In Connecticut, if you are 21 or older, you are legally intoxicated if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is at .08 or higher. Connecticut has an implied consent law. The law states that in passing a driver’s license test and choosing to operate a motor vehicle, every person has consented to take a test to determine their blood alcohol content. This is the case at any time while they are operating a motor vehicle. A person who operates a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs will face criminal and administrative charges. The criminal charges require an appearance in court to face prosecution 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. But, both carry serious penalties.
If arrested for a DUI in the state of Connecticut:
- You get detained by the police and read your rights.
- The police will handcuff you.
- Your vehicle gets searched.
- Your vehicle gets towed at your expense.
- A police officer will take you to the police station.
- You must submit to a BAC test.
- You stay in a police lock-up until you get bailed out or released by a judge through an arraignment.
At the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles (the DMV) all applications for new licenses and renewals are reviewed. They are checked for previous DUI convictions in other states. They also check for 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.
Connecticut uses many different techniques when detecting and apprehending drunk drivers, including:
- Sobriety checkpoints.
- Blanket patrols.
- Publicized enforcement campaigns.
- Standardized field sobriety testing (SFST).
- Preliminary breath tests.
- Mobile videotaping.
- Psychological tests.
- BAT mobiles.
Identifying drunk drivers who continue the same behavior of heavy drinking followed by driving seeks to keep reoffenders off the roads. The state of Connecticut has nearly 2.7 million drivers. On average, there are about 10,000 DUI arrests each year. The majority of DUI arrests are a result of the consumption of alcohol. But, it is important to note that driving under the influence extends to drug use as well. You could face a DUI arrest as a result of recreational drug use or prescription drug use.
If pulled over and suspected of driving under the influence, a police officer might ask you to submit to a breath test. Even if the breath test comes back negative, you can still face arrest for DUI. This happens if you fail a field sobriety test or if the police has other evidence against you. This is due to the fact that some medication or other drugs do not show up on the breathalyzer test. A police officer can still determine that you are driving under the influence and arrest you as a result. Once arrested, the police might request to check your blood or urine.
Driving Under Influence of Marijuana
Illegal substances can affect your judgment and perception, leading to a DUI charge. Currently, it is difficult to make a DUI charge stick when the driver in question is under the influence of marijuana. This is because unlike alcohol, marijuana is difficult to detect. There is no roadside test that accurately shows the amount of marijuana that is in the driver’s system, leaving holes in the case that a good DUI lawyer can expose. Furthermore, THC (the main psychoactive agent in marijuana) can stay in a person’s system for weeks after initially introduced to the body. Even if a blood or urine test that you take at the station indicates that you have THC in your system, it is difficult for police officers to determine when the drug was taken and if the drug impaired driving.
Currently, police officers look for signals such as the smell of marijuana, coordination, redness of eyes, slurring speech, etc. in order to determine if a person is driving while under the influence of drugs. But again, this evidence is not concrete and can easily be refuted in court (ex. did the driver in question have red eyes because they were high, or because they have allergies?). In recognition of the lack of effective marijuana tests, many scientists want to create an accurate marijuana test equivalent to the alcohol breathalyzer.
Tests for Marijuana
We are still a long way away from seeing an accurate drugged driving roadside test. Scientists are working on a saliva test that would ideally detect if a driver has recently used marijuana. While this is a step towards progress, saliva tests are still far from reliable. Perfecting such a test will take years. Another breathalyzer-like test is being invented in Sweden. The test is called SensAbues. It has been used to identify substances such as marijuana and cocaine on a person’s breath. While this test can identify drug use within the last 24 hours, the flaw with SensAbues is that it is not an instant test. The test must go to a laboratory in order for the results to get processed.
Police officers, judges, and scientists recognize that accurately identifying drugged drivers is a problem. They know that this affects the safety of our roads. Drivers under the influence of marijuana and other drugs sometimes don’t face conviction due to the lack of accurate, immediate drug tests. While scientists work on a marijuana breathalyzer, there is currently no such test that produces concrete results.
Just because you have a prescription for medication does not mean that you won’t face DUI charges if pulled over for driving recklessly. You should not take some prescribed medication before driving because it can impair your judgment, perception, and coordination. If on medication that makes you act differently than you normally do, you could act differently than normal. Also, this could cause an officer to pull you over.
Once you get pulled over, a police officer will notice any abnormal behavior. This includes drowsiness that could result from certain types of allergy or asthma medication, tranquilizers, pain medication, or stress-relief medication. While it might be perfectly legal for you to take this medication, you might not be allowed to drive after taking the medication and could face a DUI as a result.
Any person convicted of DUI will have at risk driver imprinted on the back of their license to easily identify them. For first time offenders, there is a chance, however, to enter into a diversion program. The offender could enter into a pre-trial education program for alcohol abuse. Also, it is possible for the court to dismiss charges upon completing the program satisfactorily. The rehabilitation can take the form of outpatient or inpatient treatment.
To be eligible for the Alcohol Education Program (AEP), you must fulfill the necessary requirements. First, you can only participate in the program if you are a first-time offender. Or, you can attend if you have not participated in the program in the past ten years. Remember that an out-of-state DUI conviction counts as a first offense in Connecticut.
If you get your first DUI in Connecticut but you have another one in another state, you can’t participate in the AEP. You will be considered ineligible if you have a conviction for assault two with a moving violation, or a conviction for manslaughter with a moving violation. If you participated in this program in another state, or you have one of the previously mentioned convictions from another state, you cannot participate in the AEP. In addition, if the Department of Motor Vehicles suspends your license, you might not be able to enter the program until the suspension is over.
The AEP consists of a 10-week program and a 15-week program. You must get an evaluation before you begin the program to determine if you are more suitable for the 10 or 15-week program. A program evaluator will administer the evaluation. Once accepted into the program, you must attend all classes in order to complete the program. If you fail to cooperate with the program, you will be unable to complete it. Your case might be sent back to court and you could be convicted of the DUI charge. For this reason, it is in your best interest to be compliant and complete all classes. The AEP classes meet for one and one half hours once a week.
In order to participate in the AEP, you must send in $150 to cover your evaluation and determine what program you are best suited for. If the program evaluator decides that you should participate in the 10-week program, you will have to pay an additional $350 for the program. If the evaluation determines that you should participate in the 15-week program, you will have to pay an additional $500. In Connecticut, the AEP is held in Bridgeport, Danbury, East Hartford Enfield, Hartford, Middletown, New Britain, New Haven, Norwich, and Willimantic.
If you do not qualify for the AEP, your case will proceed normally. 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 are found operating any vehicle, you will face a mandatory 30 day jail sentence which cannot be reduced by a judge unless the judge finds mitigating circumstances.