Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Utah DUI Penalties

You've gotten a DUI in Utah and you've heard horror stories and conflicting information about what can happen to you. A friend of your cousin's said you can get five years in prison. Your neighbor told you his roommate got a DUI in Salt Lake City and only got a fine.

So what's the truth about DUI penalties in Utah? Here's some quick facts:


By far, this is my clients' top priority and the number one question they have about it is: how much jail or prison time am I facing? The answer is a resounding: it depends.

On a first DUI you are technically facing six months in jail but if you pled guilty you would possibly only get the minimum mandatory of two days unless you had aggravating circumstances like a high BAC, an accident, you were a jerk to the cop, the prosecutor doesn't like you etc. On a second DUI the minimum mandatory goes up to ten days. On a third, you're now facing five years in prison with a minimum mandatory of 62.5 days. The "minimum" though set by law, varies by judge and prosecutor though so be careful. Some clients that I have tried to go it alone first and ended up getting far in excess of the minimums. When a prosecutor knows you're at their mercy, they can do whatever they want. Best not to go without representation and let that happen. And yes, I have seen first time DUI's get nearly the maximum in jail (it was a bad case though where they hit another car and disabled the other driver).


How much are you going to pay? A lot. Let me emphasize that: A LOT. DUI's are major money-makers for cities, counties and states. A single DUI in Utah, with the impound fees, license reinstatement fees, fines, attorney fees, treatment class fines, etc., could run, in total, somewhere between $5000-$20,000. The court fines are just the tip of the iceberg. A good attorney can help minimize these costs, but not get rid of them entirely. Expect to pay something.


Courts love recommending lots of treatment, even though the studies suggest they have little impact on DUI offenders. Regardless, treatment will probably be part of any deal you negotiate. It can run anywhere from 4 hours of classes to 50 hours of classes depending on the treatment provider chosen. Speak with a good DUI attorney about what treatment providers are good, or get other recommendations from people you may know. You may find reviews of treatment providers online and you can research them there as well. One thing to keep in mind: many treatment providers have you pay for an assessment to determine if you need treatment and then provide the treatment too. Clearly a conflict. Government agencies usually are better on this but BE CAREFUL. Treatment costs can easily skyrocket.


The suspension rules are complex and too broad a topic for a section in a blog post. You need to research them or hire an attorney (sorry to keep saying that but it's just such good advice!) and figure out which sections of the administrative rules and Utah Code apply to your case. Your license could be suspended for as little as four months or as long as three years. This is very fact specific to your case and you need some research or to consult someone knowledgeable to figure out where you fall.


You may not want your work to find out that you have a DUI. There's going to be documents filed, possibly subpoenas sent, phone calls made etc. This is something you need to be wary of if it's important to you. To be honest, the court doesn't care if you get fired over this so you're the only one that can prevent it. Getting a P.O. Box as your official address may not be a bad idea if you don't want people in the home finding out either.


Sadly, this is something that can rarely be prevented. You're going to have lots of them. More if you have a good attorney, less if you have a bad one and they plead you guilty the first chance they get (unless there is a specific reason for doing so and there sometimes is). You're going to miss work, children's birthdays, soccer games etc. You just have to work with your attorney to schedule these the best way possible.


You may feel bad on a moral level that you committed a crime and feel that you deserve punishment. Put that out of your head right now! The prosecutor's job is to prove crimes, not make you feel bad. We all make mistakes. I have defended doctors, lawyers, politicians, Church leaders and on and on. We're human. The point is to get the best possible outcome for you, learn from the experience, and make sure it doesn't happen again. Don't beat yourself up over it if you have a DUI.


There's going to be more associated with a DUI in Utah, like ignition interlock devices, becoming an alcohol restricted driver, having your vehicle towed, having the stigma of the charge on your record etc. Frankly, there's so much that entire books have been written on DUI's. The best thing you can do is hire a good DUI attorney and begin the process as soon as possible.
By Yossof Sharifi Google

Utah DUI's and Your Driver License

So you've gotten a DUI in Utah. It's not something you normally do and now you're worried about the consequences. Aside from going to jail, what's your top priority right now? It should be keeping your driver license.

Can you imagine not being able to drive for anywhere from four months to three years? I certainly can't. Some of my clients have even told me they would be willing to go to jail if they could keep their driver licenses!

