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Is a Particular Demographic of the Population Subject to DUI Charges?

Interviewer: Is there a specific demographic of the population that receives DUI charges more often than others?

An Equal Opportunity Offense: Any Driver Can Be Subject to DUI Charges  

Phil Wormdahl: One of the aspects that I really like about practicing law in a DUI-specific area is that DUI is sort of an equal opportunity offense. What I mean by that is that if you were to look at a cross-section of my clients, it’s really everybody. It’s your neighbors, it’s your relatives, it’s the people that you go to church with, and it’s the people that you work with. Anybody who consumes alcohol and drives potentially is at risk for getting a DUI.

For Many People, a DUI Charge Becomes a Learning Experience

And for many of my clients, the charge really turns out to just be a learning experience for them. They maybe just had one too many drinks and didn’t know that they were over the limit, and they had to learn the hard way that they were. I would say that slightly more of my clientele are men as opposed to women. In terms of an age demographic, I would say that the age that I see is roughly between about 22 or 23, and maybe 32 or 33. That’s about where that median falls on.

A DUI Is an Easy Mistake to Make

As far as socio-economic status, or geographic area—again—it’s really equal opportunity. Somebody who does really well socio-economically is just as likely to receive a DUI. In my experience, it’s about the same rate as somebody who’s just getting by. Because, like I said, it’s an easy mistake to make. It’s not a mistake that strikes a particular type of person more than another type of person.

The State of Utah Compiles Extensive Statistics on DUI Arrests

And again I think it’s because anybody who drinks could easily just have one too many and then get pulled over, and not really realize that they’re putting themselves at risk for a DUI. It is interesting because in Utah, the legislature actually keeps statistics so that they can prepare what they call the DUI Annual Report, which goes in the Utah legislature. This is the document that goes to the Utah legislature to inform them about grand statistics in DUI law extensively, with the goal of making sure that the legislature has some education or at least a decent statistics when you’re discussing or contemplating passing new DUI legislation or repealing or amending old DUI legislation.

Those documents keep track of everything from the age of the offender to the blood alcohol number that they blow; and the chemical test to whether or not they’re underage, which in Utah means the driver is under the age of 21. They also keep track of whether or not it’s a drug or an alcohol DUI; whether or not the driver refused the chemical test or participated in the chemical test.

Statistics Indicate That Significantly More Men than Women Are Arrested for DUI in Utah

That report’s actually very comprehensive and that breaks down all the demographics. The most recent year is 2013, that’s the one that came out just a few months ago. And there are some changes from year to year and I’ve been following it for the past five years. I’ve been pretty careful about looking at the DUI annual legislative report, and the numbers still vary too much from year to year. As I said, I have slightly more male clients than female clients, but according to the report that’s a little bit more skewed. The annual report shows that generally there are about 70 percent male and about 30 percent female in terms of arrest.

In Utah, Roughly the Same Amount of DUI Arrests Occur Each Month

About 40 percent of the people who are arrested for DUI are between the ages of 24 and 36. So that is really sort of the big demographic that receives DUI charges. Drivers under 21 comprise a very small percentage of DUI arrests. That’s about 10 percent in the 21 DUI. The report also keeps track of DUI arrests per month. And that is interesting because it really is about the same from month to month. Generally in Utah there are approximately a 1000 DUI arrests per month. And that number doesn’t really change or fluctuate from month to month.

The Number of DUI Arrests in Utah Does Not Rise during the Holiday Months

I think public perception might be that a lot of people might get DUIs in December, around the holiday and that’s actually not the case. December’s actually a month where there aren’t probably as many DUIs as you would think. Marginally in December, you see slightly fewer DUI arrests in Utah. That’s interesting because there’s actually additional enforcement known as saturation for highway patrol. The municipal law enforcement entities would be doing DUI saturation during the holiday. But they’re just not getting the same amount of arrests during the holidays, and again I think that would seem strange to people to think about.

More Arrests Occur during the Months of February and March

February and March turned out to be bigger DUI months. Especially March. The reason I think that is, is that when you think about DUIs and DUI arrests are slightly less in December and slightly more in a month like March, it’s because of this. If you’re going to go out to a holiday party for your work, the work Christmas party, downtown at the hotel, people plan on that event. And they know that they’re going to consume alcohol. People are really conscientious in making their decisions and they don’t want to put other drivers in danger, and they don’t want to put themselves in danger. They want to make the right choice.

People Tend to Plan Ahead during the Holiday Season but Are Less Likely to Do So for a Sporting Event Where They Are Likely to Be Consuming Alcohol

Because they know they’re going to drink, and they know that they’re about to go to a party, they make plans ahead of time because that party is planned ahead of time. The plan is to either have a designated driver or to stay the night downtown at a hotel or a friend’s house. So because of that, they’re less likely to end up behind the wheel of a car. During an event like the Super Bowl, people aren’t really thinking about the Super Bowl as a night that they’re going to book a hotel and stay downtown. So they may end up at a friend’s house having a barbecue, and having a few beers. They may drink three to six beers over the course of the game. Depending on their body and their chemistry, their rate of metabolizing and eliminating the alcohol differs. People do take in alcohol at different rates, and people do metabolize and eliminate alcohol at different rates.

Because you’re not thinking of the Super Bowl party as an event where you need to plan for alternate transportation, you’re not planning ahead. And you do end up behind the wheel and you don’t realize that you’ve had one too many drinks. So as it turns out, more people are likely to get pulled over for DUI during an event like the Super Bowl. Super Bowl weekend is a big DUI arrest weekend.

Lack of Judgment: DUIs Occur When People Drink More Than They Anticipate and Drive or When They Honestly Felt They Would Not Be Driving in an Impaired State

I think DUIs often occur stemming from somewhat of a lack of judgment; it’s an offense that people don’t really think about. You end up behind the wheel not really planning to be over the limit because not even if nobody wants to drive while impaired. You either find yourself behind the wheel because you weren’t planning on having that much to drink and then driving, or you simply just didn’t realize that having that many drinks would put you in a situation where you would expose yourself to a DUI charge.