Common Questions About Connecticut DUI
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What should I know about the offense of driving under the influence (DUI) in Connecticut?
Do you have questions about the offense of driving under the influence (DUI) in the state of Connecticut? If so, you have come to the right place. Our Fairfield County criminal defense attorneys at Bayer & Black, P.C. have extensive knowledge of Connecticut's DUI laws and of the legal practice area of DUI defense. Below, we have provided answers to a few frequently asked questions concerning DUI. We can also help you answer additional questions after you reach out to our firm!
What constitutes a DUI offense?
In Connecticut, a DUI offense occurs when a person operates a motor vehicle while he or she is under the influence of:
- An intoxicating liquor
- A drug, or
- Both types of substances
DUI can also be charged in cases where the driver has a blood alcohol content that is at or above the legal limit. For most drivers, the legal limit is 0.08%. However, commercial drivers have a legal limit of 0.04%, and drivers who are younger than 21 years of age have a legal limit of 0.02%.
Can I get a DUI for driving while on medication?
The answer is "Yes" if you are determined by law enforcement to be under the influence of your prescription drugs. In fact, you can even be arrested for allegedly being impaired by over-the-counter drugs, such as cough medicine that makes you drowsy. Individuals who take medications are expected to refrain from driving if the known side effects of their drugs include drowsiness or other impairment of their physical and/or mental abilities.
Are there any programs I can go through to avoid conviction?
Yes. In your case, your lawyer may be able to negotiate with prosecutors or the judge to get you into a pre-trial Impaired Driver Intervention Program (IDIP). This may take the form of classes that last 12 consecutive weeks meeting once a week, or it may take the form of an actual treatment program. In some cases the court will allow a weekend program in lieu of the classes. Completion of the IDIP allows you to have your DUI charges dismissed. In order to qualify, you must either be facing DUI charges for the first time (no prior convictions), or you must not have gone through the program within the past 10 years if you have used a similar program previously.
What is an ignition interlock device?
An ignition interlock device (IID) is a breath test device installed in your motor vehicle. This device requires the driver to submit a breath sample, which is used to determine the individual's blood alcohol content. If the driver has a certain amount of alcohol in his or her system, the vehicle's engine will not start. The IID records the results of the breath test, which are reviewed by law enforcement. Under Connecticut law, people who are convicted for DUI offenses must install IIDs in their vehicles for a certain period of time. The IID requirement follows a 45 day suspension. You may be eligible for a work permit during that 45 day period.
What should I do after being arrested for DUI?
First, write down all the facts you can remember. Exactly where you were stopped. The time you were stopped. The reason given for pulling you over. Questions you were asked by the officer. What you ate that day and when. Whether you were taking any medication. Where you were coming from and where you were going. How do you recall behaving at police department. While sitting in the holding cell. Next, Have all of your paperwork reviewed by an experienced DUI attorney and become familiar with your options and likely outcomes.
Do I Need a Lawyer for My Case?
Hiring a lawyer for the less serious criminal case is usually a cost-benefit analysis for many people, especially those people on a budget. Not every person can afford a lawyer in every situation. When people call me for advice or respond to my marketing I give them an honest assessment of what benefit a lawyer will provide. Every case can benefit from a lawyer in the sense that every now and then a lawyer will spot mistakes or omissions that may result in the case being dropped, or the lawyer can convince the prosecutor to drop the charge due to some other reason.
In many less serious cases, however, especially cases that are eligible for diversionary programs, the program will be granted, or a similar result will be reached, whether you have a lawyer or don't have a lawyer. So, if that is the case why use a lawyer? For many people it removes the unknown from the process and answers questions including:
- When do I get there?
- Where do I stand?
- Who do I talk to?
- Do I sign up somewhere?
- What forms do I need?
- How do I fill them out?
- What is a bail commissioner?
- Where is probation?
- How much will it all cost?
- What do I say? (Or more importantly sometimes is what shouldn't I say!)
Having an attorney also typically gets you in and out of the courthouse much faster, and it removes the fear of speaking or addressing a judge in open court. If these benefits aren't worth it or you are comfortable navigating the unknown then in many cases you won't need a lawyer. Peace of mind is great for those who can afford it.
