Under Utah Law, a jury may find a defendant who is otherwise guilty of an offense not guilty if the jury finds that the Defendant acted under compulsion. In other words, if the Defendant committed the crime because they were coerced by threat of unlawful physical force but the jury finds that the Defendant’s actions were reasonable and there was no reasonable legal alternative to breaking the law in order to prevent serious bodily injury or death, the jury can still find the Defendant “not guilty” of the offense committed. In this case, my client was a young female who went to a local club with a friend. While at the club, my client was assaulted by another female patron while the two danced in front of the stage. The other female was much larger, and a bouncer had to pull the other female off of my client to stop the assault. The other female was also with a larger group of friends, and my client was only there with one other female friend. After pulling the other female patron off my client, the bouncer advised my client and her friend that they needed to leave the bar. My client and her friend proceeded to the door, but it appeared that the other female who assaulted her was coming out of the bar after them—along with her friends. Once outside, my client jumped in her vehicle, left the bar quickly, and attempted to drive to a nearby location in order to call for a ride; however, before she made it to a safe spot to stop, she was pulled over by a Salt Lake City Police officer for making an improper turn coming out of the bar parking lot. My client advised the officer that the reason she was driving was because she had just been assaulted in the bar. But rather than investigating the assault, the officer arrested my client for DUI. Despite the prosecution’s argument that my client was not facing an imminent threat of serious bodily injury or death and that there were many more reasonable alternatives than driving away, the jury took only 15 minutes to return a verdict of NOT GUILTY!
Unique defenses such as “Compulsion” are rarely raised in DUI cases, but this case goes to show that a creative and knowledgeable DUI attorney can find ways to defend a case other than to just argue that the client was not drunk.