Interviewer: How public will the arrest information be when someone gets arrested for a DUI? Is it the kind of crime where work, family and friends are going to find out about?
All Arrests in Utah Are Public Record
Phil Wormdahl: First of all, arrests in Utah are a public record. So if someone really wanted to search and find out if you got arrested and booked into the jail for a DUI, they could probably find out and most certainly they could. If an employer ran your criminal history after a DUI arrest, as long as you were booked into the jail and/or your fingerprints were taken, that arrest would probably show up on your criminal history. It wouldn’t necessarily show up as a conviction until you actually got convicted in court.
Utah Legislature May Prohibit Websites from Profiting from Your Arrest
But the fact that you were stopped, arrested, and potentially booked into jail for the offense, would show up on a criminal history. It used to be the case in Utah that booking photos of all the people that were booked into the Salt Lake County jail would be published. So they would be available for newspaper, or be able to be accessed online. However, because some websites were making money publishing jail books and photos, and then charging people to remove them, the Utah legislature actually passed a law or contemplated passing a law to prohibit that.
I don’t think that the law actually got passed, and I think the reason was is because most scholars that looked at it could tell that there might be a first amendment problem with prohibiting agencies from using publically available photos or documents. So what happened instead of passing a law, the county sheriff who was in charge of the jail, needed a policy that for people who were getting booked into the jail, their mug-shot photos wouldn’t just be published online automatically. So if you’re a news entity or you really want to get access to a booking photo, you can do it because, like I said, it’s a public document.
Utah Has Tried to Limit Some Websites from Automatically Publishing Mug Shots of Recent Arrestees
But it’s not as simple as just googling the name of somebody who got arrested for DUI and then seeing their mug shot, anymore. In Utah, although it’s scary to be arrested and potentially be booked into jail for DUI, and you’re probably worried that relatives, friends or your employer will find out about it, I would say that for the most part unless someone is actively looking, they would never know. This is unless you told them or they had some reason to suspect that you got arrested for a DUI and then they could go about trying to find a booking photo or a booking sheet or something like that. Although it’s public, I think it’s less likely now than it used to be that anyone could find out easily.