DUI vs Impaired Driving – What is the Difference?

Following an arrest for drunk driving in Utah, you may hear your DUI attorney use the terms “DUI” and “Impaired Driving.” While both terms have to do with driving with alcohol, there are some very important differences between the two – including the penalties associated with each.  

What Is the Difference Between DUI and Impaired Driving? 

While DUI and Impaired Driving are closely related, an Impaired Driving has a few important distinctions – most notably your driver’s license.  

In Utah, if authorities stop your motor vehicle and believe you are driving with an alcohol concentration over .05, they will conduct an investigation including standardized field sobriety tests and may charge you with DUI.  After you have been charged in court, and if the facts in your case are mitigated, the prosecutor may agree to allow you to plead to Impaired Driving instead of the initial DUI charge.  They often only offer such a resolution if the alcohol concentration is low, you do not have any prior DUI convictions and the overall facts of the case are mitigated (no accident or injuries).  

If you plead to Impaired Driving – your drivers license will not be revoked by the Utah DLD.  If your drivers’ license has not already been revoked administratively,  you will not lose your license.  If your license has been administratively revoked for the 120 days administratively, it can be reinstated early.  A DUI attorney can assist you in reinstating your license as early as possible.

What Are the Consequences of a DUI?

Utah considers impaired driving and driving under the influence of alcohol to be highly serious offenses. The state also has some of the strictest DUI laws in the nation. While most states consider you under the influence of alcohol if your blood alcohol level is above 0.08%, Utah has a much lower threshold. It may levy a charge of DUI against you if your blood alcohol concentration meets or exceeds 0.05%. As a point of reference, most people will have a breath alcohol concentration of over .05 after only a few beers or cocktails.  

Even a first-time Utah DUI brings with it considerable penalties. However, the penalties may vary based on whether you are over or under 21. 

If you are over 21 and convicted of DUI, you must spend at least 48 hours in the local jail. Depending on the circumstances and negotiations of your attorney, you may be able to avoid doing the jail time by instead performing at least 48 hours of community service. You also face fines that may fall somewhere around $1,380, and you may also lose your driver’s license for 120 days or have to finance and install an ignition interlock device on your own vehicle and any others you drive once you begin driving again. In almost all counties, there is no viable limited license provision or “work license” in Utah, so if you lose your license in a DUI proceeding, you will not be able to drive legally during your revocation.  First-time DUI offenders also have to undergo screening by an alcohol treatment program approved by the state. 

A DUI charge may range in severity from a misdemeanor to a felony offense depending on a number of different variables. Having a high blood alcohol content or children in your car at the time of your arrest may impact the type of charge you receive. While both misdemeanor and felony DUI charges mean consequences if those charges lead to convictions, felony charges bring with them an additional set of collateral consequences that may have a big impact on your day-to-day life. 

What Are the Consequences of a Impaired Driving? 

While there are penalties associated with an Impaired Driving charge, the penalties are typically less severe than those associated with DUIs. In most cases, you may be able to avoid serving time behind bars by pleading guilty to Impaired Driving, for example. You will also be able to avoid license revocation after a DUI offense by pleading guilty to DWI, allowing you to continue to work, attend school or otherwise go about your life as you know it. 

Provided you meet certain conditions, a Impaired Driving may also look more favorable on your criminal record.  A DUI conviction may serve as a barrier to employment and housing opportunities, whereas an Impaired Driving may look less “serious” than a DUI on your record and many employers do not view it as harmful as a DUI.     

Is DUI Worse Than Impaired Driving?

When you compare the consequences of a Utah conviction for DUI against those associated with an Impaired Driving, it becomes clear that a DUI conviction has much more of a negative impact on your life than an Impaired Driving.  If you plead guilty in a Impaired Driving case, for example, you may still have a chance to keep your driving privileges, although you will still most likely have to complete a court ordered screening and assessment for alcohol rehabilitation.  

What Does a DUI Affect?

A DUI or related drunk driving offense may impact your wallet, driver’s license, and even your earning potential and professional reputation. While there are considerable criminal penalties associated with drunk driving, you may also face collateral consequences, depending on the severity of your charge. Other implications are as follows. 

– Felony Implications

If you have any kind of felony, it may create barriers to finding housing, employment, or educational opportunities. Felonies also have implications as far as your right to vote or bear arms, among other areas. 

 Financial Implications

A DUI may also have a substantial impact on your bank account. In addition to fees associated with your charge, you have to factor in other expenses related to your arrest, which might include jail fees, bail fees, towing and impound bills, ignition interlock installation and maintenance expenses, and so on. 

 Insurance Implications

Once you pay to have your driver’s license reinstated following license revocation or the end of your license suspension period, you also need to make sure you have proper insurance coverage for your motor vehicle. In some cases, your current insurer may decide to drop you after an impaired driving or drunk driving conviction. In other cases, the provider may hike up rates for impaired drivers until they become difficult to manage. 

While it may benefit you financially to shop around and get quotes from multiple providers, know that insurance rates almost always rise quite a bit after a conviction for impaired driving. In Utah, the average motorist with a first-time DUI sees his or her insurance rates increase by an average of $650 a year. 

 Professional Implications 

Depending on circumstances, your professional license may be in jeopardy in the wake of a DUI. Teachers, nurses, and realtors are just a few examples of Utah professionals who may face professional repercussions after a conviction for impaired driving or drunk driving. While the sanctions you may face vary based on your industry and the sanctioning body governing it, a DUI may lead to the suspension or revocation of certain types of professional licenses.  

 Credit Implications

You may be able to avoid the potential credit implications of a DUI if you pay all associated fees and fines on time and in full. On the flip side, failing to do so may hurt your credit score, which may make it difficult for you to obtain home, auto, or other loans moving forward.  

What Does a DUI Defense Attorney Do?

A DUI attorney may be able to help you understand the state’s complex DUI and Impaired Driving laws and defend yourself against related criminal charges. In some cases, your attorney may be able to help you plead guilty to a lesser charge that may have a more minimal impact on your life. Expect your DUI lawyer to go over the details of your arrest closely, including why the law enforcement officer stopped you in the first place. Whether he or she conducted your field sobriety tests accurately and secured your BAC level correctly using a properly maintained and calibrated breath test device (Intoxilyzer) is also relevant. So, too, is the chain of custody used to handle your breath or urine test results. 

If the police officer had no legitimate reason to stop your motor vehicle or if the device he or she administered the standardized field sobriety tests improperly, such circumstances may result in a dismissal of charges. Depending on circumstances, your DUI lawyer may also help you plead guilty to an Impaired Driving rather than a DUI, which, as you now know, typically carries lesser penalties.