An Explanation of Minor DUI Charges in the State of Utah
Interviewer: Is there a typical minor DUI defendant that you deal with?
Matthew Nebeker: Yes, there is. It’s kind of a little bit different when you say a minor DUI, so I think before I answer that question, I should probably give a little bit of background.
In Utah, a DUI Charges Has Two Components; Sanctions against the Driver’s License and Criminal Charges
In Utah, we have the two parts to a DUI. We have the driver’s license portion that we have to defend under and then we have the court part of it that we have to defend under. Starting with the driver’s license portion first, we have the driver’s license sanctions for someone who is DUI. A DUI is a driver who is .08 or higher according to their breath or blood alcohol or is under the influence of some other kind of drug prescription medication or drugs of abuse, marijuana or something like that.
Underage Drivers and DUI: Most Charges Stem from the Underage Driver Consuming Only One Alcoholic Beverage
Then, we have the underage DUI. For driver’s license division, the underage provision applies to drivers that are under 21 years of age. So, when you ask me about the typical case that I see that involves minors, it doesn’t necessarily involved DUI.
What usually happens is they go to a park or a friend’s house and they open a beer or two or have a drink inside their car, and it’s usually after hours. So, the officer will come up and ask them what they’re doing in the park, see the open container, smell the odor of alcohol and discover that they’ve had a drink.
Utah’s Not a Drop Law
These people are under 21, so they’re not old enough to drink. Where they’ve just had that one drink, they are not DUI. They’re not .08 or impaired to any degree, they are in violation of what we call the Not a Drop law.
Minor Drivers Face Different Criminal Charges but the Same Driver’s License Sanctions as Adults
When a minor’s in their car and behind the wheel, actual physical control, that’s what we’re looking for in a DUI. They can be under the limit, so in those cases, as far as the criminal charge that they will be prosecuted for, it will be unlawful possession or consumption of alcohol by a minor.
They have to appear in court on that charge and it’s a class B misdemeanor. However, they still, as part of the driver’s license portion of it, they have to send in a request for a hearing just like they would on a DUI. Even though they’re under the limit, they still have to go through the same steps that someone would if they were DUI.
Let me focus on that for a minute. Now, we have someone that still has to request their hearing within 10 days of receiving the citation. They have to schedule that hearing with driver’s license division and go in there and defend their license just like they would on a DUI case.
Driving Privileges: Underage Driver’s Face More Serious Consequences
They’ll have a hearing just like in DUI case, but the consequences are much greater as far as the driver’s license portion of it goes for someone who is under 21. They are looking at, if it’s a first offense and if they’re 19 or 20, their license could be denied for 6 months. If it’s a second offense, their license could be suspended for 2 years.
Now, we go a little bit further on that same issue, and this is still at the driver’s license division, if they’re under 19 at the time of the arrest on the first offense, their license is denied for 1 year. If it’s a second or subsequent offense as they call it, they are suspended until they’re 21. There’s a fine distinction there as far as driver’s license division goes, 19 or 20 years old and then under 19 years of age.
Those sanctions are quite a bit stiffer than just someone who’s an adult who gets charged with DUI. Just to sum that up, that’s the typical case we have, someone who’s under the age of 21, not legally allowed to drink in the State of Utah, they are not over the limit, they are not impaired, so they still have to defend at driver’s license like a DUI. But they are really only charged with unlawful possession or consumption of alcohol. Like I mentioned, that’s class B misdemeanor.
Criminal Charges: Driver’s under the Age of 18 Will Appear in Juvenile Court
The court side of that, if they are 18 and younger, they’re going to appear in a juvenile court and go in front of a juvenile court judge and have a juvenile court probation officer and have to deal with the court in the juvenile system. Of course if they’re 18 or older, then they’re just in the regular adult court. They have to deal with the sanctions, possible sanctions into class B misdemeanor with the adult court judge. That’s kind of the typical DUI case dealing with a minor.