Refusal, Has Two Or More DUI Convictions In Connecticut
I’m Attorney Jim Ruane. I am a graduate of the University of Connecticut School Law and the senior trial lawyer of the firm. My job, in addition to routine court appearances, is to coordinate the trial and motion practice for the firm. Since 1985, I have been certified as a criminal trial specialist by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, which qualifies me as an expert in DUI defense in Connecticut.
I am Attorney Teresa DiNardi. People call me Lady DUI. I am a graduate of Western New England College School of Law. I have been with the firm since 2006. Also, I am based in our Hartford office. My primary responsibilities are pretrial negotiations and jury selection. I am the primary contact with the Department of Motor Vehicles main office in Wethersfield.
I’m Jay Ruane. I am a graduate of the University of Connecticut School of Law and I am also the Connecticut state delegate to the National College for DUI Defense. In addition, I am also field sobriety test certified and breath test certified. I have lectured attorneys around the country and in Connecticut on how to defend DUI cases. But rest assure, just because I taught the other lawyers everything they know about DUI defense, doesn’t mean I taught them everything I know and I can put that knowledge to work for you.
There is certainly no shortage of criminal attorneys who are willing to tell you war stories about all of the trials they have been through. Certainly, trial experience is valuable, and we have it, but at Ruane Attorneys we want to avoid a trial if we can. In your situation, you don’t need a general practice lawyer or even a general criminal lawyer. You need a lawyer who knows the laws and defenses to your case. Here is where the Ruane difference comes into play. We already have a reputation for fighting and winning a trial. Our lawyers have tried dozens of cases and continue to go to trial every year on cases that cannot be resolved any other way.
Because we have a reputation for going to trial, we cannot be bullied by a prosecutor who will give us what we want. We can go for it and take it. Unlike other attorneys who have a reputation for pleading their clients guilty if put on trial, we don’t do that unless it’s for our benefit. This means that there is extra incentive for the prosecutor to resolve our case or they know we will go the distance.
Cases You Face
When you are arrested in Connecticut for a DUI, you are actually facing two different types of cases. The first is the criminal case and that is resolved at the courthouse where you are innocent until proven guilty. The second is the civil case, and that is resolved at the motor vehicle department where you are guilty until proven innocent. It is possible to win one case and lose the other, so it’s important to fight both cases. Both cases can cause you to lose your driver’s license but the courthouse is the only place that can give you a permanent criminal record. Because each case can cause your driver’s license to be suspended, you need to know that if you are caught driving when your license is under suspension for an alcohol related offense, your facing a mandatory minimum 30 days in jail and further license suspension.
Many people come in to see us after they have spoken to another attorney who has told them that there is no reason to fight the DMV automatic suspension. Well, we fight the DMV automatic suspension for two main reasons. First, if you do nothing, you lose. Its an automatic suspension based merely on your arrest and so by doing nothing your guarantee yourself the results, you lose your license. And secondly, we fight because no matter how hard we fight you can’t get any worse penalty by fighting your case. The maximum penalty you can get is also the minimum penalty you can get. There is no incentive not to fight at the DMV. And probably most importantly, by fighting at the DMV we gather information that we can use to your benefit in your court case.
One question many clients have is how long will this case last? Many people believe that it will resolve on their first court date that does not happen. This is because most of the time we are not finished investigating the law and the factual issues in your case. You choose our firm to do everything possible in your defense. This takes times. A typical case requires 3-7 court appearances over about four months. This may get extended if your case needs the extra time to get you the best disposition. We will work together over this time period to get you the best possible result given the facts of your case and the type of disposition that best fits your life. If you elect for a trial, it may be up to 18 months before your case is completed, during that time we are actively working on your defense.
Our firm operates on a total practice management theory. Instead of having one person in the office who you deal with, you can deal with any one of the members of our office at any time on your case. From the receptionist, to the paralegal, to the case managers to the attorneys, every single member of our office is up to speed as to what is going in your case at any one time. This way you don’t get stuck waiting to speak to somebody in particular about your case. You can deal with anybody and get answers to the questions that you have, right now.
Eliminating the anxiety in your life is one of our main goals here at Ruane Attorneys. We understand that this anxiety can detract from your personal life, your professional life and your ability to even sleep through the night. By retaining our firm, we put you in the best possible situation to remove these anxieties from your life.
