In the state of Connecticut, if you are 21 or older, you are legally intoxicated at a certain point. This happens if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is a .08 or higher. But, if you are under 21 years of age, you are considered legally intoxicated at a different point. This happens if you have a BAC of .02 or higher. Connecticut has an Implied Consent Law. The law states that every person who operates a motor vehicle has consented to take a test to determine their blood alcohol content. This can happen at any time while they are operating a motor vehicle.
A person who operates a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs faces criminal and administrative charges. The criminal charges require an appearance in court to get prosecuted for a DUI offense. The administrative charges deal with the automatic suspension of your license by the DMV. The Court and DMV are totally independent of each other, however both carry serious penalties.
A DUI Arrest
If you get arrested for a DUI in the state of Connecticut, the basics of what will happen include:
- The police detain you and read you your rights.
- The police handcuff you.
- Then, the police search your vehicle.
- You go in a police cruiser to the police station.
- The police ask you to submit to a BAC test.
- Your vehicle gets towed at your expense.
- You stay in a police lock-up until you get bailed out or released by a judge through an in-court arraignment.
At the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles (the “DMV”) all applications for new licenses and renewals get reviewed for previous DUI convictions in other states as well as other serious offenses prior to issuing the license. If a person applying for a Connecticut State license has a previous DUI in another state, it is considered a prior offense within Connecticut if a license is administered.
Connecticut uses many different techniques when detecting and apprehending drunk drivers which include sobriety checkpoints, blanket patrols, publicized enforcement campaigns, standardized field sobriety testing, preliminary breath tests, mobile videotaping and BAT Mobiles. Identifying drunk drivers who continue the same behavior of heavy drinking followed by driving is essential in effectively keeping them off the road. The state of Connecticut has over 3.5 million drivers and on average, about 20,000 DUI arrests each year. Any person convicted of DUI will have “at risk driver” imprinted on their license.
After conviction, whether after plea or trial, judges most often order defendants to go through an alcohol assessment and evaluation program to determine the level and scope of their problems with alcohol. Treatment for all offenders is mandatory and without successful completion of treatment, license reinstatement will not occur.
If the DMV suspends your license to drive for a DUI arrest or conviction and you operate any vehicle, you will face a MANDATORY 30 DAY JAIL SENTENCE which cannot get reduced by a judge unless the judge finds mitigating circumstances.
DUI statute should be considered for anyone arrested for a DUI in the state of Connecticut. For more information, refer to this website: Driving While Under the Influence of Alcohol or DRUGS (CGS § 14-227a)
DUI Statute: Elevated BAC
The law prohibits driving in some cases. One situation is while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Another happens when driving with “elevated blood alcohol content.” A person is “under the influence” if their ability to drive is affected by alcohol or drugs to an appreciable degree. This comes from (Infeld v. Sullivan, 151 Conn. 506 (1964)). This may get prosecuted with or without any direct evidence of their BAC.
A person has an elevated blood alcohol content if their BAC is at least .08% alcohol by weight. The law also makes it illegal for someone driving a commercial motor vehicle to have a BAC of .04% or more. Also, anyone under age 21 can’t drive with a BAC of .02% or more.
The DUI law applies to drivers operating motor vehicles anywhere. This includes their own property, and people operating snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles (CGS § 14-227a(a)).
Before dismissing or reducing a DUI charge, a prosecutor must state their reasons in court (CGS § 14-227a(f)).
DUI Statute: BAC Tests
A police officer may measure a motorist’s BAC by testing the driver’s blood, breath, or urine. The law establishes a rebuttable presumption that a driver’s BAC at the time it is tested is the same as the BAC at the time they were stopped. The law requires two tests at least 10 minutes apart. If the result of the second test is .10% or less, and higher than the first test, the prosecution must demonstrate that the test results and analysis accurately reflect the driver’s BAC at the time of the alleged offense (CGS § 14-227a(b)).
DUI Statute: Penalties
A person convicted of DUI is subject to the criminal penalties listed in Table 1. In assessing these penalties, the law considers a subsequent conviction that occurs within 10 years of a prior conviction for the same offense (CGS § 14-227a(g)).
The law allows the Department of Correction (DOC) commissioner to release an inmate sentenced for DUI. This happens after admission and conducting a risk and needs assessment, to the inmate’s home. The released offender cannot leave their home without authorization. They remain in DOC custody and supervision by DOC employees. The DOC commissioner can revoke the release and return the person to prison for violating release conditions (CGS § 18-100h(a)).
For second or subsequent DUI convictions, the law requires some things of an offender. First, they must submit to an alcohol or drug abuse assessment through the Judicial Branch’s Court Support Services Division (CSSD). Second, they must undergo a treatment program if ordered to do so by the court.
The license suspension is stayed while a conviction is appealed. For motorists driving under a special operator’s permit (described below) suspension periods double.
