CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

These Utah DUI laws could apply to driver in fatal hit-and-run

May 5, 2022, 4:47 PM | Updated: 4:52 pm

family of bride killed in crash on i-15...

Family members of a bride married just hours before she was killed in a drunk driving crash on I-15 plead with others to be safe on Utah roads. Photo: Mary Richards, KSL

SALT LAKE CITY — The severity of the sentence in a recent, fatal DUI hit-and-run mostly depends on the judge presiding over the case, said a county attorney in Utah.

On April 26, Mason Andrew Ohms, 50, allegedly struck and killed 13-year-old Eli Mitchell, who was traveling home from the grocery store on his bicycle at 1510 West 9000 South in West Jordan.

Ohms allegedly fled the scene but was later arrested. He was formally charged Wednesday with automobile homicide, a second-degree felony, leaving the scene of an accident and obstructing justice, both third-degree felonies.

Warrants were obtained and blood tests were taken from Ohms an hour apart. The first test showed a blood-alcohol content of 0.10%. The second test registered a BAC of 0.08%.

RELATED: Charges filed against suspect in fatal West Jordan hit-and-run incident

Utah DUI laws

Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings spoke with KSL NewsRadio’s Dave & Dujanovic to explain driving under the influence (DUI) laws and their associated penalties.

“According to reports, this person apparently has four prior convictions for driving under the influence. That seems like a lot to me. When does DUI equal prison time?” Dave asked.

“In Utah, there are a few circumstances under which that can occur,” Rawlings said. “One of them — and the one we see the most — is probably if they’ve had two prior offenses within 10 years, two convictions. The third one within 10 years then can become a third-degree felony, which subjects them to a potential zero to five years in the Utah State Prison.”

Read more about the DUI sentencing laws in Utah here.

If an impaired driver causes bodily injury to another person, Rawlings said, the offense can rise to a felony-level DUI.

“If they have a prior felony DUI conviction or automobile homicide, it can also become a third-degree felony DUI,” he added.

Prison or jail for DUI?

“To me, this just seems like people get a ton of chances,” Debbie said, after reviewing the sentencing guidelines referenced above. 

Rawlings said the DUI sentence depends on the circumstances and the defendant’s criminal history in any given case.

“There are some guidelines,” he said. “There are some minimum-mandatory timeframes that a lot of people probably would think are pretty short. Like for example, on the third-degree felony DUI, the minimum mandatory is 60 days, and [there] can be some electronic home confinement, things like that based upon the circumstances.” 

Rawlings said the sentence can also depend on the judge hearing the case.

“On a third-degree felony, the judge could send them to prison, and then it’d be up to the Board of Pardons and Parole to determine how long they stay. Or, the judge could give them the 60- or the 120-days or more, depending on the circumstances.”

Bars, nightclubs and taverns also bear responsibility in DUI cases

“The charges, in this case, say the individual consumed seven 20-ounce beers in the five hours leading to the crash [that killed Eli Mitchell]. Can bars be held responsible for serving someone too much alcohol?” Dave asked.

“They can, both civilly and criminally,” Rawlings said

First, he said, there are people who by law or court order cannot legally be served alcohol inside a bar or nightclub. The bartender or owner can face a Class B misdemeanor if the law is violated, he said.

If a server gives an “actually or apparently” intoxicated person alcohol, it can result in a Class A or B misdemeanor. Rawlings said.

“If they serve them alcohol recklessly, it’s a Class B misdemeanor. If they do it knowingly, it’s a Class A misdemeanor.” 

Read more:

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play. 

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These Utah DUI laws could apply to driver in fatal hit-and-run