In Utah,the DUI arrest rate has declined by nearly 37 percent since 2008, according to the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice. Yet, in 2015, a total of 10,802 people were arrested in our state for driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs or both.
Many drivers who are stopped for DUI are not alone when they are arrested. If you are a passenger when a DUI arrest occurs, what will happen to you? Will you get to go home? Or is it possible that you could face charges?
More important, will you need a lawyer?
Getting Pulled Over for a DUI Arrest
You’re headed home after a party or a night at the bar when you hear police sirens. You’re being pulled over. What happens next?
If the officer suspects that the driver is intoxicated, he or she will perform field sobriety tests. If the driver refuses or fails the tests, he or she likely will be arrested. Next, the officer will assess the intoxication level of the vehicle’s passengers.
If you are sober (or lucky), you may be allowed to go home, but you’ll probably have to call a cab or someone to pick you up. Utah law mandates that the police release a vehicle only to the registered owner, so the car will likely be seized and impounded, even if a passenger is sober and capable of driving.
Utah Open Container Laws in a DUI Arrest
Now, if any open alcoholic beverages happen to be in the car when you’re pulled over, the police may not let you go home. In fact, you could face criminal charges under Utah open container laws, even if the container wasn’t in your possession!
No one is permitted to drink alcoholic beverages in a motor vehicle.
Consequently, both driver and passengers may be charged if the officer finds any container of alcohol that has been opened or that has a broken seal. Conviction for this class C misdemeanor could result in a fine of up to $750 and up to 90 days in jail.
DUI Arrest and Reckless Endangerment
Even if you are a sober passenger and no open containers are found in the vehicle, you aren’t necessarily off the hook yet. In fact, you could be charged with reckless endangerment.
In Utah, it is illegal to engage in conduct that could create a substantial risk of injury or death to another person. Knowingly allowing an intoxicated person behind the wheel could be considered reckless endangerment, because the action could easily result in a car accident.
Conviction for this class A misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 along with up to a year in jail.
The criminal defense attorneys of The Law Offices of David Paul White & Associates provide expert legal representation to clients throughout Northern Utah.Call our Murray, St. George or Salt Lake City office today to schedule a free consultation if you have been charged with any crime as a part of a Utah DUI arrest.