Utah Alcohol Laws: No Surprises in Its Alcohol Laws

Utah alcohol laws apply to the state’s residents and visitors. They are often complex. When Utah prepared to host the Olympics some effort was made to streamline them.

Utah was settled in the mid-1800s by Mormons. That is, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The headquarters of the church is located there. Today, fully two-thirds of the Utah’s residents are Mormon. And two-thirds of all Mormons in the US live in the state. Mormons are forbidden to drink alcohol by their religion. Utah alcohol laws reflect this anti-alcohol view.

        Overview

I.   Minimum Age Laws
II.  Alcohol Violations
III. Resources
IV.  BAC Controversy
V.   Seek Good Advice

I. Minimum Age Laws

Utah is unusual in that it mandates an age of 21 or older to serve alcohol or tend bar. That’s also the age for working in a store selling alcohol for consumption elsewhere. An exception is that persons ages 17 through 20 may sell beer in stores for off-premises drinking. They must be supervised by  a person aged 21 or older. The supervisor must also be on the premises at the time of sales.

utah alcohol lawsUtah alcohol laws prohibit drinking alcohol by those under 21. There is no provision for using wine in religious services such as communion or Seder.

The first Amendment guarantee of religious freedom doesn’t seem to apply in Utah.

For those under age 21, it is illegal to drive with any measurable alcohol in the body.

Utah alcohol laws consider adults age 18, 19, and 20 to be minors or children. They refer to them as such.

II. Alcohol Violations

Selling Alcohol

Utah has a government alcohol monopoly on the sale of virtually all packaged beer, wine, and distilled spirits. The exception is that beer 3.2% alcohol by weight, or under may be sold elsewhere. Spirits are vodka, rum, gin, bourbon, tequila, scotch, etc.

Grocery and convenience stores, taverns, beer bars and some restaurants may sell beer 3.2% alcohol by weight or under. Most people call this “near beer.”

Most retailers may sell alcohol from 11:30 a.m. until 1:00 a.m. However, no alcohol may ever be sold anywhere after 1:00 a.m.

“Zion curtains” are solid translucent partitions to hide the preparation of drinks in restaurants. The intention was to “de-glamorize” alcohol and also not to offend Mormons. In 2017, the law requiring them was modified. Now, by making certain physical and other modifications, not all restaurants will need them.

It’s a violation of Utah alcohol laws to sell alcohol to anyone under age 21. Even if they are adults. The state distinguishes between two offenses.

One is if a seller doesn’t know the buyer’s age and fails to check the ID. The penalty for this is a fine of up to $1,000 and imprisonment of up to six months.

Another is if the seller knows that the customer is under 21 but sells to them anyway. The penalty for this is a fine of up to $2,500 and imprisonment for up to one year.

All alcohol sales clerks must complete state alcohol training focusing on identifying valid IDs. It also includes on how to deny sale to anyone under 21.

utah alcohol lawsIf a clerk sells to an underage customer, the offender receives a written warning. In addition, the clerk must retake the state alcohol training. If a second offense occurs, the clerk is prohibited from selling alcohol for 90 days. And the clerk must retake the alcohol training. A third offense prevents the clerk from selling alcohol for one year. Again, the clerk must retake the alcohol training. The state may also require additional training.

The penalties for the store are different. A first violation results in only a written warning. If a second occurs, there’s a $250 fine. A third violation results in a suspension of all alcohol for 30 days. There’s a $500 fine and probation for one year. If another offense occurs during the probation, Utah revokes the license to sell beer.

Utah alcohol laws regulate the size of alcohol containers. They also prohibit the sale of kegs of beer.

Buying Alcohol

utah alcohol lawsIt’s illegal for anyone under 21 to buy, or attempt to buy, alcohol. In addition, it’s a criminal act to use a false ID to buy alcohol. Penalties include driver’s license suspension. It is also a criminal act to lend, transfer, or sell a false ID.

Retailers have the right to seize IDs that appear to be false. They may detain anyone under 21 suspected of using a false ID to buy alcohol. Stores may sue such persons. If the customer is under 18, the store may sue the parent or guardian.

The store can recover any losses it suffered as a result of the illegal sale. Finally, it may also recover lawyer’s fees and other expenses incurred in collecting the money.

Driving and Alcohol

utah alcohol lawsStates use blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to define legal limits for driving. Utah is the only state in the U.S. to impose 0.05% or higher as illegal, effective December 30, 2018. That’s driving under the influence (DUI). For drivers under 21, DUI is 0.02% or higher.

It’s important to know that drivers can be arrested with legal BACs. All that’s necessary is for an officer to think that the driver’s driving ability was impaired by drinking alcohol. Utah calls this “less safe” DUI.

Unfortunately, many things can make drivers appear to be intoxicated. Probably the most common is diabetes. Low-carb diets produce compounds that smell like alcohol. And fatigue often causes weaving and other behaviors that resemble intoxication. Obviously, a “DUI under the legal limit” can cause drivers many expensive headaches.

These are the penalties for DUI by drivers age 21 or older.

