Refused Test, No Prior DUI Ever 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. This 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 am Attorney Jay Ruane, a graduate of the University of Connecticut School of Law. I’m 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 assured, just because I taught the other lawyers everything they know about DUI defense doesn’t mean I taught them everything I know. I can put that knowledge to work for you.
There is certainly no shortage of criminal attorneys who tell war stories about all of their trials. Trial experience is valuable, and we have it. But, at Ruane Attorneys, we take a different approach. 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 the defenses to your case.
Here is where the Ruane difference comes into play. We already have a reputation for fighting and winning at trial. Our lawyers have tried dozens of cases. They 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 won’t give us what we want. Instead, we can go for it and take it. Unlike other attorneys who have a reputation for pleading their clients out if put on trial, we don’t do that – unless it’s for our benefit. This means that there is extra incentive for the prosecutors to resolve our cases – 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. That is resolved at the Department of Motor Vehicles 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 have repercussions on your driver’s license. But, the courthouse is the only place that can have repercussions on your permanent criminal record.
Many people come in to see us after they’ve spoken with 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. It’s an automatic suspension based merely on your arrest. So, by doing nothing you guarantee losing your license. And secondly, we fight because you can’t get any worse penalty by fighting your case. The maximum penalty you can get is also the minimum penalty you get. There is no incentive not to fight at the DMV. And probably most importantly, by fighting at the DMV we gather information we can use to your benefit in your court case.
One of the biggest concerns people have when they are facing an administrative driver’s license revocation is, how am I going get to work? Since this is your first offense and you refused a breath test, you are eligible for a special operator’s permit after you have served 90 days of your automatic 180 day suspension. The special operator’s permit is a permit which allows you to drive to and from work as well any work related driving for a maximum period of 12 hours a day. Your time period can run from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., noon to midnight, or whatever is most convenient for your work schedule. However, this is work related driving only. You cannot drive to church, or drive to the doctors or the supermarket.
It is only work related driving. This means you will have to serve a 90-day hard suspension before you are eligible for the work permit. This comes as a result of the refusal. If you had taken the test you would be eligible immediately. But, the police do not tell you that and there is nothing we can do about it now. This is why we must try to overturn the automatic suspension.
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 factual issues in your case. You choose our firm to do everything possible in your defense. This takes time. A typical case requires 3-7 court appearances over about four months. This may be 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’re not 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 were guilty. There are ways to combat this, and we will do that when we represent you.
Ok, now here’s the serious part. Whenever anybody is arrested or DUI as a first offense as you are, you are facing a misdemeanor charge of DUI. A misdemeanor DUI carries with it the potential for up to six months in jail. But in all likelihood, that’s not going to happen to you. In reality, a person who is charged with a DUI is facing a whole host of other, more serious ramifications than jail time. You can have a permanent criminal record for DUI that will travel with you the rest of your life. If you are convicted of DUI as a first offense, you will be suffering a one year mandatory driver’s license suspension from the DMV.
Hiring an Attorney
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 unwinable. They 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. They 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.
One of the major concerns that people have when they come into our office is, how much is this going to cost me? 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, who has been trained in breath testing and field testing and we have dedicated DUI defense attorneys who have represented local police officers, state police officers and prosecutors who have been 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 I was even arrested. 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 those four things have been proven beyond a preponderance of the evidence, their automatic suspension of your driver’s license will be upheld. Our job is to try to find a way around this and overturn the automatic suspension if at all possible.
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 are responsible for 4 decisions that cannot be made by your attorney. 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.
Those four decisions must be made solely by you, and cannot be made for you by anyone, including your attorney. 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 are made by your attorney. This is one reason why it’s crucial to have confidence in the attorney you choose. If you don’t have confidence in your attorney, then while you are sitting in the lobby of the courthouse waiting for them to come out and tell you what is going on, you will go crazy wondering if they are really telling your side of the story and defending you. 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. We want you to have the best assistance in all the issues of your life. Also, 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 it to be so, 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 videotapes 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 which can be used in your DMV hearing. Finally, we review your file to make sure all the investigative issues are 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. There was a mistake made on 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.