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Criminal Defense Attorney Stephen Howard
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Salt Lake City DUI Defense Attorney - "Actual Physical Control"

Under Utah DUI laws, a person can be charged with DUI without actually driving a vehicle.  Like most DUI statutes, Utah's DUI statute provides that a person can be convicted for "driving" while under the influence.  But under Utah law, a person can be convicted of DUI even if he or she is only in "actual physical control" of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The Utah Court of Appeals gave the term "actual physical control" a broad interpretation in the case of State v. Barnhart, 850 P.2d 473 (Utah Ct. App. 1993).  According to the opinion of the Utah Court of Appeals, the legislature "intended to prevent intoxicated persons from causing harm by apprehending them before they operate a vehicle."  To be in "actual physical control of a vehicle," the court held that a person "only needs to have the apparent ability to start and move a vehicle in order to be in actual physical control."  According to the Utah Court of Appeals, the a person does not have to actually move the vehicle to be in "actual physical control."

To determine whether a person is in "actual physical control" of a vehicle, a jury may consider factors including whether the person was awake or asleep when found by police, which seat of the vehicle the person is sitting in, whether the vehicle's engine was running, whether the person had the keys to the ignition, whether there was anyone else in the vehicle, the vehicle's position, how the vehicle got to that place, and other factors the jury may deem relevant.

Whether you are actually "driving" a vehicle under the influence, or are only in "actual physical control," the penalties for a conviction can be equally harsh.  DUI convictions in Utah carry mandatory sentencing provisions, even on a misdemeanor level.  If you have two prior DUI convictions (or convictions for related charges) within a 10-year period, your third DUI can be charged as a felony.

If you are facing DUI charges in Salt Lake City or elsewhere in Utah, you need an experienced Utah criminal defense attorney on your side.  Based in Salt Lake City, criminal defense lawyer Stephen Howard offers legal services to clients throughout Utah.  He has successfully defended charges ranging from homicide to DUI and virtually everything in between.  His track record speaks for itself.

Contact us now to schedule an initial consultation and case analysis with Salt Lake criminal lawyer Stephen Howard.


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  • Selected Victories
  • Criminal Defense AttorneyDismissed - Charges of insurance fraud were brought when investigators found reason to believe that client's claim of injury was fraudulent. Client was seen kicking a soccer ball, and investigators concluded that the injury claim was false. By obtaining medical records and other administrative records, and by pointing out to the prosecutor that the alleged injury interferred with the client's ability to lift - not his ability to kick a ball - the prosecutor agreed to dismiss the case.
  • Criminal Appeals Defense AttorneyDismissed on Appeal - DUI case was dismissed after a successful appeal where the Utah Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's denial of the defense motion to suppress. Without the suppressed evidence, the prosecutor acknowledged that they did not have sufficient evidence to proceed to trial and the case was dismissed.
  • Utah Probation Attorney Released - Client absconded for more than 10 years from felony probation with Adult Probation and Parole. At an order to show cause hearing, prosecutor argued aggressively for prison. Based on effective mitigation efforts by the defense, the judge agreed to release client without further jail.
  • Felony Attorney Utah Dismissed - Client facing first-degree felony charge and possible life in prison for child kidnapping. Full defense analysis of the case revealed critical legal flaws in the prosecution's case. When confronted with the defense legal analysis, the prosecutor agreed to dismiss the case outright without trial.
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Salt Lake Criminal Defense Attorney Profile Utah

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Utah Criminal Defense Attorney - Reasons to Hope

Being charged with a crime is not the same as being convicted. But just being charged can affect more than you may have imagined - jail, job, family, bills, rent or mortgage. It can feel like everything has gone wrong, and may you wonder if anything can go right. But facing criminal prosecution does not mean giving up hope....

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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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