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Drunken-driving convictions declined after liquor laws liberalized

Published June 14, 2013 11:40 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Statewide, 39 fewer people were convicted on drunken-driving charges in 2012 than in 2008.

Information from the Utah State Courts shows that 2,705 people were convicted in district courts of driving under the influence in 2008, the year before the Legislature abolished the state's private club law. The law required people to obtain membership at clubs to purchase alcoholic beverages.

At that time, Art Brown, director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving's Utah chapter, warned that the change would mean more inebriated drivers on the road.

But in 2012, 2,666 people were convicted in district courts on drunken-driving offenses, a 1.4 percent reduction from 2008. The numbers do not include justice-court cases or DUI charges that were reduced through plea deals or pleas in abeyance.

In Salt Lake City and Park City, where there is a large concentration of bars, numbers rose sharply.

Locally, the only courts that saw an increase in DUI convictions were Salt Lake City's 3rd District Court — where DUI convictions increased 57.4 percent, from 568 to 894 — and Park City's Silver Summit Court.

That court, also in the 3rd Judicial District, saw a 23.3 percent increase in convictions, from 30 to 37.

The largest decrease, percentagewise, in convictions was seen in Bountiful's 2nd District Court, where the convictions dropped from 65 to 21, a 67.7 percent reduction. The 2nd District Court in Farmington saw the largest reduction in actual numbers, going from 159 to 104.

Statistics also show that the number of alcohol-related accident deaths did not go up as a result of the change in club law.

The data were compiled by UtahsRight.com for a weekly series in The Salt Lake Tribune's Close-Up section highlighting information gleaned from public databases. The purpose is not to provide analysis of the data, but to provide raw numbers so the public can analyze the data themselves for their own purposes.

UtahsRight.com, the data website for The Salt Lake Tribune, conducts an ongoing statewide quest for district court information and other public information, including salaries of public employees and restaurant inspections, using public records requests made under the state's Government Records Access and Management Act, commonly known as GRAMA.

dmeyers@sltrib.com

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