Understanding the criminal charges against you is a good way to start breaking down what happens in a DUI case. Connecticut’s DUI laws are different from other states, and you need to know specifically what they are and how they will impact your case.
In order to understand what happened when you were arrested, you need to know what the law is. Connecticut DUI law is basically two statutes: 14-227a and 14-227b. You probably have already seen these on the paperwork you were given by the police after your arrest. The first statute, 14-227a, prohibits a person from driving:
- “under the influence” of alcohol or drugs, or
- with an “elevated blood alcohol content”.
You may have heard terms such as DWI (Driving While Impaired); DUII (Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants); OUI (Operating Under the Influence) and OWI (Operating While Intoxicated). These terms in Connecticut refer to the 14-227 statute.
For the purposes of the statute, a person is “under the influence” if his or her ability to drive is influenced to a measurable degree. The blood alcohol content (BAC) for each driver in terms of the limit depends upon the age of the driver as well as the type of vehicle driven. An elevated BAC is:
- .08 for drivers over the age of 21.
- .02 for drivers under the age of 21.
- .04 for drivers operating commercial vehicles such as a large truck.
Many of my clients learn about the implications of their behavior in relation to the law after their arrest. According to the case of Infield v. Sullivan, 151 Conn. 506 (1964), a person is “under the influence” if the ability to operate a motor vehicle is affected to an appreciable degree. You can be prosecuted without any evidence of your BAC. Also, DUI law applies to Connecticut drivers operating motor vehicles off-road as well, including snowmobiles and ATVs.
The court’s interpretation of intent is unknown to many Connecticut residents and I have seen many clients suffer from this interpretation. In the case of State v. Ducatt, 22 Conn. App. 88, the Appellate court addressed the “keys in the ignition” rule as whether a car is being operated. For the purposes of the DUI statute, having the keys in the ignition meets the legal element of operation. Again, the car doesn’t even need to move and the driver doesn’t have to give the car gas; simply having the keys in the ignition legally meets the legal test of operation.
The second law, 14-227b, is what is referred to as an “implied consent” law. In Connecticut, licensed drivers essentially consent to be tested for alcohol or drugs when they operate motor vehicles on Connecticut roadways. The law also establishes license suspension procedures by the DMV for drivers who refuse to take a test for drugs or alcohol. This is called an “administrative per se” suspension by the DMV, also called APS or “on the spot” license suspension. These DUI laws have specific evidentiary admissibility for alcohol and drug tests and guidelines for criminal penalties and license suspensions.
Criminal punishments include fines, prison time, and license suspensions. By the law of Connecticut, the Department of Motor Vehicles has to impose a 45-day license suspension for those drivers aged 21 and older convicted of DUI. Once re-instated, those convicted can only drive a vehicle with an “ignition interlock device” (IID) for a mandated period of time depending on the total number of prior convictions.
(h) Suspension of operator’s license or nonresident operating privilege. (1) Each court shall report each conviction under subsection (a) of this section to the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles, in accordance with the provisions of section 14-141. The commissioner shall suspend the motor vehicle operator’s license or nonresident operating privilege of the person reported as convicted for the period of time required by subsection (g) of this section. The commissioner shall determine the period of time required by said subsection (g) based on the number of convictions such person has had within the specified time period according to such person’s driving history record, notwithstanding the sentence imposed by the court for such conviction. (2) The motor vehicle operator’s license or nonresident operating privilege of a person found guilty under subsection (a) of this section who is under eighteen years of age shall be suspended by the commissioner for the period of time set forth in subsection (g) of this section, or until such person attains the age of eighteen years, whichever period is longer. (3) The motor vehicle operator’s license or nonresident operating privilege of a person found guilty under subsection (a) of this section who, at the time of the offense, was operating a motor vehicle in accordance with a special operator’s permit issued pursuant to section 14-37a shall be suspended by the commissioner for twice the period of time set forth in subsection (g) of this section. (4) If an appeal of any conviction under subsection (a) of this section is taken, the suspension of the motor vehicle operator’s license or nonresident operating privilege by the commissioner, in accordance with this subsection, shall be stayed during the pendency of such appeal.
