When Does A DUI Become A Felony Charge In Utah?

There are a couple of different ways a DUI can become a felony in the state of Utah. However, the most common way is when a driver has two prior DUI offenses and then gets a third offense within ten years. That third offense will be considered a felony. Another way is if a driver is involved in an accident and caused serious bodily injury to someone else, while driving under the influence. Then that serious bodily injury will bump the normally class B misdemeanor up to a third degree felony.

A third way a DUI can becomes a felony in Utah is often overlooked and that is if someone already has a prior felony DUI. For example, there was a gentleman who had a felony DUI from when he was in his twenties. He was nearly 40 before he got another DUI and he could not understand why this one, his most recent, was charged as a felony DUI when his first had been over the ten years. Attorney Matthew Nebeker then had to explain to him that Utah has lifetime enhancement. That means once you get a felony DUI, every DUI after that is going to be a felony as well. Those are the main ways that we see felony DUI charges here in Utah.

Many people don’t realize or remember they had these previous charges. Attorney Nebeker has even had cases where some prosecutors have overlooked it.

Does A DUI In Another State Count As A Prior For Sentencing Purposes?

DUI convictions from other states can be used to enhance a current DUI for sentencing purposes if it’s within the ten year period in Utah. Basically it says, “Statutes or ordinances in effect in other states which would constitute a violation under our law.”

That’s pretty broad language to say out of state DUI charges and convictions, impaired driving convictions and driving with a measurable amount of controlled substance convictions can be used in Utah to enhance the current DUI.

The prosecutors do have to go to some effort to find the prior conviction because they have to show a court record. What they would have to do is contact that court in the other state and wait for a response. In most cases, the other court will send them the information. However, it does happen where they do not respond at all or can’t find the file. When dealing with prior out of state DUI conviction, Attorney Matthew Nebeker always tells the prosecutor to get him the actual proof of conviction, which can sometimes be hard to find.

Often the prosecutors will show a driving record that shows a prior conviction. However, when asked specifics on where, what and when, they don’t always know. Attorney Nebeker never accepts that and always asks to see the actual, certified court documents from the other jurisdictions. In some cases the prosecutors have been unable to do that and it ends up being a benefit the client.

How Common Are Felony DUIs In Utah?

There’s quite a few of them. The prior conviction enhancement is the most common. I’ve handled a few where there’s been serious bodily injury. There’s a lot more of the third offense DUIs and I see a lot of it when people are going through a difficult time in their lives like losing a career job, or going through a divorce. They will have one maybe four or five years ago, then go through a divorce and get another two of them within another year period or something like that. They’re pretty common. I probably handle seven or eight felony DUIs a year that are based on the prior convictions.

Is Someone Safe If They Have Had A DUI With A 10 Year Difference?

For enhancement purposes, someone with a DUI over 10 years ago is “safe” if they then get another DUI in terms of enhanced penalties. They will not be bumped up to the felony level if it is outside that timeframe.

However, the judge can still see the entire criminal history of the person being charged. Therefore it doesn’t necessarily mean you are “safe”. The prosecutors usually tell the judge if there are prior convictions and what they refer to as life time convictions.

The prosecutor at a sentence can say, “Judge, this was a first offense under the enhancement statute, so we can’t actually enhance it. However, this was his fifth lifetime conviction.”

In one of Attorney Nebeker’s cases, the judge that normally does not give jail time on even second offense DUIs gave his client a few days in jail because it was his fifth or sixth lifetime conviction. Even though it wasn’t enhanced under the statute, you still have to know your prosecutor and your judge in these cases involving prior convictions and what you can be up against.

For more information on Felony DUI Charges In Utah, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (801) 554-5220 today.

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