One of the biggest challenges in the criminal justice system in Connecticut is restoring your privilege to drive. As mentioned earlier, driving is a privilege in Connecticut, and not a right. A right is a freedom protected by the Constitution. Examples of this include the freedom to associate and the freedom of religion. A privilege is a certain ability that is granted by the government to a person. An example of this is the ability to hold certain types of professional licenses (doctors or lawyers).
As a result of a DUI conviction, many citizens have dealt with the hassle of losing their license. This happens only to find that the process for getting a license restored is much more difficult than expected. Although one case differs from another, license suspensions fall into two categories, DUI related and non-DUI related. A DUI related suspension comes as the result of a single or multiple conviction for driving under the influence. Many people are under the false impression that the judge at the courthouse controls the suspension. However, this is not true.
Instead, the DMV enforces suspensions based on number of convictions and not necessarily by the same standard as the court. For example, a person who is treated as a first offender at court but is technically a second offender by DMV standards or number of prior offenses will suffer the suspension period of the second offender, even though the judge treated the person as a first offender. Depending on the level of DUI a person is facing this length of suspension (See Figure A for further detail):
Non DUI Related Suspension
1) A person may have forgotten or ignored an issued ticket. If so, a person’s license may get suspended pursuant to Connecticut General Statute 14-140. This requires the DMV to suspend the license until the ticket has gotten either paid or returned to the docket. If you have to “reopen” a ticket closed out under 14-140, you need to pay a fee of $60. The fine goes to the clerk’s office responsible for the ticket. You also have to send notice of that to the DMV to have your privilege restored.
2) A person’s license may get suspended for accumulating too many “points”. Points can get assessed for a number of infractions, and the DMV will notify a person that they must attend a driver retraining program. Sometimes, a series of infractions can take a person from a low point total to above the limit with the person realizing this. There is no warning before a “points” suspension.
3) A person who pleads guilty to operating under suspension or other serious motor vehicle violations may get suspended pursuant to state law. A list of the suspendable offenses are in Appendix A. If a person operates while under suspension, the penalty jumps from a one year suspension to a five year suspension. The five year date runs from conviction date, not from the date of the offense.
Out of State Convictions
The Connecticut DMV learns of a conviction in another state through The National Driver Register. The NDR is a central repository of information on individuals whose privilege to drive has been revoked, suspended, canceled or denied or who have been convicted of serious traffic related offenses. All 50 states have access to this information.
This means that the Connecticut DMV will find out about your out of state conviction and will impose a penalty as if you got convicted in Connecticut.
Also, 48 states belong either to an agreement called the “Driver’s License Compact” or the “Non Resident Violator Compact.” The only states that don’t belong to one or the other are Michigan and Wisconsin. When you get a ticket outside of your home state, the Department of Motor Vehicles will relay the information to your home state and impact your driving record as if the ticket happened there. Many people find this especially difficult because had the arrest been in Connecticut, it may have been possible to avoid a conviction altogether by using the alcohol education program and now that individual will not benefit from the program. (The Connecticut Appellate Court has found that there is no violation of the law in imposing the one year suspension).
Because of the basic need for driving, the Connecticut DMV has passed certain regulations for persons who have had their license suspended as a result of a DUI arrest and motor vehicle suspension or criminal conviction suspension. The rules for work permits are very strict, and also follow an arithmetic approach. Unless you qualify perfectly, you will not be given a work permit. Also, you only get one work permit in your life, so it is important for your lawyer to fight the DMV hearing and try to get your license suspension overturned so that you have not utilized your only permit.
Despite the immediate need for a work permit, the DMV will sometimes make a person wait weeks or months before issuing it. They can deny the permit outright if a person has several notations on their driving history for moving violations and in cases in which a breath test is refused, the DMV, by statute, will make a person 90 days before issuing a work permit.