Many DUI prosecutions in the State of Utah are the result of the defendant being pulled over for some purpose other than DUI. After being pulled over and prior to being cited for DUI, it is typical for motorists to make one or more common mistakes. Once these mistakes are made it becomes entirely possible for an innocent person to be both prosecuted and convicted for DUI. Many of the DUI cases we handle in Utah are for persons being prosecuted for driving under the influence of a prescription drug, and certainly in some of these cases the prescription drug was not a factor in impairment. Such wrongful prosecutions may also occur in illegal drug, or alcohol-related DUI cases. All of these wrongful convictions are preceded by the motorist stepping into a pitfall of common mistakes. Many of these unfortunate wrongful convictions (and even some legitimate ones) could be avoided by people knowing and avoiding the top 4 mistakes motorists make that lead to DUI convictions in the State of Utah. Every year the Zabriskie Law Firm provides representation in dozens of DUI defense cases in the State of Utah. Over the years our lawyers have provided representation to well over 1,000 DUI defendants. The following is a list of what we have observed as the most common mistakes motorists make prior to getting DUI citations in the State of Utah:
- AGREEING TO PERFORM FIELD SOBRIETY TESTING
- REFUSING TO SUBMIT TO A CHEMICAL TEST
- VOLUNTEERING INFORMATION
- FAILURE TO IMMEDIATELY HIRE COMPETENT LEGAL COUNSEL
Each of these mistakes will be explained in detail below.
#1 AGREEING TO PERFORM FIELD SOBRIETY TESTING. Field sobriety testing is a battery of physical and dexterity tests administered by a cop in a DUI investigation. The purpose and design of the testing is to elicit incriminating evidence against the DUI suspect. These tests are difficult to pass under optimal conditions. Try doing them on the side of the road, late at night, with your friends and 2 cops watching, lights flashing, wind blowing and while you are cold, tired and totally stressed out by the circumstances. If you submit to field sobriety testing, you will fail. In my years providing DUI representation in the State of Utah I have reviewed literally thousands of police reports and only seen two reports acknowledging that a suspect passed a field sobriety test. Many of the suspects I have seen fail these tests were later shown to have no alcohol or drugs in their system. There is nothing in the law that requires you to submit to a field sobriety test. Always politely refuse a cop’s request that you submit to field sobriety testing. Don’t be afraid that they will arrest you for refusing their request. The fact is, once they have pulled you from the car they are going to arrest you anyway. The difference is, if they pull you from the car and you agree to perform field sobriety testing, they will both arrest you and have evidence to present to a jury demonstrating that you were intoxicated to a degree that it was not safe for you to be driving. At Zabriskie Law Firm we always tell our clients to refuse field sobriety testing.
#2 REFUSING TO SUBMIT TO A CHEMICAL TEST. In the State of Utah there is an administrative law which requires you as a motorist to submit to a police officer’s request for chemical testing. Although it is not a crime in and of itself to refuse chemical testing, you can suffer a 24 month administratively imposed revocation of your driving privilege for refusing a police officer’s request for chemical testing. The courts in the State of Utah allow evidence of a DUI suspect refusing a chemical test to be admitted at trial. This evidence does much damage to the DUI defendant. Furthermore, with sufficient probable cause a police officer can obtain a warrant to force a DUI suspect to provide a blood sample. If the sample is obtained from a DUI suspect by means of a warrant, the prosecution has a sample to present as evidence at trial and the suspect is still subject to the administrative revocation for refusing a chemical test. There are very limited exceptions to this advice, but those exceptions should be discussed personally with an attorney from Zabriskie Law Firm.
#3 VOLUNTEERING INFORMATION. Keep in mind that nearly every question a police officer asks you in a DUI investigation is designed to have you incriminate yourself. His job is not to vindicate good guys, it is to bust criminals. The U.S. Constitution and the laws in the State of Utah protect the rights of suspects, including DUI suspects against self-incrimination. What this means for a DUI suspect in the State of Utah is that you do not have to, nor should you answer any questions about when and where you last used drugs or alcohol. You do not have to, nor should you answer any questions about whether you have a drug prescription for any medical condition. You do not have to, nor should you place pill bottles or alcohol containers anywhere within the vehicle where they can be viewed by a police officer. You do not have to, nor should you tell the officer where you are coming from or where you are going. Basically, you don’t have to tell the officer anything except who you are and who your insurance company is. Keep in mind when you are pulled over a police officer does not announce that you are suspected of DUI. This announcement does not come until the cop has removed you from your car. Until this point you may think he is just a real friendly cop who genuinely cares about where you have been and what you have been doing. The reality is, the small talk initiated by the cop is used to profile you for DUI. As a rule, any time you are pulled over by a cop, if you are concerned that you have any trace of drugs or alcohol in your system, limit all responses to your name and who provides your insurance. Engaging in small talk may get you arrested and convicted for DUI. If you do get arrested call one of the attorney’s at Zabriskie Law Firm for advice on how to not make any further mistakes in your DUI case.
#4 FAILURE TO IMMEDIATELY HIRE COMPETENT LEGAL COUNSEL. No matter how smart you believe you are, you cannot provide yourself with competent legal counsel as a DUI defendant. You are better off with a public defender. However, public defenders have a heavy case load and often leave their clients feeling totally ignored. Furthermore, public defenders do not handle your 10-day DMV hearing request, or your DUI administrative hearing before the DMV. Neglecting the DMV hearing request and/or failure to appear at your own DMV hearing will result in an automatic DUI-related driver’s license suspension. Your best option is to hire an experienced criminal defense team like the team of attorneys at Zabriskie Law Firm who have successfully handled hundreds of DUI cases in the State of Utah. The lawyers at the Zabriskie Law Firm will make sure that all of your rights are protected and that any potential defense in your DUI case is exhausted.