Penalties for Drug-Related DUIs
Interviewer: What sort of penalties does someone face with a possible drug-related DUI?
First Offenses are Treated the Same as Alcohol-Related DUIs and Include Fines, Jail or Community Service
Matthew Nebeker: If the prosecutor can prove that they’re under the influence of the drug and it’s prosecuted under the DUI, then they face a whole range of penalties based upon whether it’s a first offense, second offense or it’s a felony. On the first offense, it’s pretty standard with an alcohol-related DUI. There’s mandatory two days in jail or community service, around a $1,400 fine. There could be supervised probation, a treatment, an evaluation and treatment and drug education classes.
The Charge Based on Metabolite Presence Has a Lower Fine but Supervised Probation and Loss of License
The alcohol and drug DUI sanction are pretty much the same. But then we have the metabolite or the driving with a measurable amount of controlled substance in the body. The penalties on that are similar to a DUI. The license suspension is it could be 120 days all the way up to three years, depending on the case. The fines are a little bit lower in most cases. The fines are in most courts are approximately $850.
They still have to attend a class and there is mandatory supervised probation. A supervised probation means that typically the driver is paying a probation company to monitor them to make sure that they follow the court’s order. The probation officer makes sure that they are not using drugs and they’re following through with everything the judge has ordered.
That’s kind of the difference between the two. It’s just on the metabolite-based charge I would say the individual is facing a less expensive fine and guaranteed supervised probation.
Marijuana Is the Drug Most Commonly Attributed to Drug-Related DUIs
Interviewer: Is there a particular drug that is more prevalent? Is there more marijuana usage than let’s say meth or cocaine?
Matthew Nebeker: Yes. Marijuana, it is definitely in my opinion used more and is seen more in the DUI cases. Mainly it’s because I think the people see that it’s legal in other states or legal if it’s prescribed by a doctor. They don’t think that it’s that big of a deal anymore.
The problem with that thinking is that it’s still a big deal in Utah. It’s still against the law to possess it for any reason, to use it for any reason, and especially to use it and then drive your vehicle.
The Number of Marijuana-Related DUIs Can Be Attributed to Police Questioning and Driver Unawareness of the Metabolite Statute
Marijuana is the main drug that I see people getting a DUI for. The reason also is the officer will typically make some comment. If it’s some young teenagers he’ll say, “When’s the last time you smoked marijuana or something?” Because of this sense that marijuana is no big deal, it’s legal in other states, people will freely say, “It was a week ago.”
They know that they’re not under the influence and do not know that there’s this metabolite law that they can be arrested for that. Even though they’re not under the influence, it’s still in their system and they can be arrested for it.
That’s why we probably see the high number of marijuana cases. People are just pretty forthright in answering questions about it. Whereas if an officer asked the person, “When’s the last time you used methamphetamine?” in my experience most people wouldn’t answer that question or they would deny it. They would say, “I’ve never used it.” Because there’s this big stigma about it, and there should be. It’s a very dangerous drug.