Important DUI Cases That Have Impacted DUI Law

Understanding DUI law can be complex. Here are five important DUI cases that can help you if you are faced with a DUI of your own.

In Connecticut, there are a few DUI cases that you should be familiar with as someone charged with DUI. These cases have set rules and laws out that you will run into as someone facing a DUI. Understanding these cases will help you understand the process of getting and fighting a DUI in Connecticut.

State v. Haight

The first case that I will discuss is State v. Haight. If you were charged with a DUI but you were not driving, this case applies to your situation. You can learn more about State v. Haight here.

The Situation

Anyone facing a DUI charge is probably upset by the situation. But, you might be even more upset if you got charged for a DUI and you weren’t operating a motor vehicle. The reason that you can get charged for this is because of the State v. Haight ruling. In this case, the question was whether someone could or could not get charged for a DUI if that person is asleep in a parked car with the keys in the ignition, but the engine not engaged. This was what happened in the 2001 Connecticut case.

The defendant, Haight, was found asleep in his car by the police. The car was parked on a street. The engine was not on, but the headlights were on and the keys were in the ignition. The police arrested Haight, and when given the breath test, he failed. After failing the breath test, he was charged with driving under the influence.

The Ruling

Six months later, Haight filed a motion to dismiss related to the case. He claimed that the state did not have enough evidence to prosecute him, since he was not actually driving a motor vehicle when he was arrested. The court denied the motion to dismiss. The court argued that there was enough evidence to try the defendant for DUI. They also determined that “operating a motor vehicle” doesn’t just mean driving the vehicle. It could also include sitting in a vehicle that has the key in the ignition.

In State v. Haight, the court determined that it is up to the trier of fact in situations such as this one to determine if the defendant was operating the motor vehicle or not. So, similar cases will be built on the evidence involved in that case.

If you find yourself in a similar situation to State v. Haight, this case has set the precedent for yours. But, this does not mean that the outcome of your case has to be the same as in the Haight case. The specifics of your situation might be different. If this is the case, a good DUI lawyer can build you a solid defense. 

State v. Milotte

Another important case is State v. Milotte, a case that was decided in 2006. This case dealt with how and why police officers can stop drivers on suspicion of drinking and driving. You can learn more about this case and how it could impact your DUI case in this article. 

Stopping a Driver

When a police officer stops a driver, they need to have reasonable and articulable suspicion that the driver is doing something illegal. In the case of driving under the influence, a police officer might use speeding, swerving in and out of lanes, or sudden stops as reasonable and articulable suspicion for a stop. But, in this case, the state argued that there was not enough evidence for the police officer to make a stop. 

In this case, the defendant, Joshua Milotte, was charged with DUI in 2004. But, he was not operating his vehicle in a dangerous or abnormal way. There was no sign of criminal activity and no reports of crime in the area when the police officer stopped Milotte. Milotte filed a motion to suppress evidence because there was not probable cause for the stop. Then, he filed a motion to dismiss the charges, because he believed that there was not enough evidence to prosecute him for DUI. The court granted these motions after they were filed. 

Reasonable and Articulable Suspicion

This case shows that a police officer’s suspicion of DUI or similar criminal activity based on speculation is not enough to warrant a stop. The police officer has to have concrete evidence or suspicion that drinking and driving is happening. If they do not have reasonable and articulate suspicion for a stop, they cannot legally make one. Reasonable and articulate suspicion includes:

  • Failure to maintain lane position.
  • Abrupt stops.
  • Failure to stop, resulting in collision with other objects or people. 
  • Driving at a speed that is too slow or too fast.
  • Making illegal turns.
  • Lack of awareness of surroundings. 

These are a few of the major signs that a police officer will look for if they suspect that a person has been drinking and driving. A police officer needs to give this evidence in their arrest report. They also will be asked to testify about the reasons for their arrest in court. If a police officer stops you and charges you for DUI without reasonable and articulable evidence, you should fight the charges. You can use the ruling in State v. Milotte as evidence of your innocence. 

State v. Coughlin

If charged with a DUI, you probably had blood drawn to determine your blood alcohol content. But, the state of Connecticut has strict laws about the procedure for drawing blood or testing for blood alcohol content. If the proper procedure is not followed, the results of the tests could become inadmissible in court. This is what the defendant tried to argue in the case State v. Coughlin. You can learn more about this case and how it affects your possible DUI defense here. 

State v. Coughlin Facts

In 1996, Kevin Coughlin faced charges for assault with a motor vehicle in the second degree and DUI. Coughlin and his attorneys built their defense on the fact that the blood test he took was inadmissible in court. He argued that the evidence of his blood alcohol content did not comply with Connecticut statute and proper procedure. He also argued that the person who drew his blood might not be a registered nurse. Also, the defense argued that the lab report was inaccurate. 

Findings

While the court ruled against Coughlin’s defenses, his arguments bring up valid points. He was not able to satisfactorily prove that his blood was drawn and analyzed improperly. But, in other cases, this could happen. If your blood was not drawn by a registered nurse, or if protocol got broken in some other way, you can use this as a defense. While this might not get your case dismissed, it can make certain evidence inadmissible. This can make your case stronger. 

Building Your Defense

When evidence is improperly processed, it might become inadmissible in court. You need someone who can review the facts of your case to determine if this has happened in your situation. 

To see if any of these defenses apply to your case, contact a DUI lawyer such as myself.

State v. Ducatt

In State v. Ducatt, 22 Conn. App. 88, 575 A.2d 708, cert. denied, 217 Conn. 804, 584 A.2d 472 (1990). The Appellate court addressed the issue of what constitutes operation of a motor vehicle within the meaning of § 14-227a (a) (1). They concluded that an individual, “operates a motor vehicle within the meaning of General Statutes § 14-227a (a) when, while under the influence of alcohol or any drug and while in the vehicle and in a position to control its movements, he manipulates, for any purpose, the machinery of the motor or any other machinery manipulable from the driver’s position that affects or could affect the vehicle’s movement, whether the accused moves the vehicle or not.”

The statute does not require that intent to move the vehicle get established. This established the “keys in the ignition” rule. The rule determines whether a car is “in operation” or not. The car never even has to move. Or, a person never has to give the car gas, and the element of “operation gets.”

State v. Nokes

In State v. Nokes, the court held that although the language calls for a rebuttable presumption for the chemical evidence to go to the jury, it should be charged as a permissive inference in the jury charge so as to not shift the burden of the evidence away from the prosecution.

State v. Kirsch

When State v. Kirsch is read in conjunction with Coughlin, it is apparent that from now on, all blood tests done at hospitals will come in against the defendant. Kirsh argued that the mere acceptance of the blood test because it was qualified under statute 52-180 was in error because it still did not obviate the need for a Porter hearing on the methodology of the blood analysis. The Supreme Court agreed with the premise, however, the Supreme Court also found that the methodology of blood collection in the hospital was a sound and scientifically valid method used for at least 15 years in the diagnosis and treatment of patients. In essence, the Supreme Court has then permanently permitted Blood evidence of intoxication.

McCoy v. Commissioner of Public Safety

McCoy v. Commissioner of Public Safety (2011) upheld the belief that a second DUI conviction within 10 years of the first is considered a felony offense in the state of Connecticut.

ATTORNEY TERESA DINARDI

My name is Teresa, and I am a DUI lawyer, but that is only part of who I am. I have been practicing law in Connecticut since 2006.

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