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Terrible News: Utah DUI deaths rise 56% in 2012

October 29, 2012

For all the advocating I do for criminal defendants, and all the debate I get into about the problems with politically charged drunk driving laws, these kind of statistics are scary. These numbers militate against what I talk about on this blog on a daily basis, but I think it would be irresponsible for me to ignore them. The truth is that part of the reason fighting DUIs is such an uphill battle is because people are afraid of safety risks involved with them. Which is why I was so disappointed when I read the headline in the Tribune: DUI deaths rise in Utah.

The thing that is particularly troubling about these statistics is why they rose, because “The Utah Highway Patrol last year shifted from a year-long special focus on catching drunken drivers to enforcing speed limits and seat-belt use instead.”  I.E. more drunk drivers on the road suggests  more deaths – 56% more according to the numbers.

I’m not going to question the accuracy of this article. The usual arguments are irrelevant. It doesn’t matter how the statistics were gathered, what constitutes “drunk” driving, whether the statistics take into account which party (the drunk, or the non-drunk?) was at fault, whether the breath tests are accurate, or whether .08 is a logical place to draw a line between impairment and safety. The point is very simple: when the cops arrest less people for DUI, more people die in alcohol related accidents.

As a Salt Lake City DUI defense lawyer, this troubles me. But I still believe in what I do. My job as a criminal defense attorney is not to keep drunk drivers on the road, it is to make sure that people who aren’t drunk, don’t get punished for driving drunk, and to make sure that those that are driving drunk have an advocate so that they are punished fairly and according to the law – not burned at the stake.

Moving forward, there are some things you should be aware of. If you are a drinker, and you ever drive with any amount of alcohol in your system, this news will affect you. I know, you think that you are safe and responsible, and you’ll never get arrested for a DUI. Well, I hate to say it, but my bills are paid by people who thought the same thing. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: if you’re driving late at night, you’ve had anything to drink at all, and you get pulled over, you are very likely to end up getting a DUI, whether it’s justified or not.

This is doubly true in light of the rise in DUI fatalities this year. DUI deaths are not good for politics. Law enforcement in Utah will now be returning their focus to DUI arrests. In fact, they will probably be arresting more people than ever before. And, really, can we blame them? I would be astounded if we don’t see more DUI arrests in 2013 than we did in 2011, when they focused heavily on DUI enforcement. So consider yourself warned!

I defend DUI charges, and other Criminal charges in the Salt Lake City area, and throughout Utah. If you’ve been charged with a DUI give me a call at 801.200.3795, or click here to visit my website.

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