests that really matter (and the ones that a properly trained officer will normally use) are commonly referred to as the “standardized field sobriety tests” or SFST’s.” These tests have been studied in a controlled setting, and have been found to correlate strongly with alcohol-caused impairment. These tests include the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), 9-Step Walk and Turn (WAT), and One-Leg Stand (OLS).
Police are trained to look for specific indicators of intoxication. Some of these may be obvious – such as stumbling while walking, or falling over while trying to stand on one leg. But other clues are much more subtle and might not be noticed by someone without training or experience in the administration of the FST’s. Sometimes a driver overestimates his/her performance on the FST’s. But police officers may also overstate the negative indicators observed during the FST’s. Evidence produced during the discovery process in a DUI case will often include dashcam or bodycam video of the DUI FST’s. These videos can be critical evidence in determining impairment and also in addressing the credibility of the police officer conducting the DUI investigation.
The FST’s are only one piece of the larger puzzle that makes up a DUI case. Often, good performance on the FST’s will end the DUI investigation and the driver will be released. But in other cases (often cases involving drugs or prescription medications rather than alcohol), even when the driver has passed the FST’s a DUI charge may still be filed.
Q: What court will handle my Weber County DUI case?
A: The determination of which court will hear your Weber County DUI case will depend on the level of the charge and the jurisdiction in which the offense occurred. All felony DUI cases (or misdemeanor DUI cases involving other felony charges) filed in Weber County will be heard in the Second District Court, Ogden Department. Most class B misdemeanor DUI cases will be heard in the city justice court for the city in which the DUI occurred. For cases that occur in unincorporated areas of the county or in a municipality that does not have a justice court, the charges will normally be heard in the district court.
Q: What can the judge do if I am convicted of a DUI?
A: A judge in a DUI case has broad discretion in determining an appropriate sentence. There are certain mandatory provisions that must be imposed, but generally speaking the judge is only required to impose a sentence that is within the statutory limits for a maximum penalty. On a first DUI, charged as a class B misdemeanor, the judge can impose up to 180 days in jail and a fine (including surcharge) of nearly $2,000. If the DUI case involves an accident with injuries, a driver with children in the vehicle, prior DUI or related convictions, or other aggravating factors, the penalties can increase substantially. A third-degree felony DUI (often charged when the driver has two prior convictions within the last 10 years) can carry a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine (including surcharge) of nearly $10,000. A charge of automobile homicide can be filed as a second-degree felony if the driver is criminally negligent in causing the death of another and also meets other elements of a standard DUI charge. In rare cases, prosecutors have even pursued murder charges against a person who was driving under the influence.
Q: Can I beat a DUI charge if I go to trial?
A: There are a number of potential strategies for defending a DUI charge. A motion to suppress challenging the initial vehicle stop and detention of the driver may result in suppression of evidence critical to the prosecution’s case. Mistakes made by police officers in administering the FST’s or in conducting breath alcohol testing (using the Intoxilyzer) can also affect the strength of the case. In some cases, the prosecution may have difficulty in proving who was actually driving the vehicle. In cases involving the lawful use of prescription medication, the element of impairment may provide an opportunity to challenge the prosecutor’s evidence. Each DUI case is different, and the best strategy for defending your case can only be ascertained through consultation with an experienced defense attorney and a thorough review and analysis of the evidence and other discovery materials.
Q: If I can’t beat the DUI charge, is the judge required to send me to jail?
A: In most DUI cases, the judge will not be required to impose additional jail time. While jail time is always a possibility when you are convicted of a crime, probation is also an option.
Q: If a judge places me on probation for a DUI, what can I be required to do?
A: Probation conditions can include a wide variety of requirements. A judge may require supervised probation involving regular reporting to a probation officer or case manager. Most judges will require that a person on probation remain clean and sober , including both alcohol and illegal drug use. The court can require drug and alcohol testing and other methods of monitoring or detecting alcohol or drug use. A judge may impose ankle monitoring or house arrest. The court can require installation of an ignition interlock device to prevent operation of a motor vehicle by a person with alcohol on their breath. A substance abuse evaluation, drug or alcohol treatment, participation in a victim impact panel, and community service are also common conditions of probation.
Q: Are there other consequences to a DUI conviction beyond what the court can impose?
A: In addition to what the court can do, a DUI conviction can affect you in many other ways. It can affect your auto insurance rates. It can result in a driver license suspension or classification as an alcohol-restricted driver. It can affect your employment options. And it leaves you with a criminal record that can affect your life long after the court case is closed.
How do I find the best criminal attorney for my Ogden DUI case?
Choosing the right attorney for your case is one of the most important decision you will make in your DUI case. Having a criminal defense attorney with the experience, knowledge, and skill necessary to defend your case can be critical. Contact us today to see how we can help you.