Sarah's Bill urges Utah lawmakers to create harsher restrictions on DUI suspects

The Capitol in Salt Lake City is pictured on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020.

(Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)



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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah representatives passed a bill to allow harsher bail terms for someone accused of injuring others while driving under the influence.

Suspected drunken drivers are normally allowed to be released on bail to await their trial. But HB47, also called Sarah's Bill, would let a judge deny bail and hold them until trial.

"If you injure or kill somebody, we will allow a judge to decide if you are a considered a risk to the public," bill sponsor Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, said.

This option will only be available if the court has obtained "substantial evidence to support the charge" that the person would be a danger to the community if released.

"I hope when someone has caused death or serious bodily harm that the severity of that decision to drive under the influence of alcohol needs to be clearly understood," Rep. Melissa Garff Ballard, R-North Salt Lake, said.

Eliason said the bill was inspired to protect people like Sarah Frei, who suffered paralysis from the waist down and amputation of her legs last year after a drunken driver struck the vehicle she was in. Eliason said the bill could also be seen as protecting the suspect by keeping the person from driving and possibly harming themselves or others.

The bill unanimously passed the House and will move to the Senate for debate.

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Hannah Petersen

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