Suspension for conviction of a criminal DUI charge is in addition to any previously imposed administrative license suspension under the implied consent law (see below). The Connecticut Supreme Court has held that an administrative license suspension is not a bar to criminal prosecution (State v. Hickam, 235 Conn. 614 (1995)).
If the court sentences someone to probation, it may require as a condition that the offender take part in a victim impact panel program approved by CSSD. The panel must provide a nonconfrontational forum for victims of alcohol or drug related offenses and offenders to share experiences on the impact of alcohol or drug related incidents on their lives. The nonprofit organization that conducts the panel may charge a fee of up to $75. This goes for any offender ordered to participate (CGS § 14-227a(l), as amended by PA 12-178).
Also, any conviction that occurs in another state for an offense that the court determines has substantially the same essential elements as Connecticut’s criminal drunk driving offenses, second degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle, or second degree assault with a motor vehicle, will constitute a prior conviction of the same offense for purposes of determining someone’s prior criminal history (CGS § 14-227a(g)).
DUI Statute: Sixteen and Seventeen Year Old Drivers
The law imposes stricter rules on 16 and 17-year-old drivers driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This is also the case for these drivers driving with an elevated BAC (which for them is .02% or more). Under these conditions, the police officer must seize the driver’s license for 48 hours and have the vehicle removed. The license is considered suspended for 48 hours, starting when the arrest is made or the summons issued.
To regain the license, the 16 or 17-year-old and, unless they are an emancipated minor, their parent or legal guardian, must, after the 48-hour period ends, appear in person at the police department, state police barracks, or other designated location and sign a written acknowledgement of its return. No restoration fee may be charged for return of the license. The police officer who seized the license must send a written report of the violation and the suspension to the DMV commissioner (CGS § 14-36i(b)).
A driver under age 18 who is arrested for DUI is not eligible for youthful offender status (CGS § 54-76b).
DUI Statute: Ignition Interlock Device
Ignition interlock devices are installed in motor vehicles to prevent people from driving under the influence of alcohol. They require the driver to breathe into them to operate the vehicle. If the device detects a BAC above a certain threshold (.025% in Connecticut), it prevents the vehicle from being started. Interlock devices also require the driver to submit periodic breath samples while they are driving. Offenders must pay DMV a $100 fee before the device is installed; DMV uses this money to administer the interlock program. Offenders also must pay the costs of installing and maintaining the devices (CGS § 14-227a(i)).
By law, the DMV must suspend the license of all people convicted of DUI for 45 days (except for drivers under age 21, whose license is suspended until that age, if longer than 45 days). The following interlock restrictions apply once the license suspension ends. (However, the commissioner may extend, through regulations they adopt, periods of required interlock use beyond those the law requires (CGS § 14-227a (i) (10)).
DUI Statute: First and Second Time DUI Offenders
First-time offenders must drive only vehicles equipped with ignition interlocks for one year. Second-time offenders (age 21 or older) must drive only interlock-equipped vehicles for three years.
During the first year of the three-year period, second-time offenders may only drive interlock-equipped vehicles to or from (1) work, (2) school, (3) an alcohol or drug abuse treatment program, or (4) an ignition interlock service center. The commissioner must note this restriction on the driver’s electronic records (license and driving history), just as for other ignition interlock requirements.
First and second-time offenders must verify to the commissioner, in a manner determined, that they have had the interlock devices installed (CGS § 14-227a(i), as amended by PA 12-178).
The law requires individuals convicted for a second or subsequent time of DUI to (1) submit to an alcohol or drug abuse assessment through CSSD and (2) undergo a treatment program if ordered to do so by the court (CGS § 14-111(i)(2), as amended by PA 12-178).
DUI Statute: Third Time or Subsequent DUI Offenders
The law requires the DMV to revoke the license of third-time and subsequent offenders, although, starting January 1, 2013, it allows the offender to request that the DMV restore the license after two years. The commissioner may restore the license if they determine that doing so does not endanger public safety, the individual has met certain requirements, and on the condition that the offender drives only vehicles equipped with interlocks for as long as they continue to drive. But the law also allows an offender to ask the commissioner to lift the interlock requirement after 15 years, and allows the commissioner to do so after a hearing and for good cause.
The same provisions apply through December 31, 2012, except that (1) an offender may apply for reinstatement after six, rather than two, years; (2) after reinstatement, the offender must drive only interlock-equipped vehicles for 10 years, rather than for as long as they drive; and (3) there is no provision allowing the commissioner to remove the interlock requirement.
Third-time and subsequent offenders also must submit to the same drug and alcohol assessment as second-time offenders.
Implied Consent to Test (CGS § 14-227b)
Anyone who drives implicitly consents to the testing of their blood, breath, or urine. If the driver is a minor, their parents or guardians are considered to have given their consent. Before administering the test, the police officer must:
1. Inform the driver of their constitutional rights;
2. Give the driver a chance to call a lawyer;
3. Inform the driver that their license will be suspended if they refuse to take the test, or if the test results indicate an elevated BAC; and
4. Inform the driver that evidence of a refusal may be used against them in a criminal prosecution.