When you are arrested for DUI in the state of Connecticut, the arresting agency must report the arrest to the Connecticut DMV. The arresting agency is usually the state police or a town/city Police Department. The DMV will process your information. They will get a copy of the police report from the arresting agency. They will then send you a notice by mail. This letter lets you know that they are suspending your license. You should get this letter within 30 days from the date of the arrest.
The reason the DMV is allowed to do this is because of the State’s implied consent law. The implied consent law states that whenever you drive on the roads in Connecticut, submit to a chemical test of your blood, breath, or urine. If you fail this test, or refuse to give a sample, the DMV can strip you of your privilege to drive. They will strip this privilege for a specified time period.
Per Se License Suspension
The DMV will issue an automatic administrative per se license suspension. A per se hearing is an opportunity to try to save your driver’s license from further suspension. The per se hearings are held based on four issues:
- Did the police officer have probable cause to arrest you?
- Were you placed under arrest?
- Did you refuse to submit to a test or analysis?
- Did you submit to a test within two hours of the time of vehicular with BAC results of .08 or higher?
- Were you the person operating the motor vehicle?
Burden of Proof
In a criminal case, the standard burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt. However, in an administrative hearing, the burden is much lower. Connecticut simply has to prove the elements of the offense against to be more likely true than not true. This is referred to as a “preponderance of the evidence”. The burden is on you to prove that the decision by the DMV to suspend your license is wrong based on the evidence. There must be substantial evidence in the record to support the DMV commissioner’s findings.
Right vs. Privilege
The reason why Connecticut can do this is because driving is a privilege. It is not a Constitutional right. This means that the State can rescind this privilege. What this means is that you are responsible for providing enough evidence to counter the State’s reports. Many of my clients will ask me if the State’s action to suspend their license in addition to pursuing jail time amounts to double jeopardy. The answer, for now, is no.
Over 20 years ago, a number of citizens throughout the United States thought it was double jeopardy. A woman named Wendy Hickam appealed her case based on this issue after she lost her license. The court ruled that driving is not a constitutional right protected by either the state or federal Constitution. The court held that because a driver’s license is a privilege and not a Constitutional right, taking it away does not constitute double jeopardy. The reasoning of the judges was based on the idea that Connecticut has a compelling interest to keep drunk drivers off the roads.
There are defenses to the DMV process. But, and if you do not fight the DMV suspension, you will automatically lose. This is because the suspension will go through. During the per se hearings, there often are issues like the legitimacy of a refusal of a breath testing device test and the time window of the test. One of the ways a DUI attorney can try to restore your driver’s license is to bring in the arresting police officers for cross-examination. Don’t take the decision to subpoena an officer to a hearing lightly. The officer’s testimony could jeopardize possible defenses to the criminal portion of your case. Only an experienced DUI attorney who has a better sense of the outcome of the decision is qualified to make that determination.