Since you did not take a breath test, the state will charge you under a traditional common law theory of DUI. The elements for common law DUI are as follows: First, operating a motor vehicle. Secondly, on a public highway and thirdly, while under the influence. Under the influence in your case is defined as not having the caution characteristic of a sober person under the same or similar circumstances. By law, the prosecution can infer that you refused the test because you knew you would not pass. There are ways to combat this, and we will do that when we represent you.
Now here is the serious part. Because you have two prior convictions, you are facing a felony charge of DUI as a third time offender. As a third offender, you are facing up to three years in jail, with one year as a mandatory sentence. Fines can be up to $8,000. That’s 365 days and nights in jail. There is no early release. In addition, you are facing a lifetime revocation of your driver’s license. At this point we may want to at least consider a trial to get you the best possible result. Until we have completed the investigation of your case and our pretrial negotiations however, you will not have to make that decision.
Our goal, of course, it to negotiate for the state to drop the charges or reduce them to a charge that doesn’t carry such a mandatory minimum. But a trial may be in you best interest, and it is simply something you need to know now so you are fully informed as to the serious legal situation you are in.
Hiring a Lawyer
Many people consult with us and have to make a decision about hiring our firm or a local lawyer who claims to have special relationships with prosecutors in a particular courthouse. Well, first, you should know that we have cases pending in every courthouse, so we are local everywhere. Secondly, a local lawyer may spend a lot of time in a particular courthouse, but that doesn’t mean they know the law, the science and how to defend a DUI case.
Many local lawyers feel like a DUI case is unwinnable, and march their clients into the courthouse to plead them guilty. Because they have great relationships with the prosecutors and deal with only those prosecutors, they don’t want to ruin those relationships in order to properly defend you. Instead, they take the path of least resistance, and merely ask for a “good deal” but don’t put in the time to get the best resolution.
Some people are nervous that by hiring our firm, it shows they must be guilty. They think that hiring a DUI firm will show that they have something to hide. Nothing can be further from the truth. Prosecutors and judges respect our knowledge and expect nothing but zealous advocacy from us. They know we know your case inside and out and won’t compromise unless its in our your interest.
At the courthouse, we negotiate with the prosecutor to get you the best disposition given the facts of your case. What may be a win for some people, may be a loss for you. That is why we leave no stone unturned in negotiating for you the best possible pretrial negotiation of your case. If we can dispose of your case in a pretrial setting, you do not pay for anything else. You don’t pay for a trial or any motions preparation. In essence, the legal fee that you pay to us at the beginning of your case is all that you will have to pay in connection with your case.
Many times, potential clients want to know how much representation will cost them. Well, after we sit down and go over all the facts of your case we will be able to quote to you your legal fee. One thing you have to realize however is that we do not charge on an hour by hour basis.
There are a number of things that set us apart from other lawyers and law firms in Connecticut. We are the only firm with a former DMV hearing officer on staff, which means you get the benefit his DMV training to suspend license working on your side to overturn the automatic suspension. We have a certified accident reconstructionist on our staff, trained in breath testing and field testing. Also, we have dedicated DUI defense attorneys who have represented local police officers, state police officers and prosecutors charged with DUI. There is a reason that law enforcement members come to us when they get charged with DUI – when you need a lawyer this badly, you need lawyers this good.
Standardized Field Sobriety Tests
Out on the scene, the officers may have subjected you to the standardized field sobriety tests. Many times people come into my office and say, “I don’t know why the police arrested me. I did fine on those tests.” What you must understand is that those tests operate on a concept of negative scoring. This means if you do 19 of the 20 things correctly on the test, you are not at plus 19, you are at minus one. In essence, you start at zero and can only lose points.
Now that is an absolutely unfair way of grading somebody. The police officers may have screwed up the administration of the test but no one takes off points for them. In fact, many times judges will allow that evidence in even if the police officer didn’t do the test properly, yet they hold it against you for failing to do it to their standards.
As you already know the DMV also brings a case against you, a case which will cause you to lose your license unless we fight it and win it. In order to take away your license the DMV must be able to prove four things beyond a preponderance of the evidence. First, were you placed under arrest? Second, was there probable cause for your arrest? Third, did you take and fail or refuse a breath test? And fourth, were you operating a motor vehicle. If the state can prove those four things beyond a preponderance of the evidence, their automatic suspension of your driver’s license gets upheld. Our job is to try to find a way around this and overturn the automatic suspension if at all possible.