First Offense
  • utah alcohol lawsLicense suspension for 120 days with no hardship license available.
  • A fine of at least $700.
  • Judge may order may order supervised probation.
Second Offense
  • License suspension for two years with no hardship license available.
  • A fine of at least $800.
  • Judge may impose (a) imprisonment for at least 240 hours. (b) Community service of at least 240 hours, or (c). Home confinement with electronic monitoring. Offenders must pay costs of electric monitoring.
  • Judge may order supervised probation.
  • Possible order to have alcohol and screening, assessment, education, and/or treatment. The offender must pay all costs of these mandated services.
  • This offense creates a criminal record.
Third Offense within Ten Years
  • License suspension for two years with no hardship license available.
  • Fines of at least $5,000.
  • utah alcohol lawsImprisonment for at least 62.5 days.
  • Mandatory ignition interlock device (IID) on vehicle after reinstatement of license. Offender pays for installation, maintenance, and monitoring. An IID prevents the vehicle from starting if alcohol is on the driver’s breath.
  • Judge may order supervised probation.
  • Possible order to have alcohol and screening, assessment, education, and/or treatment. The offender must pay all costs of these mandated services.

These are the penalties for DUI by drivers under the age of 21.

First Offense
  • utah alcohol lawsLicense suspension for 120 days or until age 21, whichever is longer.
  • Mandatory ignition interlock device (IID) on vehicle for 18 months after reinstatement of license. Offender pays for installation, maintenance, and monitoring.
  • Judge may prohibit driving with any measurable BAC for two years.
Second Offense
  • License suspension for two years or until age 21, whichever is longer.
  • Mandatory ignition interlock device (IID) on vehicle for three years after reinstatement of license. Offender pays for installation, maintenance, and monitoring.
  • Judge may prohibit driving with any measurable BAC for ten years.
Driver Rights

All drivers of any age have a U.S. Constitutional right to decline submitting to a chemical BAC test. However, Utah punishes those who use their right. For drivers 21 or older, it’s license suspension for 18 months. A second use leads to a suspension for three years.

For drivers under 21 who use their right, the punishment is simple. It’s license suspension is for 18 months or until age 21, whichever is longer. Judge may order mandatory IID on vehicle for three years after reinstatement of license.

utah alcohol lawsHowever, there are no legal penalties for refusing to take a field sobriety test. They are notoriously subjective and highly unreliable. Indeed, about one-third of totally sober people fail to pass them. That is, about one of three people with zero BAC (0.00%) don’t pass.

Lawyers strongly urge drivers never to take them. They say to very politely refuseOfficers have many ways to convince drivers to submit. Often they falsely insist that the law requires it. Or that motorists can prove they’re not intoxicated by passing the test. Yet officers don’t consider passing as evidence of sobriety. That’s why lawyers say to politely refuse as often as needed.

Discover much more at Never Take a Field Sobriety Test Say DUI Lawyers.

Boating and Alcohol

Utah alcohol laws prohibit boating under the influence (BUI). This includes the operation of any motorized vessel while under the influence of alcohol, controlled substance or both.

Boaters are under the influence if their BAC is 0.08% or higher. Or if alcohol and/or drugs make them unable to operate a boat safely. Boaters under 21 are BUI if they have any measurable alcohol in their bodies.

First BUI Offense
  • utah alcohol lawsImprisonment for at least two days.
  • Fines and fees of over $1,300.
  • Community service or home confinement.
  • State generally suspends offender’s vehicle driving license.
  • Judge may order supervised probation and an ignition interlock device (IID) on the offender’s vehicle. Offender must pay all IID costs and fees.
  • For a BAC of 0.16% or higher), the judge must impose both supervised probation and an IID.
Second BUI Offense within Ten Years
  • Imprisonment for at least ten days.
  • Fines and fees of over $1,500.
  • Community service or home confinement.
  • State generally suspends offender’s vehicle driving license.
  • Mandatory IID on vehicle at offender’s expense.
Third BUI within Ten Years
  • utah alcohol laws

    Ignition Interlock Device

    Imprisonment for 63 days to five years.

  • Fines and fees of over $1,800.
  • Community service or home confinement.
  • State generally suspends offender’s vehicle driving license.
  • Mandatory IID on vehicle at offender’s expense.

Judges must generally order all BUI offenders to undergo substance abuse screening. Then offenders must either complete treatment or a substance abuse education program.

It’s illegal to drink alcohol while operating a boat, even with a legal BAC. Opened alcohol containers are legal on a boat, but not if within reach of the operator.

Use of the right to decline submitting to a chemical BAC test is admissible in court. It may result in suspension of the vehicle driving license.

III. Resources on Utah Alcohol Laws

IV. BAC Controversy

Utah is the only state in the U.S. with an illegal BAC of 0.05%. The state relies heavily on tourism to its many attractions. A major problem is attracting highly profitable large conventions. This is because of its highly restrictive and confusing alcohol laws.

The o.o5% BAC has caused much controversy. For example, an ad in one Utah newspaper was in the form of a Thank You note. It was by the American Beverage Institute. The note said “Just wanted to thank you for passing the .05 BAC law. Arresting moderate social drinkers for having as little as one drink will certainly make us look more attractive to most tourists, businesses and skiers.” It ended with “Sincerely, Colorado.”

Here are some other examples of opposition to the lower BAC law.

utah alcohol laws

 

utah alcohol laws

utah alcohol laws

V. Seek Good Advice

Utah alcohol laws are very complex. Laws are also complicated in other states. Lawyers spend years learning them. Never rely on this or any other site. And beware of the advice and beliefs of family and friends. Or of neighbors, co-workers, or others. Smile, thank them, and then ignore what they say.

Get all alcohol information and advice about Utah alcohol laws from an expert. That’s a lawyer holding a license licensed in the state.