Utah is one of the strictest state's when it comes to suspending driver licenses after a DUI. You need every advantage you can get.

Here are some tips on how to keep your driver license after you get a DUI in Utah:

Hire an Attorney

I know, I know, it sounds self-serving for an attorney to say "hire an attorney." But think about it: some attorneys, myself included, do hundreds of DUI's. That means hundreds of driver license hearings to try and keep our clients' licenses. It's just common sense that the more something is practiced the better you'll be at it. The fact is, these hearings are complex and the rules are rigid. Miss one deadline, send a fax to the wrong place, call the wrong number, and your license is suspended. There are a lot of bad attorneys out there that won't do anything for you, so if you are going to hire an attorney, make sure they've done plenty of DUI's and have received at least some training in conducting DUI defense in Utah. DUI's are not like other criminal cases because of the technicalities and science involved. Law school doesn't prepare one to handle these. Your attorney should have additional training.

Request a Hearing with the Driver License Division

You MUST MUST MUST, request a hearing within ten days of receiving your DUI in Utah. That includes weekends, holidays, emergencies, hospitalizations, whatever. If you miss the ten day deadline, there's almost nothing that can be done. You can request a review for a late hearing, but these are rarely granted. I had one client who only spoke Spanish and the officer informed him of the hearing in English. He, obviously, missed the ten day deadline and hired us later to handle the case. The Driver License Division still would not give him a new hearing, even though he was never really given notice of the hearing. We had to appeal it all the way to the Third District Court and take the case away from the Driver License Division before anything was done. Remember, you can fax or take down your hearing request to the Driver License Division in person, but do not miss that ten day deadline. I recommend you go the day after and just get it done.

Get All the Reports

You're entitled to the DUI reports, blood, breath and urine results, intoxilyzer checklists and printouts, and just about everything else that is going to be introduced at the hearing. Make sure you get these early on from the Driver License Division.

Pick Your Issues

Attack every little irrelevant piece of information at the hearing and the hearing officer will tune you out at best and tell you to cut it out and move on at worst. Pick the best issues to attack and stick to them. Don't let the officer get away with statements like, "And then I performed the field sobriety tests and he failed." Make him describe what training he's received in performing the FST's, how many times he's performed them, and how he performed them on the night in question. Remember, the standard is so low at a hearing, you need something very wrong with the case to win. Do your homework and remember that DUI police officers are only human; they do make mistakes.


If you lose the hearing, you will receive a notice in a couple of weeks letting you know the date your driver license is officially suspended. For a first DUI offense the suspension is 120 days. A second DUI is two years. You have the right to request a review of your suspension in writing to the Driver License Division. If they send a letter to you informing you that they are upholding the suspension, you can then appeal to the local district court and place the case in front of a judge instead of a hearing officer. Of course, for DUI's in Utah, the Attorney General's Office takes over at this point and the prosecutor they have handle the driver license hearings is an expert at them. She's also pleasant and a good person, but talented and aggressive so be careful. If you lose the appeal, you can try and take it up to the Utah Court of Appeals and the Utah Supreme Court, but there would have to be something seriously wrong for them to consider it.
By Yossof Sharifi Google Photo: Mclovin: From the movie Superbad

Facebook Catches Crooks - Policing 2.0

The cops are catching on to the social media revolution and criminals might not like what they find.

In Ogden, Utah, a kidnapping suspect kept updating his Facebook profile after the police shut off power to the motel building where he was hiding. One friend told the suspect on Facebook that SWAT was staging in bushes nearby and told him to keep low. Police are thinking about charging the friend for helping the kidnapper.

In Indiana, it took police less than 30 minutes to find a suspected counterfeiter on Facebook. Police posted surveillance video of the woman they were looking for. A man saw the post and sent a message saying that he knew the woman. Less than thirty minutes later, police were questioning her about the counterfeit money. She has since been cleared of the charges.

Finally, Canadians in Victoria kept police updated on Twitter of criminal activities that they were witnessing. Police got messages about plans to vandalize a stretch of one street and responded to the area before anything could get out of hand. Police got specific tips about people drinking illegally in certain areas and responded to arrest. "At one point traffic was so heavy that VicPD, with 2,000 followers on Twitter, was trending as a national conversation."