Because this is not your first DUI offense on your driving history, you will not be eligible for any work related driving permit. This makes the stakes so much higher for your case and this is a main reason why you need an experienced fighter on your side. If you do not overturn the automatic suspension, you will be unable to drive for a long time, and you will not be able to get any work driving privileges. This work permit is unavailable for either your administrative suspension or any conviction related suspension so recognize now that a work permit is out of the picture for you.
Role of an Attorney
One thing that is it important for anyone facing any type of legal trouble to know is exactly what is the role of your attorney. Since you don’t normally need an attorney to help you wit your day to day affairs, sometimes its important to establish the scope of what it is your attorney will do for you, and what you will be responsible for. In any case, the attorney makes all of the tactical decisions on how to handle your case, but does so with you involvement. You have to do this yourself. Those decisions are: 1. Do you plead guilty or not guilty. 2. Do you testify or not testify. 3. Do you have a judge or a jury trial and 4. Do you appeal or not.
You must make these decisions yourself. Of course, we will advise and counsel you to help you make your decision. All of the other decisions, like pretrial and trial strategy, who to call as witnesses and how to present your defense get made by your attorney. This makes it crucial to have confidence in the attorney you choose. If you don’t have confidence in your attorney, then while you sit and wait for your lawyer to defend you, you won’t know if they can accomplish this. We stack our knowledge up against any other lawyer in the state and know we can help you with your case.
You must be aware that a criminal conviction can have serious lifelong consequences, which is one of the reasons why we fight so hard for you. A conviction can prevent you from international travel, destroy your credit history, increase your health and auto insurance premiums or make you uninsurable, prevent you from obtaining student loans, cause you to be ineligible for certain professional licenses, lose your job or even go to jail.
Because the stakes are so high we are committed to fighting this legal battle for you. This is our expertise. The impact of a criminal case can create havoc in your personal life. If this occurs we will guide you to the proper professional assistants. Also, we want you to have the best assistance in all the issues of your life. We handle your legal problems so you can address the other issues appropriately. Because you hired us, you no longer have to worry about the legal and administrative aspects of your case. We do that for you and that allows you the time to focus on personal and professional matters.
One of the things that sets us apart at Ruane Attorneys is that we defend our cases on three distinct fronts. The first front is the legal front. Perhaps the arrest or seizure of you was illegal. If we find this, we can make motions to suppress some or all of the evidence gathered. This substantially reduces the case against you and can lead to a reduction or dismissal. If we find no legal defenses, we move to the factual defenses, and look to see if the officers and witnesses involved may have taken a negative view towards otherwise innocent evidence.
Perhaps the officer claimed you failed a test which, when properly scored, you passed. The factual defense can lead to a reduction or dismissal. In combination to the legal and factual defense we take it a step further, and add the social issues to your defense. Part and parcel of your case will be a biographical sketch of who you are as a person, so we can show that the DUI case you have is an aberration, and you are otherwise a good, hardworking person. You must remember that prosecutors and judges see offenders everyday, and all they know about you is your arrest. By showing them the complete picture of who you are, we can encourage them to reduce or dismiss your case.
Once we open your file, we take a number of steps to begin your defense. We file an appearance on your behalf with the clerk of the court and the state’s attorney so they know we will be fighting for you. Then we determine what evidence we need from the state and discovery. We obtain your police report and any available video tapes when appropriate. We then contact the DMV and arrange for your DMV discovery and retrieve that from the main office in Wethersfield. Also, we sit down with Attorney Jim Olayos to review your report and look for issues to use in your DMV hearing. Finally, we review your file to make sure all the investigative issues get scheduled like roadway photographs, witness interviews, and toxicological results when appropriate in your case.
One thing people with DUI charges come to learn is that while you may feel like you are alone many others you know have gone through a DUI case. However, simply because a friend or family member may have had a DUI and have facts that sound similar to yours, does not mean that your case will resolve the same way. Each courthouse has different prosecutors and different policies when it comes to DUI. Even when a case is in the same courthouse, many people have chosen to hire a “jack of all trades” lawyer who may not have investigated every part of their case to find a way out. A mistake happened the night of your arrest, either by you or the officer. You cannot change what happened that night but you can change how you deal with it.