DUI Laws for Utah Drivers Under 21

The state of Utah recently updated its DUI laws, making them the strictest in the county; what does this mean for drivers under 21 and has anything for them changed?

Updated DUI laws

Just shy of the New Year’s holiday, Utah became the strictest state in the nation in regards to its blood alcohol concentration or BAC limits. While the rest of the country holds a “standard” BAC limit of .08 percent, Utah has now decreased their limit at .05 percent. This reduced allowable BAC is comparable to other countries such as France while still more lenient than others including China, Japan, and Iran.

Minor consumption and BAC limits

The updated BAC limits in Utah apply only to residents and visitors 21 years of age or older as those are the only ones of legal drinking age. Resident who are not yet of lawful age to consume alcohol are expected to only operate a motor vehicle when there is not a trace of “detectable alcohol in [the] body” as stated in Utah Code 53-3-231. That section explains “A person younger than 21 years of age may not operate or be in actual physical control of a vehicle or motorboat with any measurable blood, breath, or urine alcohol concentration in the person’s body as shown by a chemical test.”

Criminal charges for teens and young adults

Any driver under 21 is restricted from having alcohol in their system while behind the wheel. These restricted drivers caught driving with alcohol in their system could face class B misdemeanor charges along with minor consumption and minor in possession of alcohol. Teens and young adults are still considered new drivers and according to vehicle insurance rates, have shown to not be the most unreliable to make good decisions while on the road. Adding alcohol to the mix will further impair a young drivers’ ability to effectively and safely maneuver a motor vehicle. For this reason, young drivers are encouraged to obey Utah’s “Not a Drop” laws and to continue to practice safe driving even when they reach lawful drinking age. For help with criminal charges for minors related to alcohol use, contact a Juvenile Defense attorney.

19 Year Old DUI Driver Charged With Automobile Homicide

A 19 year old Utah teen who caused a fatal accident while driving under the influence was charged with automobile homicide after the body of younger teen was found in his vehicle.

Underage and under the influence

Photo by: Steve Hardy

19 year old Casey James Ziemelius was arrested after police report the teen was driving recklessly and then caused a head on collision while attempting to evade the approaching police. Two people in the vehicle hit by Ziemelius were injured and a 14 year old girl riding with Ziemelius was killed. Ziemelius has been charged with two felonies for aggravated assault and automobile homicide.

Automobile homicide

Utah Code 76-5-207 states: “Criminal homicide is automobile homicide, third degree felony, if the person operates a motor vehicle in a negligent manner causing the death of another and:

(i) Has sufficient alcohol in his body that a subsequent chemical test shows that the person has a blood or breath alcohol concentration of .08 grams or greater at the time of the test;

(ii) Is under the influence of alcohol, any drug, or the combined influence of alcohol and any drug to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely operating a vehicle; or

(iii) Has a blood or breath alcohol concentration of .08 grams or greater at the time of operation.”

Criminally negligent

Automobile homicide is not always punishable as a third degree felony. Section 76-5-207 adds: if someone is found to be “operating a motor vehicle in a criminally negligent manner” the charges would then be increased to a second degree felony. Criminal negligence is described by Section 76-2-103 as “with respect to circumstances surrounding [the subject’s] conduct or the result of his conduct when he ought to be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or the result will occur. The risk must be of a nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise in all the circumstances as viewed from the actor’s standpoint.” Second degree automobile homicide is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

15 year old Utah Teen Facing Multiple Charges for Drunk Driving and Aggravated Assault

A 15 year old teen from Ogden Utah was arrested for a drunk driving incident that left multiple vehicles damaged and other individuals assaulted.

Downward spiral

Photo by: Nick Harris

A 15 year old juvenile who is not being named due to his age was driving a car at excessive speeds while intoxicated when he crashed into multiple vehicles before leaving the vehicle and illegally entering a random Ogden home. There he threatened and assaulted the homeowner as well as officers who had arrived on scene. The teen who was behaving in a drunken and aggressive manner is facing multiple charges including breaking and entering, aggravated assault and driving while intoxicated.

Angry teen or drunk teen

Little is known about the teen involved in the story, however it is possible his use of alcohol heightened feelings of anger and aggression which he took out on innocent individuals such as the homeowner. Alcohol has a tendency to affect teenagers and young adults in different ways: Some lose all inhibitions and become more sociable; others are quiet, maybe bordering on melancholy; and many find their anger and aggressiveness peak when they’ve been drinking.

Alcohol and teen aggression

According to the US National Library of Medicine, aggressiveness is very common among adolescents who use alcohol. They state “. . . a relationship between alcohol/drug use and aggressive behavior is apparent” and that “medium to heavy drinkers expect to experience more aggressiveness after drinking.” The also warn that “alcohol plays a significant role in adolescent deaths due to accidents, homicides and suicides, acts of sexual aggression and criminality.” Hopefully the teen involved will be able to soberly evaluate the choices he made while intoxicated and receive the help he needs to mature into a responsible and calmer adult.