Be careful what you tweet and what you put on Facebook. The police may be watching.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Belated Update: Strauss-Kahn Freed After "Victim" Lies

On July 1, Dominique Strauss-Kahn was released from house arrest. As I posted previously, this was a result of major credibility problems with the government's main witness who was also the alleged victim. This appears to be a major weakness in the government case, but they do not have any plans to immediately drop the charges against Strauss-Kahn.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

John Adams: A Great Criminal Defense Attorney

One of my favorite criminal defense lawyers is John Adams. On this 4th of July weekend, I think it is appropriate to remember what great men the founding fathers were.

John Adams was practicing law near boston when the "Boston Massacre" happened. The Lynn Ranch blog sets the scene:

"On March 5, 1770, six years before the formal break from England, an unruly mob gathered in front of Boston's Customs House. After pelting British troops with snowballs and rocks, the crowd surged forward; the troops fired into the mob, killing five people. From the colonial viewpoint, this was the 'Boston Massacre.' As far as the British were concerned, it was a riot. Both views are credible."

12 of the soldiers were charged with murder. The court could not find a lawyer who would defend the soldiers. The case was deeply unpopular. Adams, who had political aspirations, believed that if he took the case, his reputation would be permanently damaged. But he thought it was more important that the men get a fair trial than for him to be able to run for office.

"Under Adams' skillful defense, six of the soldiers were acquitted. Two who had fired directly into the crowd were charged with murder, but were convicted only of manslaughter. Adams was paid eighteen guineas by the British soldiers, or about the cost of a pair of shoes. Beyond the fee, Adams wanted to prove to the world that American justice was balanced and fair."

People frequently ask me, "How can you be a criminal defense lawyer? How can you defend guilty people?" I like to think that in my small way, I am following in John Adams footsteps. Like him, I believe that our justice system requires skillful advocates on both sides. I can't change the facts of my clients' cases, but I can make sure that they don't get convicted of a crime unless the prosecutors do their job.

As we celebrate our country's independence, I am grateful that we live in a land where we are governed by the rule of law. I am grateful that John Adams and the other architects of the Constitution built a procedure that protects the innocent as well as the guilty.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Profile of Attorney General Candidate Sean Reyes

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff says he won't run for Attorney General again. Is that decision final? Who knows. Mr. Shurtleff is not above changing his mind on important decisions. However, as an incumbent who won nearly 70% of the general election votes in 2008, he was the odds-on favorite to win again.

State Senator John Valentine, Deputy Attorney General John Swallow, and Sean Reyes have been mentioned as possible candidates for the post on the Republican side.

Mr. Reyes attended a lunch meeting in downtown Salt Lake that I was at on Wednsday, so I thought I would take a quick look at his candidacy.

Why Sean Reyes?
Mr. Reyes' platform is generic, but it hits all of the right notes. He is conservative. He wants to protect families.

But what makes Sean look like a serious contender is his organizational head start. It is very early to be campaigning for Utah AG. The general election won't be until November of 2012 and the Republican nominating convention will probably be in May of 2012. So, by starting so early, Sean is looking at a 17-month campaign.

Sean was the only candidate for AG who had a booth at the State GOP organizing convention last month. He has formed a PAC called Freedom Defense and he seems to be aggressively and energetically campaigning. He has also collected dozens of endorsements already.

Sean was until recently a lawyer at a large prestigious law firm in Salt Lake. He went to law school at Berkley and played volleyball there as well. Unfortunately, he doesn't appear to have a deep criminal law background. But that is obviously not all that the Attorney General is involved with.

I found Sean to be very personable when I met him. He has a lot of energy and seems excited about the race. He is facing a marathon and an enormous challenge launching his state-wide race.

"Victim" in High-Profile Case "Repeatedly Lied"

Dominique Strauss-Kahn was practically the next president of France until he was accused of sexually assaulting a maid at a New York hotel. Now law enforcement officials are telling the New York Times that the maid has "repeatedly lied" since her initial report last month and that "prosecutors do not believe much of what [she] has told them about the circumstances or herself."

This dramatic reversal shows why it is so important for reporters and for all of us to remember that a person accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty. Anyone can accuse anyone of anything. But only the trial process gives both sides an opportunity to present their cases.