Yearly DUI Statistics in Utah

The Take-Away

  • Despite DUI counts in Utah being between 12K-15K in the last decade, according to the Utah Legislature reports, alcohol-related DUIs in Utah seem to be slowly decreasing. But other types of DUIs may be on the rise.
  • Utah has the lowest per capita DUI rate in the US, largely attributed to the high Mormon population, which discourages drinking alcohol.
  • Even people who don’t drink (Mormons, the medically restricted, etc.) can get metabolite DUIs from drug impairment, including prescription medications.
  • The government isn’t reporting arrests to churches, employers, DOPL, etc., but criminal arrests are public information. Many websites and newspapers publish arrest information, including unflattering mug shots, names, and charges.
  • News of an arrested, especially of a professional, could not only be embarrassing, but could damage someone’s career, status in the community, and/or personal life.

This article is from an interview with Utah DUI defense attorney Jason Schatz. This portion talks about some trends in DUI statistics and trends in Utah.

Interviewer: Just so people don’t feel like they’re the only one that this has happened to, what do you estimate the numbers are in Utah of people arrested for DUI every year?

Attorney Schatz: There’s actually a report prepared for the Legislature every year that keeps statistics on a lot of different statistics concerning DUIs, such as the number of DUIs, how many driver’s license hearings were conducted, how many people actually prevail at those hearings, what were the average blood alcohol levels, the locations where people are being arrested, and so forth.

Statistically, over the past ten years, the number up until last year [2012] had grown percentage-wise every single year, starting from about 12,000 DUI arrests a year 10 years ago up to approximately 15,000 arrests in 2011. However, in 2012 we actually saw a decrease. The number of DUIs statewide dropped to approximately 13,500 roughly, which is about a 10% decrease from the year before. The question that’s then posed regarding the decrease last year becomes, are people getting the message? Are there fewer drunk drivers? Or is it just a lack of funding for enforcement?

Rumor has it, from what I’ve been told, the number of DUIs has actually increased this year.[2013] I know, in particular, the Utah Highway Patrol has announced that they are stepping up their DUI enforcement this year.[2013] They’re doing more DUI blitzes, saturation patrols, having more officers actually out on the road during what we refer to as the normal drinking hours—after dark and early in the morning. I suspect that we’re going to have a much higher number of DUI arrests this year than last year.

All that being said, nationwide, Utah has, percentage-wise, the lowest per capita DUI rate, because we have a very large of our population who, for religious reasons, don’t consume alcohol. Period. Nonetheless, it is an offense, even in a state like Utah, that there’s quite a good number of arrests, and the consequences in a very conservative state, particularly with regard to the driver’s license consequences, even the effects of a first offense DUI, can be quite severe on some people.

Is Religion a Factor?

Interviewer: You mentioned religion in Utah. Does that have any effect if someone’s arrested? For example, are Mormons ever arrested for DUI? Or does religion really not even come into play?

Attorney Schatz: People don’t drink for different reasons. Some people do not consume alcohol for religious reasons. Some people abstain for health reasons. Some people abstain because they’ve got certain medical conditions that don’t make it safe for them to drink. Regardless of why they don’t drink, just because you don’t drink alcohol doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not at risk of getting a DUI, because oftentimes, people who don’t drink for health reasons, or even people who don’t drink for religious reasons, they still go to the doctor, they still get prescribed medications. Sometimes those medications can affect somebody’s ability to drive. [Read more about metabolite and prescription drug DUIs here.]

I can tell you that a fair percentage of the prescription drug DUI cases we see are committed by people who don’t consume alcohol. Maybe they’re simply doing what the doctor ordered, taking their prescriptions in order to go about their daily lives. Unfortunately, either they take too much of the prescription, or they drive too soon after taking their prescription, and they’re stopped in a state where the officers believe that the prescription is in fact impairing their ability to drive. They’re subject to the same DUI arrest. They’re subject to the exact same penalties as somebody who went to the bar, consumed way too much alcohol, and was pulled over on the way home at 2:00 in the morning.

Is Religion a Factor?

Interviewer: If a practicing Mormon does receive a DUI, whether it’s attributed to prescription drugs or alcohol, do they have consequences that would affect them outside of the normal? Does their church get involved?

Attorney Schatz: No. The church really isn’t involved. Obviously, it may be more embarrassing to someone who is in the church to be exposed for being arrested. I would say people who tend to be more concerned about the effect of their DUI arrest on their reputation are professionals, especially professions like real estate agents, doctors, lawyers, teachers and professors, government officials, people who work in charity organizations, law enforcement—people whose standing in the community is very important to their career or their position. For those people, obviously, the effect that a DUI arrest could have on their standing in the community and their reputation is obviously a big concern to them, especially in this day and age with the internet. All of this information about arrests and criminal cases is a matter of public record.

A product of technology that has been very disturbing in the last couple of years is the increase in these companies or businesses who post people’s information on the internet, and then they want to charge you a fee to remove that information. If you get a DUI and you Google your name, one of the most common pages that come up will be a copy of your mug shot from when you were booked into the county jail, or a court record or some indication that you had actually been arrested for DUI, which can be very damaging to somebody’s reputation and career. Whether a person has been found guilty not, this information is pervasive. It’s available on the internet, and even if you’re acquitted and found not guilty and the charges dismissed, nothing is placed on the internet indicating that the charges were dropped, and your information is not removed. It’s still available for people to see that at some point you were arrested and charged with a DUI.

Interviewer: Will friends, family and your employer automatically find out if you’re been arrested?

Attorney Schatz: It’s not as if anybody is going to go out and notify certain individuals or certain agencies, like your insurance company or your employer, if you were arrested. Obviously, if you were arrested driving an employer-owned vehicle, they would find out for that reason. The most common way that they find out is just simply the ease of access to the information. If you Google somebody’s name on the internet, it’ll pull it up. Word like that gets around quickly. If you’ve ever had a friend who got a DUI within the last couple of years, just Google their name, and I can pretty much guarantee you there’s going to be some information out there on the internet concerning that, because jail booking records and criminal case records in court are all matters of public record. [If you’re off to do some Googling now, do it in a new window so you can come back here!]

Unlike civil cases, which are sealed and not accessible to the general public, criminal cases and arrest records are public record information. Everybody has access to that information. There’s numerous websites, there’s even a magazine here in Salt Lake published—you can buy it at 7-Eleven for $1.00—which is entitled “Busted.” They compile all the mug shots they download from the jail’s website. It posts your charge, what your name is, and your usually not very flattering mug shot, such as the fate of Randy Travis or Wynonna Judd, the ones you see on the internet of the celebrities that don’t even look like themselves. Next thing you know, that’s being published in a magazine or newspaper. There’s actually several newspapers, one locally here, in the little area that I live in, Davis County, where they actually have a police blotter section where anybody who’s arrested and taken to jail with $750.00 or more bail, they will publish the name, the date they were arrested, the charges, and the amount of their bail, in the newspaper.

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