New Dangerous Trend Involves Teens Consuming Alcohol through Their Nether Regions

Utah parents are being warned about a dangerous trend going around that involves teens consuming alcohol through their nether regions.

Alcohol consumption

Photo by: Johnny Silvercloud

There are many ways in which alcohol can be consumed such as sipping a fine wine, having a casual beer, or doing shots of hard alcohol. Then there are drinking methods that are considered more “fun” and therefore appealing to the younger generation, including teens. These include: beer bongs, shot-gunning, Jello shots, and even keg stands (where kegs of beer are allowed). However alcohol is consumed, it should only be done by those 21 years of age or older.

Alcohol and teens

Teens are warned about consuming alcohol for several reasons:

• Alcohol can develop developing brains;
• Teens are more likely to drink excessively, leading to alcohol poisoning; and
• Teens may be more likely to drive drunk instead of asking parents or other responsible adult for a ride home.

Teenagers who drink may try to fool their parents or think they can pass a breathalyzer by consuming alcohol without orally ingesting it. This is when alcohol becomes increasingly dangerous.

Alcohol enemas

Alcohol Enema
Photo by: Justin Taylor

Perhaps in an effort to hide the smell of alcohol on their breath or just to be different, many teens are becoming involved in a dangerous new trend that involves consuming alcohol through their nether regions. Alcohol enemas, otherwise known as butt-chugging needs little explanations as the name describes exactly how the alcohol is entering the body. What isn’t well known is the danger being putting alcohol in direct contact with the thin membranes of the rectum. Unlike drinking where the body has a chance at warding off alcohol poisoning by breaking down the alcohol or vomiting the excess, consuming alcohol through the rectum has no such safeguard. Alcohol enemas along with alcohol injections or eyeballing alcohol is an extremely dangerous practice that could end in death and criminal charges for everyone else involved.

Criminal charges

Beyond the obvious physical dangers of alcohol enemas, there are also risks of criminal charges to discuss with teens. With regards to teens attempting to avoid a DUI, no matter the way alcohol enters a body, breathalyzers monitor the BAC or blood alcohol content that is evident in breath. If alcohol is consumed orally or anally, the BAC will be the same. Another legal risk of alcohol enemas comes to those who perform or help someone else perform one. If the person receiving the alcohol enema is seriously injured or killed, those who performed the enema can face murder charges. For more information on the legal ramifications of teens and alcohol, consult with a criminal defense attorney today.

Underage Drinking on Prom Night Likely Cause of Deadly Utah Crash

A deadly car crash that occurred near Moab, Utah following prom night was likely caused by underage drinking mixed with excessive vehicle speed.

2 teenagers dead and 3 critically injured

Underage Drinking
Photo by: Josh Hallet

In the early morning hours following a prom dance the night before, five teenagers were driving a 2003 Subaru Impreza when the vehicle left the roadway and rolled several times. Three of the teens in the vehicle were ejected; two of those ejected were killed; 16 year old Conner Denney and 14 year old Taylor Bryant. The other teen ejected and the two teens in the car were all flown to area hospitals in critical condition. Police believe that the crash was due to driving at high speeds mixed with underage drinking.

Underage drinking and driving

Underage drinking can be hazardous, especially when inexperienced drivers attempt to operate a vehicle under the influence. The state of Utah has decided that adults who have years of experience driving should still refrain from driving if their blood alcohol limit is over .05%. Teens who drink are known to far surpass this limit. Instead of enjoying a beer with dinner like a responsible adult, teens are more likely to binge drink, making them very drunk in a short period of time.

Alcohol and the teen brain

Photo by: wyinoue
Photo by: wyinoue

Even if a teenager stays away from vehicles when drunk, the alcohol can have damaging effects on their body, especially the growing and maturing brain. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “the adolescent brain may be uniquely sensitive to alcohol’s effects because major changes in brain structure and function occur during this developmental period. ( . . . ) Alcohol exposure during adolescence can have long-lasting effects and may interfere with normal brain functioning during adulthood.”

Other health risks

There are more health risks associated with underage drinking that teens should be aware of such as: potentially fatal alcohol poisoning which can occur from drinking too much too quickly; permanent liver damage from elevated liver enzymes caused by underage drinking; damage to growth hormone production which can alter puberty. Additionally, it is difficult for teens to understand alcoholism should they become addicted and they are less likely to seek help due to them being under the legal age to consume alcohol.

Criminal penalties

Photo by: Sonny Abesamis
Photo by: Sonny Abesamis

Beyond the health risks, there are criminal penalties for those who choose to engage in underage drinking and even far greater penalties if someone is hurt or killed because of a DUI. For teens who are facing criminal charges due to underage drinking or drinking and driving, contact a juvenile defense attorney immediately.