Jail / Prison & Alternative Punishments
Interviewer: What’s the jail system like in Utah if someone were to go to jail for a DUI? What are the options instead? Do they have anything like house arrest?
Matthew Nebeker: Yeah, there are some minimum mandatory jail requirements on DUI convictions here in Utah. On a first offense, the statute says that you have to do a minimum of two days in jail and some judges stick to that, but let me back up a little bit.
It says a minimum of two days in jail or the judge can convert that to community service and let the person do 48 hours of community service. For a first offense DUI conviction if the person wants to plead guilty and get it over with, the judge will just impose the community service, but there are those judges out there that have a different agenda, so to speak, and they impose the two days jail on the first DUI offense.
Then from the second DUI conviction, the statute says that the person has to do 10 days in jail or 240 hours of community service, and 240 hours of community service is quite a lot of community service when you are trying to work, take care of your family, things like that, but most people still choose that option rather than doing 10 days in jail.
At this point, the statute does provide for electronic home confinement where the person wears an ankle bracelet and they have to stay at their home, except they might be allowed to go to work or school, depending on the situation. Then when you get into felony level DUI, you can go to prison on that charge, but the minimum the statute says is it has to be 62 days in jail.
It’s really weird. A lot of judges interpret this differently so some judges will say, “If 62 days in jail is what the statute says, that’s what I’m going to give you,” and they’ll deny the person work release, so this person will automatically lose their job. If they’re not at their job for 62 days, they’re done, so that’s just sitting in the jail there.
Some judges, on the 62 days, will say, “Okay, you’re still spending the night in the jail so I’m going to grant you work release,” and the judge will let them go to their job so they can try and keep their job, but the jail will only let them out of the facility for up to 60 hours a week and so they have to contend with that.
Recently, within the last year or so, the statute has changed to provide for electronic monitoring on the 62 days in jail, but the judges and prosecutors have been reluctant to agree to that and allow that. Defense counsel has to strongly advocate and try and convince the prosecutor that it’s a good thing and that it’s in the best interest of the public for the judge to allow that home confinement on the felony level DUI.
That’s what they’re looking at and if you have more than the three DUIs in 10 years, the judge is likely to send someone to prison. I’ve seen that before, too.
Interviewer: What about pay-to-stay programs? Are they available in Utah?
Matthew Nebeker: Yeah, that’s what the work release is. If you’re doing the 60 days in jail and the judge allows you to have work release, then you have to pay, around here, about $10 a day. So to go to the work release facility, every day you’re in there, you have to pay 10 days for your own stay in the jail.
Sometimes the jail will give good time. If you’re coming and going and you don’t cause any problems, and do everything you’re supposed to do, they’ll give you a couple days of good time, but in order for you to get that good time credited, you have to keep your pay-for-stay balance current. Once again, on top of the fees that you already have, if you’re doing jail, now you have to pay for your jail stay and so that’s another added expense on a DUI conviction.
Interviewer: Would it be safe to say that if I had a first time DUI, or even a second, it would be worth my time to hire a lawyer because in the long run, I’m going to be saving money?
Matthew Nebeker: Yes. On any DUI, hiring the right attorney – someone that’s truly going to help you make some progress on your case, minimize expenses, minimize consequences, possibly get the case dismissed – is always going to save you. When you compare the fee for the DUI attorney compared to the $10,000, $20,000 or even the $112,000 that we mentioned earlier, it’s going to save you money.
If you’re looking at DUI from an economical point of view, getting the DUI lawyer is going to save you money, without a doubt.
Interviewer: I guess the best investment for a DUI is a good attorney.
Matthew Nebeker: Yes, absolutely.