According to a lengthy article published on October 16th, 2009 in the Deseret News, the costs for a first-time DUI offense in Utah can reach $10,000, and one of Utah's crack DUI attorneys, Jason Schatz, thinks that's too much money.
The Deseret News calculated that a basic first-time DUI can end up costing a minimum of more than $3,000 from the start ($3,375 according to this graphic) — and that is calculated with a straight-up guilty plea, no attorney costs and no figures added in for higher insurance rates. That amount easily could rise to $10,000 or more if an individual were to include such things as attorney fees, a higher fine imposed by the judge and more expensive car insurance, which often can be the most costly part of a DUI.
For a first-time simple DUI (meaning no accident, injury/fatality, or property damage), this is the laundry list of prospective penalties (many of the fees can vary):
-- Car impound cost
-- Towing and storage
-- License renewal
-- Install interlock
-- Monthly interlock fee (18-month mandatory minimum)
-- Alcohol screening
-- Alcohol class
Utah's DUI laws are specified in Title 41, Chapter 06a of the Utah Code. They consist of a series of 31 different laws beginning with 41-6a-502.5 and ending with 41-6a-530.
Attorney's fees are avoidable if one chooses not to retain counsel, and the car insurance rate hike can be avoided if one chooses not to be insured, but in the latter case, one is also choosing not to drive. Those whose jobs require driving may be transferred to a non-driving position, if available; more likely, they'll be terminated. Such indirect costs such as loss of employment and need of job retraining can catapult the total cost to $10,000 or more.
All for merely blowing more than .08 on a breathalyzer.
And Jason Schatz thinks that's a bit much for a first-time simple DUI. "In my opinion, it's going a little bit too far," Schatz said. "I can understand much harsher penalties for repeat offenders. I weigh 185 pounds and if I have five beers while playing nine holes of golf, I'd be risking all these penalties. People who are 45-50 years old, who are playing golf or attending a wedding — all of this could come down on their heads."
Jason Schatz' website is HERE. A couple of City Weekly articles, posted HERE and HERE, provide more background on him. Schatz is a strong proponent of videotaping every DUI traffic stop to better get at the truth. He's found that cops will sometimes relate a different story about a DUI stop on the witness stand than what is shown on the video. Cops work so many different cases that their memories of a given case can become flawed. Schatz also says it works both ways; if a video shows his client was snockered, he won't even bring the case to trial.
Many of the public comments posted to the Deseret News story are surprisingly harsh; it's as if the local MADD chapter decided to hijack the thread. Many want first-time simple DUIs punished as severely as aggravated DUIs, based upon potential. They're confusing "potential" with "deterrence", however. Our laws need to serve as a deterrent to crime, but we convict upon actions, not upon potential. They also say that driving is merely a "privilege"; while this is true, it is a legal privilege, and as such, the presumption of innocence must be preserved. Proportionality ensures we don't breach the constitutional constraints against cruel and unusual punishment.
By the way, the so-called DUI problem may be overblown. During a recent DUI blitz held on the eastbound side of I-80 just east of Wendover, UHP troopers stopped 516 vehicles, and arrested only 12 drivers for DUI. That's a 2.3 percent hit rate - hardly a "pandemic". As a matter of fact, the Seventh Annual DUI Report to the Utah Legislature shows a decline in DUI-related fatalities during 2008.