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Constitutional Issues in DUI Cases

What are the most common constitutional issues at play in a Connecticut DUI case? You can learn what happens when a police officer suspects you of driving under the influence as well as constitutional protections that you enjoy on this page.


In Connecticut, there are many constitutional issues to consider if you are involved in a DUI case.

It is a violation of the statute C.G.S. §14-227a to operate a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Typically, a DUI case will start out with an officer pulling a driver over for some kind of motor vehicle infraction such as swerving, driving without headlights, or failing to stop at a stop sign. Once pulled over, the officer will observe the driver’s speech, behavior, and physical characteristics. Things like the smell of alcohol, bloodshot and glassy eyes, and slurred speech will make the officer suspicious.

Constitutional Issues – What Happens When the Police Suspect You of DUI?

The officer may then request that the driver perform field sobriety tests, including a horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, walk-and-turn test, and one-leg-stand test. The officer will further observe the driver’s behavior during these tests and will look for markers on a checklist.

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The driver begins the field sobriety tests at zero and each time the driver does something wrong, the score will fall below zero. If there are enough markers at the end of the three tests, the officer will count the markers up and determine if the driver failed the test. The officer will arrest the driver after determining that there is enough “evidence” that can be articulated to suspect that the driver was 1) operating the motor vehicle, 2) while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

After a DUI arrest, the arresting officer will transport the driver to a local police station and book that person and place them in a holding cell. The officer will then request that the driver perform a BAC test in the form of a breath, urine, or blood sample. A failed BAC test or a refusal will be noted and can be used as evidence in the DUI case. A failed BAC test will constitute a .08% for drivers over the age of 21 with a regular driver’s license, a .04% for CDL drivers, and a .02% for drivers under the age of 21. The arresting agency will notify the DMV of the failed or refused BAC test. The arrest will also go to the court system, where a state’s attorney will prosecute the driver for a violation of C.G.S. §14-227a.

Constitutional Issues and Protections

Every driver is protected by certain rights that are guaranteed by the Constitution and Connecticut’s state constitution. Violation of these rights are constitutional issues. The Fourth Amendment protects U.S citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures. This is relevant to DUI cases because police officers cannot just pull drivers over and arrest them without probable cause. The primary constitutional issues in a DUI case are whether the arresting officer had probable cause to stop the person and come into contact with them in the first place. Anything that occurs after an unlawful stop such as field sobriety tests, observations, and BAC tests become unlawful and useless to a DUI case.

Probable cause means that a police officer must have a justified reason that they can articulate in the police report in order to stop someone. In other words, an officer cannot pull a driver over unless the officer has a reasonable suspicion that the driver of the vehicle violated the law in some way. This standard is not very high, as a mere traffic violation can satisfy reasonable suspicion. Any traffic violation like swerving between lanes, driving without headlights, or failing to stop at a stop sign can constitute reasonable suspicion. Also, a traffic accident that leads to the appearance of a police officer who observes signs of intoxication will satisfy this standard.

Anything that is obtained subsequent to an unlawful stop will be subjected to what is called the exclusionary rule. The exclusionary rule requires the court not to use evidence that is gathered by the police after an unlawful search, that is, a search that is conducted after an officer stops a driver without any reasonable suspicion. If you have been arrested for a DUI and believe that your constitutional rights have been violated due to a constitutional issue, this could be grounds to get your DUI criminal case dismissed. Contact Lady DUI to speak with an attorney about your case.

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