(i) Installation of ignition interlock device. (1) The Commissioner of Motor Vehicles shall permit a person whose license has been suspended in accordance with the provisions of subparagraph (C)(ii) of subdivision (2) of subsection (g) of this section to operate a motor vehicle if (A) such person has served not less than one year of suchsuspension, and (B) such person has installed an approved ignition interlock device in each motor vehicle owned or to be operated by such person. No person whose license is suspended by the commissioner for any other reason or who has not enrolled in the treatment program established under section 14-227f or obtained a waiver from the requirement to participate in such program pursuant to subsection (c) of said section 14-227f, shall be eligible to operate a motor vehicle equipped with an approved ignition interlock device. (2) If the commissioner determines that any person whose license has been suspended in accordance with the provisions of subsection (h) of this section may have a condition that would render such person incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle, the commissioner may, as a condition of the reinstatement of such license, require that such person only operate a motor vehicle that is equipped with a functioning, approved ignition interlock device for such period of time as may be prescribed by the commissioner. (3) All costs of installing and maintaining an ignition interlock device shall be borne by the person required to install such device. (4) The commissioner shall adopt regulations, in accordance with the provisions of chapter 54, to implement the provisions of this subsection. The regulations shall establish procedures for the approval of ignition interlock devices, for the proper calibration and maintenance of such devices and for the installation of such devices by any firm approved and authorized by the commissioner. (5) The provisions of this subsection shall not be construed to authorize the continued operation of a motor vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock device by any person whose operator’s license or nonresident operating privilege is withdrawn, suspended or revoked. (6) The provisions of this subsection shall apply to any person whose license has been suspended in accordance with the provisions of subparagraph (C)(ii) of subdivision (2) of subsection (g) of this section on or after September 1, 2003.
(j) Participation in alcohol education and treatment program. In addition to any fine or sentence imposed pursuant to the provisions of subsection (g) of this section, the court may order such person to participate in an alcohol education and treatment program.
(k) Seizure and admissibility of medical records of injured operator. Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (b) of this section, evidence respecting the amount of alcohol or drug in the blood or urine of an operator of a motor vehicle involved in an accident who has suffered or allegedly suffered physical injury in such accident, which evidence is derived from a chemical analysis of a blood sample taken from or a urine sample provided by such person after such accident at the scene of the accident, while en route to a hospital or at a hospital, shall be competent evidence to establish probable cause for the arrest by warrant of such person for a violation of subsection (a) of this section and shall be admissible and competent in any subsequent prosecution thereof if: (1) The blood sample was taken or the urine sample was provided for the diagnosis and treatment of such injury; (2) if a blood sample was taken, the blood sample was taken in accordance with the regulations adopted under subsection (d) of this section; (3) a police officer has demonstrated to the satisfaction of a judge of the Superior Court that such officer has reason to believe that such person was operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drug or both and that the chemical analysis of such blood or urine sample constitutes evidence of the commission of the offense of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drug or both in violation of subsection (a) of this section; and (4) such judge has issued a search warrant in accordance with section 54-33a authorizing the seizure of the chemical analysis of such blood or urine sample. Such search warrant may also authorize the seizure of the medical records prepared by the hospital in connection with the diagnosis or treatment of such injury.
(l) Participation in victim impact panel program. If the court sentences a person convicted of a violation of subsection (a) of this section to a period of probation, the court may require as a condition of such probation that such person participate in a victim impact panel program approved by the Court Support Services Division of the Judicial Department. Such victim impact panel program shall provide a nonconfrontational forum for the victims of alcohol-related or drug-related offenses and offenders to share experiences on the impact of alcohol-related or drug-related incidents in their lives. Such victim impact panel program shall be conducted by a nonprofit organization that advocates on behalf of victims of accidents caused by persons who operated a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug, or both. Such organization may assess a participation fee of not more than twenty-five dollars on any person required by the court to participate in such program.