When you are arrested for DUI in the state of Connecticut, two separate cases are being brought against you. The first is through the Connecticut Superior Court. It involves criminal charges. The second is through the Department of Motor Vehicles. It involves your ability to operate a motor vehicle. These cases are largely separate from one another even though both are functions of the state government. In the state of Connecticut, a DUI case begins with an arrest by a police officer. Before this arrest takes place, you need to understand why the police stopped you in the first place.
In order to stop a driver in Connecticut, police need reasonable suspicion. Reasonable suspicion is based on the good faith belief of the police officer that a violation of a law is taking place. Reasonable suspicion gives a police officer the right to briefly detain a person for investigatory purposes. It is important to note that reasonable suspicion requires more than a hunch but less than hard evidence. A series of individual, normal facts can be combined to form the basis for reasonable suspicion. An example would be a person who fits the description of a criminal suspect.
A question many of my clients have is, “Why did the police pull me over?” Many have trouble understanding that reasonable suspicion gives police legal authority to temporarily detain you. But the absence of reasonable suspicion doesn’t require officers to tell you that you can leave. Police officers can use their training and experience to ask uncertain people incriminating questions. While legally voluntary, the police will often use nervousness as an opportunity to gather evidence in an attempt to arrest you. I suggest that in situations in which you are interacting with the police, politely ask a police officer, “Am I free to leave?” If the officer doesn’t give you a straightforward answer or persists in asking questions, continue to ask, “Officer, am I free to leave?”
Simply refusing to answer an officer’s questions does not create reasonable suspicion, but acting nervously and answering questions inconsistently can create reasonable suspicion. Keep in mind that if you are not free to leave, you are being detained. The officer might have some reason to believe you committed a crime and you could be arrested. I recommend that if you are unsure of your answers to any questions, you tell the police that you have decided to remain silent. Say that you would like to see a lawyer.
An arrest is a seizure of a person by the police based on probable cause, which is required based upon your Fourth Amendment rights under the Constitution. To establish probable cause, police officers have to be able to show facts that lead them to believe you committed a crime. A police officer can’t just say, “I thought they were operating a car under the influence.” Specific and articulable facts must be shown to indicate it is more probable than not that you committed a crime. Only judges, operating under a different branch of government than the police, have the final say in court on whether probable cause existed in your case.
In order to arrest someone for a DUI violation, the police officer must believe that the person in question was operating or in actual physical control of a vehicle and was under the influence of alcohol or another drug. In Connecticut, a police officer has to have probable cause to believe you were driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs in order to request a breath or blood sample. When exploring whether a legal challenge is viable, some questions to think about in relation to your case are:
- When were you told by the police you were under arrest?
- Were you handcuffed by the police?
- What did the police officer tell you about your arrest?
- Did the police officer give you any legal advisements in terms of results?
- Were you told by the police that you have the right to remain silent, and that anything that you tell the police can be used against you in a court of law?
- If yes, and you were informed of your rights, where did this take place?
- Were you advised before taking the breath testing device of the DMV consequences for a refusal?
- Did the officer say anything that made you feel as if you were compelled to submit to a test?
- Did the officer demand that you take a specific test?
- What were the officer’s responses to any of your questions?
Breath Testing Device
In regards to the breath testing device, here are some questions that could potentially be important for your case:
- Where were you taken in order to give a breath sample?
- How long were you at the location before taking the breath test?
- Where did you wait prior to taking the breath test?
- Were you continuously observed by the police within 15 minutes prior to taking the breath test?
- Did you have anything in your mouth prior to taking the breath test?
- Were you asked by the police if you had anything in your mouth prior to taking the breath test?
- Did a police officer look in your mouth before you took the test?
- Was anything removed from your mouth before the test?
- Did the officer ask you to say anything if you burped or belched?
- Did you burp or belch prior to taking the test?
- Was your stomach upset prior to taking the test?
- How many people were present when you blew into the machine?
- If there was a refusal, were there two officers present?
- If there was a refusal, did you explicitly tell the police that you are refusing to take the test?
Some questions relating to your medical history may or may not be relevant. For example the results of the breath testing device test and any performance on field sobriety tests. Some questions to think about are:
- Are you currently seeing a physician, and if so, for what?
- Were you taking any prescription or non-prescription drugs at the time of the arrest?
- Do you have diabetes, and if so, did you tell the police that you do?
- Do you have vision problems?