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Proposal to change Utah DUI law kicked to the curb

On Tuesday, a bill that would have changed the standard for DUI in Utah was rejected even before the proposal was formally heard. The current standard for DUI is that the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol enough that he or she could not safely operate the vehicle. The proposed standard would change that to illegalize any degree of impairment while driving.

The measure, according to Rep. Lee Perry, its author, would not have made state law more strict, but would have simply addressed issues officers face with respect to chemical use while driving, particularly with the development of new drugs. The measure was not well-supported by the criminal defense community, though, which generally questioned its constitutionality. 

Perry said he wants to take the next year to meet with the bill’s opponents to discuss the matter, and reintroduce it next year. Time will tell whether the bill is able to be tweaked enough to address the specific issue it is apparently aiming at, but the concern with the bill as it is was that it could potentially open the floodgates to DUI prosecution, even for the use of substances that do not fall within the generally accepted categories of alcohol and drugs.

In Utah, one can be charged with drunk driving not only under the DUI statute, but also whenever one is found to have been driving over the legal limit of 0.08, referring to blood alcohol concentration. In such cases, there can be ways to challenge the accuracy of the test or the legality of the search, so it is important for defendants to work with an experienced attorney. 

Source: Fox News, “DUI bill on hold, will return next year,” Ben Winslow, February 18, 2014. 

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