I know, I know, it sounds self-serving for an attorney to say "hire an attorney." But think about it: some attorneys, myself included, do hundreds of DUI's. That means hundreds of driver license hearings to try and keep our clients' licenses. It's just common sense that the more something is practiced the better you'll be at it. The fact is, these hearings are complex and the rules are rigid. Miss one deadline, send a fax to the wrong place, call the wrong number, and your license is suspended. There are a lot of bad attorneys out there that won't do anything for you, so if you are going to hire an attorney, make sure they've done plenty of DUI's and have received at least some training in conducting DUI defense in Utah. DUI's are not like other criminal cases because of the technicalities and science involved. Law school doesn't prepare one to handle these. Your attorney should have additional training.
Request a Hearing with the Driver License Division
You MUST MUST MUST, request a hearing within ten days of receiving your DUI in Utah. That includes weekends, holidays, emergencies, hospitalizations, whatever. If you miss the ten day deadline, there's almost nothing that can be done. You can request a review for a late hearing, but these are rarely granted. I had one client who only spoke Spanish and the officer informed him of the hearing in English. He, obviously, missed the ten day deadline and hired us later to handle the case. The Driver License Division still would not give him a new hearing, even though he was never really given notice of the hearing. We had to appeal it all the way to the Third District Court and take the case away from the Driver License Division before anything was done.
Remember, you can fax or take down your hearing request to the Driver License Division in person, but do not miss that ten day deadline. I recommend you go the day after and just get it done.
Get All the Reports
You're entitled to the DUI reports, blood, breath and urine results, intoxilyzer checklists and printouts, and just about everything else that is going to be introduced at the hearing. Make sure you get these early on from the Driver License Division.
Pick Your Issues
Attack every little irrelevant piece of information at the hearing and the hearing officer will tune you out at best and tell you to cut it out and move on at worst. Pick the best issues to attack and stick to them. Don't let the officer get away with statements like, "And then I performed the field sobriety tests and he failed." Make him describe what training he's received in performing the FST's, how many times he's performed them, and how he performed them on the night in question. Remember, the standard is so low at a hearing, you need something very wrong with the case to win. Do your homework and remember that DUI police officers are only human; they do make mistakes.
If you lose the hearing, you will receive a notice in a couple of weeks letting you know the date your driver license is officially suspended. For a first DUI offense the suspension is 120 days. A second DUI is two years.
You have the right to request a review of your suspension in writing to the Driver License Division. If they send a letter to you informing you that they are upholding the suspension, you can then appeal to the local district court and place the case in front of a judge instead of a hearing officer. Of course, for DUI's in Utah, the Attorney General's Office takes over at this point and the prosecutor they have handle the driver license hearings is an expert at them. She's also pleasant and a good person, but talented and aggressive so be careful.
If you lose the appeal, you can try and take it up to the Utah Court of Appeals and the Utah Supreme Court, but there would have to be something seriously wrong for them to consider it.
Additional resources provided by the author
Check out the Utah Department of Public Safety's website for more information about DUI's in Utah and the driver license suspension process.