A Deep Dive into Utah’s Alcohol and Driving Laws

Utah’s history in implementing stringent driving under the influence (DUI) laws is extensive. The state is a pioneer in creating and enforcing some of the strictest DUI laws in the country. Its progress in this area reached a new milestone in December 2018, when it lowered the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for drivers from 0.08% to 0.05% – making it the first state in the U.S. to enact such a low limit. This legislative move has significantly altered the DUI law landscape nationwide, triggering discussions on reevaluating the appropriateness of the nationally accepted 0.08% standard.

Impact of Lower BAC Limits

The shift to a 0.05% BAC limit has considerable implications. The lowered threshold means that even a minimal amount of alcohol can lead to a DUI charge. The BAC reading hinges on various factors, such as body weight, gender, and the speed at which alcohol is consumed. To put it into perspective, a man weighing about 160 pounds might find his BAC reaching 0.05% after consuming two standard alcoholic drinks on an empty stomach for over an hour. For a woman weighing approximately 140 pounds, it may only take one standard drink.

BAC Limits: A Comparative Look

Here’s a glance at how Utah’s BAC limits compare with the rest of the U.S.:

UtahRest of the U.S.
Commercial Drivers0.04%0.04%

For commercial drivers, the BAC limit remains consistent across the country at 0.04%.

Not a Drop Law for Underage Drivers

Utah has implemented a stringent ‘Not a Drop’ policy for drivers under the age of 21. Unlike many other states that allow a minimal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit of up to 0.02% for underage drivers, Utah’s zero-tolerance law prohibits any detectable alcohol in their system. This policy aims to promote safer driving habits and reduce the risk of alcohol-related accidents among young drivers. In this article, we will explore the details of Utah’s ‘Not a Drop’ law, its implications, and how it differs from regulations in other states.

Utah ‘Not a Drop’ Law
Comparison to Other States’ LawsUtah’s ‘Not a Drop’ law is more stringent compared to the regulations in many other states. Some states allow underage drivers to have a minimal BAC level of up to 0.02% before it is considered a violation. The lower BAC limit in Utah signifies the state’s commitment to prioritizing the safety of young drivers by eliminating any potential influence of alcohol.
Implications and PenaltiesThe implementation of the ‘Not a Drop’ law emphasizes the importance of responsible decision-making and discourages underage drinking. Violations lead to serious penalties which may vary based on circumstances, prior offenses, and the discretion of law enforcement officers and courts. Common penalties include fines, suspension or revocation of driving privileges, mandatory participation in alcohol education programs, community service, and possible imprisonment.
Enforcement and EducationLaw enforcement agencies in Utah employ various methods to ensure compliance with the ‘Not a Drop’ law. These include breathalyzer tests, field sobriety tests, and observations of behavior that may indicate impairment. Police officers undergo specialized training to identify signs of alcohol use and impairment among young drivers.

Utah also emphasizes the importance of education and awareness programs to inform young drivers about the dangers of alcohol-impaired driving. Through educational initiatives, such as school-based programs and community outreach, Utah aims to instill responsible behaviors and promote a culture of safe driving among its underage population.

Implications of Open Container Laws

Beyond BAC limitations, Utah extends its strict alcohol and driving laws to incorporate open container restrictions. In Utah, the law prohibits having an open container of alcohol in the vehicle, regardless of whether the vehicle is moving or stationary. The term ‘open container’ covers any alcohol container with broken seals, even if it’s kept in the trunk, away from the driver and passengers.

Impaired Driving – Beyond Alcohol

Utah’s law also considers drugs and other substances that may impair driving. Under the law, any detectable amount of a controlled substance or other drug is grounds for a DUI. This includes both illegal substances and legal medications if they are deemed to impair driving ability.

DUI Penalties and Consequences in Utah

Wooden board with the phrase 'Penalty' written, accompanied by a gavel and money, illustrating the concept of law

The penalties for DUI offenses in Utah are severe, reflecting the state’s commitment to reducing alcohol-related road accidents. Here’s a look at the penalties associated with DUI offenses:

  • First offense: At least 48 hours in jail or community service, a minimum fine of $700, and a license suspension of 120 days.
  • Second offense (within 10 years): At least 240 hours in jail or community service, a minimum fine of $800, and a two-year license suspension.
  • Third or subsequent offense (within 10 years): It becomes a third-degree felony. The penalty includes at least 1,500 hours in jail, a minimum fine of $1,500, and a two-year license suspension.

Moreover, drivers charged with DUI may also be required to undergo a substance abuse assessment and complete education and treatment programs. An Ignition Interlock Device (IID) might be installed in their vehicles as a condition for reinstating their driving privileges.

Understanding Administrative License Suspension

Separate from criminal charges, a DUI arrest typically initiates an Administrative License Suspension process by the Driver License Division. This administrative action imposes a driving suspension for varying lengths of time depending on the circumstances of the arrest and the driver’s prior DUI history.


Utah’s alcohol and driving laws showcase the state’s commitment to prioritizing road safety and reducing the risks associated with drunk driving. By implementing stringent measures such as lowering the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit to 0.05%, Utah has set a national precedent and sparked discussions about reevaluating the accepted 0.08% standard. The state’s ‘Not a Drop’ law for underage drivers, zero-tolerance policy, and open container restrictions further emphasize the importance of responsible decision-making and discourage alcohol-related accidents. Penalties for DUI offenses are severe, reflecting the state’s determination to combat drunk driving. Understanding and complying with these laws are crucial for residents and visitors to promote a responsible approach to alcohol consumption and driving in Utah.


1. How much can I drink and drive in Utah?

While there isn’t a specific number of drinks that equate to the 0.05% BAC limit – as it varies depending on factors such as weight, gender, and rate of alcohol consumption – it is crucial to note that even one standard drink could potentially push your BAC to or over the limit. The safest advice is not to drink at all if you plan to drive.

2. Can I drink a beer and drive in Utah?

Even a single beer could lead to a DUI charge, as the 0.05% BAC limit can easily be reached, particularly in lightweight individuals or women. As such, it’s not advisable to drink any alcohol if you’ll be driving.

3. Can you drive with alcohol in Utah?

It is illegal to drive with an open container of alcohol in the car in Utah, regardless of whether the container is within the driver’s reach. Sealed containers that have not been opened can be transported in the vehicle.

4. What is Utah’s new drunk driving law?

The ‘new’ drunk driving law, implemented in December 2018, lowered the BAC limit from 0.08% to 0.05% for drivers over 21, making it the strictest in the country. This law made Utah the first state in the U.S. to implement such a low limit.