In the state of Connecticut, driving under the influence is a crime that is punishable by the court system as well as the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The court system punishes DUIs under the applicable criminal statutes and imposes punishments like substance abuse treatment, fines, probation, and sometimes jail time. On the other hand, the DMV is responsible for imposing penalties regarding the offender’s driving and driving record in the state. The DMV operates independently from the court system and will impose penalties regardless of the status of the criminal charge.
Connecticut law C.G.S. §14-227a prohibits a person from driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A violation of this statute revolves around whether a person was 1) driving the motor vehicle, 2) while under the influence, 3) of an impairing substance. This violation is dealt with in criminal court.
On the other hand, C.G.S. §14-227b prohibits a person from refusing a blood alcohol content (BAC) test or failing a BAC test. This statute is dealt with in the DMV. The failure of a BAC test or the refusal of it violates the law of implied consent, which states that any driver in the state of Connecticut has implicitly consented to taking a BAC test when they drive on the road. The issues of BAC refusal or failure are handled by the DMV and can be disputed in an administrative hearing with the DMV, rather than in criminal court.
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Under C.G.S. §14-227b, a “failure” of the BAC test can occur in a few different ways:
- Drivers over the age of 21 that hold a regular driver’s license will fail a BAC test if the BAC is found to be .08% or higher.
- Drivers under the age of 21 that hold a regular driver’s license will fail a BAC test if the BAC is found to be .02% or higher.
- Drivers that hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL) will fail a BAC test if the BAC is found to be .04% or higher.
A refusal of the BAC test, where the driver refuses to submit to a blood, breath, or urine test, will result in an automatic violation of C.G.S. §14-227b. After a failure or refusal of a BAC test, the DMV is notified of the violation. The DMV will send the driver a suspension notice, which will inform the driver that their violation will result in license suspension. The suspension notice will include the length of the suspension, as well as when the suspension begins, and how the driver can contest the suspension. Typically, the driver has seven days to respond and request an administrative hearing to contest the license suspension.
A license suspension is required unless the driver wins the administrative hearing. The per se offense of BAC failure will result in a 90-days license suspension for first offenses, nine months for second offenses, and two years for third offenses. For a blood alcohol content of .16% or higher, a first offense will be a 120 day suspension, a second offense will be a 10 month suspension, and a third offense will result in a suspension of 2.5 years. For a first time BAC refusal, the suspension period is six months.
For a secondary offense, the suspension is one year and for a third offense the suspension is three years.. For 16- and 17-year-old drivers, the suspension is one year for a failure of the BAC test, and 18 months for a BAC refusal. Drivers that are 16 or 17 years old will have their license automatically suspended following a DUI arrest and after 48 hours, the driver, accompanied by a parent or guardian, can sign a release to get the license back.
First offenders must then drive with an ignition interlock device (IID) equipped in their vehicle for a year. Second offenders must drive with the IID for three years, with a limitation of driving only to work, school, an IID center, or substance abuse treatment for the first year. Third-time offenders will have their license revoked after a third DUI conviction. Additionally, CDL drivers will lose their CDL for a year following a DUI conviction, BAC refusal, or failure. A secondary offense will result in a permanent CDL disqualification. The commissioner has the discretion to reinstate CDL licenses after a showing of good cause and after eligibility takes effect.
Many people are surprised to learn that the license suspension period is significantly higher for a BAC refusal than a failure because a failure “proves” that the driver was intoxicated at the time, yet a refusal offers no “proof” of this. On one hand, a BAC refusal prevents evidence of the BAC test, which reveals the driver’s intoxication, from being used in the criminal case for the DUI.
On the other hand, a BAC refusal is admissible in court, but there is no evidence of the level of intoxication. A refusal carries a longer license suspension from the DMV, but prevents evidence of intoxication that could result from taking the BAC test. It is important to remember that a BAC refusal or failure can be contested in an administrative hearing and this can be a very technical legal question. If you are facing a license suspension in Connecticut, contact Lady DUI to find out how to get help fighting it.