Beware of the lawyer you consult who tells you "if you're convicted of that charge you could get up to XYZ year(s) or months in jail." Good lawyers won't do that. There is no need to scare people into using legal services but I hear about it happening all too often.
If I am arrested on suspicion of DUI, should I take a breath test?
To take a test or not to take a test, that is the question! It is the source of many late night telephone calls. Ask 10 lawyers the same question and you may get 10 slightly different answers. The only correct answer is "it depends." There are so many fact specific scenarios that the subject can only be treated generally with some rules of thumb.
Implied Consent Law in Connecticut
In Connecticut there is an implied consent law. That means that if you choose to drive a vehicle in Connecticut and get pulled over you have agreed to take a chemical test of the officer's choosing if that stop results in an arrest for operating under the influence. The three types of tests are breath, urine and blood. The person arrested has no input into which test the police officer uses. It is the officers choice. The vast majority of cases involve breath tests so that is what we will discuss here.
Consequences of Refusing to Take a Chemical Test
If you refuse to take the test chosen by the officer then your right to drive in Connecticut will be suspended for a period of no less than 6 months without the ability to apply for a work/school permit for the first 90 days of that 6 month period. While there are worse things than getting your right to operate suspended it is a significant and costly consequence of your decision to refuse a test. The decision to take or refuse the test must be made almost immediately after you arrive back at the police department after being arrested and transported back to the station.
Consequences of Failing a Breath Test or Other Chemical Test
If you decide to take the breath test, and fail, and you have never had your license suspended for an alcohol related arrest in the past then you will lose your license for a maximum period of 120 days for a breath test .16 or higher and for a period of 90 days for result under .16. A result of .16 is twice the legal limit of .08. In either of those cases you will have the right to get a work or school travel permit from day 1 of the suspension unlike in the refusal scenario which has the 90 day waiting period.
What is the downside of taking the test? A failed breath test is a significant obstacle in fighting the operating under the influence (OUI) charge. There are two ways to be charged with OUI in Connecticut. The first is using the objective observations of the police officer such as erratic driving, odor of alcohol, bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, difficulty finding paperwork, unsteady on feet, failure to follow instructions, disoriented, and most importantly performance of standardized field sobriety tests such as horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGH), walk and turn and one-legged stand. The second is a failed chemical test. So, by taking and failing the test you make it much easier for the prosecutor to prove an OUI case against you. That is the downside.
Reasons to Take a Breath Test
Why would anyone take the test if it makes it easier for the prosecutor to prove the case? Because if the arrest is the first time you have been arrested for OUI, by taking the test, you limit the length of the suspension of your driver's license and preserve the ability to get a work/school permit without a waiting period. Further, if it is your first arrest you will be eligible for a diversionary program called the Alcohol Education Program (AEP). This means that if you complete this one year program the charges get dismissed and you will not have a a further license suspension as the result of a conviction.
Reasons to Avoid Taking a Breath Test
However, if you are not eligible for the AEP than you may not qualify for a work permit either if you have previously had your license suspended for an OUI charge in the past and will likely face an additional license suspension suspension of no less than one year in the future if you plead guilty to an OUI. Therefore, the benefits of taking the test for a person who will not be eligible for AEP drop significantly. Therefore, if this is not your first arrest for OUI refusing the test may be in your best interest in order to provide your attorney the best chance to fight the charge.
Are there times that even a first time offender should refuse to take the test? If you have been involved in an accident and there is the risk of that accident having resulted in serious injury or death to another person than you may not want to take the test as you may be charged with more serious offenses than OUI such as Assault in the 2nd degree with a motor vehicle or vehicular manslaughter.
In all of the above cases you know how much you have had to drink. Therefore, even in those cases where a refusal may seem the better course based upon your past history if you know you have not been drinking or have only had an amount to drink that would be unlikely to put you over the legal limit than you may still want to submit to the test.
Contact a Trusted Criminal Defense Attorney to Help You Make the Decision
The best advice is to keep the mobile telephone number or pager of a trusted criminal defense attorney in your wallet at all times. If you don't have the ability to contact your lawyer after hours than that person isn't much help to you as you are required to make real time decisions that cannot wait for him or her to get back to you the next day or even the next hour. Having my mobile phone on 24/7 may result in some lost sleep but preserving your freedom isn't a 9-5 job.