So, can a person who legally takes a substance be arrested for DUI in Utah? The answer is yes, probably. Under the law if a person is “unable to safely drive,” and is under the influence of any drug, legal or illegal, an officer can and will issue a DUI. Two central questions are :
- What is “unable to safely drive”?
- What is “under the influence”?
The probably part comes later.
What “Unable to Safely Drive” Means
The answer to the first question is easy and mind-boggling – “unable to safely drive” means that a person “failed” the so called Standardized Field Sobriety Tests, the three tests that officers perform on the roadside – HGN – Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, WAT – Walk and Turn, and OLS – One Legged Stand. The mind boggling part of this is that these “tests” have NEVER been demonstrated to distinguish between people who have been drinking and people who have not – that is; there have never been ANY tests on sober people to see if they could pass the tests. Simply put, these tests are completely meaningless scientifically – but law enforcement continues to use them to arrest people.If you get even two clues on the WAT and 2 on the OLS, you are considered “impaired.” That is, a score of 95% on the WAT is a fail!
What “Under the Influence” Means… in Utah
“Under the influence” has a special meaning in Utah. It has the normal meaning that every satte uses, that is; affected by physically – but it also has a special meaning; first it means that if you have ANY alcohol in you and fail the SFST’s above (HGN, WAT, OLS) you are considered “under the influence,” but it also means that if you fail the SFST’s and you have ANY measurable amount of ANY metabolite of ANY drug in your blood, you are also “under the influence.” This latter meaning is a real kicker – someone who smokes pot three weeks before they are stopped, and has ANY INACTIVE metabolite in their blood (pot lasts for about two to three weeks in one’s blood), even a threshold amount of say 1 ng/ml, even though it is completely scientifically accepted that the level could not possibly have any effect on the person – is DUI!
Don’t Give them Probable Cause
The probably part has to do with how much you tell the officer. And this is where most people mess up. You are legally entitled to shut your mouth, especially if they start trying to work you over for information. Just shut it! If you tell the officer something they would not have known but for your answer – you have just provided the officer with probable cause. That is what they will use to arrest you with. DONT: overthink, or even think at all, just shut it! Nothing will get better if you talk. They wont not arrest you, they wont not give you a ticket, and they won’t most of all, go easy on you. All they are trying to do is hurry up and see if you are holding so they dont waste their time.
If the officer says something like “I won’t arrest you and you won’t go to jail if you tell me what you used today…” or anything of that nature – cops aren’t allowed to make such deals, they have to arrest you anyway, and whether jail is a certainty depends on how busy the officer is, how crowded the jail is, and how far you are away from jail. Don’t ever let an officer coerce you into giving evidence against yourself, especially if they are threatening to search you car! That search would likely be suppressed unless you are already arrested – remember they need probable cause to search, and unless your car smells like a drug, they don’t have that! ASk for your ticket and to leave. And keep asking. They are legally entitled to the time it takes to write the ticket for that infraction and nothing else. No questions prolonging the stop, no questions about where you are coming from, and no questions about where you are headed. Period. Politely decline.