One of the biggest challenges in the criminal justice system in Connecticut is restoring your privilege to drive. As mentioned on other pages, driving is a privilege in Connecticut, and not a right. A right is a freedom protected by the Constitution. Examples of rights include the freedom to associate and the freedom of religion. A privilege is a certain ability that is granted by the government to a person. An example of a privilege is the ability to hold certain types of professional licenses. This is the case for doctors and lawyers. By violating your driving privileges, you could face license suspensions.
Types of License Suspensions
As a result of a DUI conviction or a conviction for another motor vehicle violation, many citizens have dealt with the hassle of being without a driver’s license for quite some time. They find that getting a license restored isn’t as easy as they would hope. Although each case differs, license suspensions fall into two categories, DUI related and non-DUI related.
DUI Related Suspension
A DUI related suspension comes as the result of a single or multiple conviction for driving under the influence. Many people are under the false impression that the judge at the courthouse controls the suspension. However, this is not true. Instead, the DMV enforces suspensions based on number of convictions and not necessarily by the same standard as the court. For example, the DMV might consider a person treated as a first offender at court as a second offender. Or this could happen based on the number of prior offenses a person has. This person will suffer the suspension period of the second offender, even though the judge treated the person as a first offender. Depending on the level of DUI, a person faces different suspension periods.
Non DUI Related Suspension
A non-DUI related suspension comes as a result of three possible occurrences:
- A person may have forgotten or ignored an issued ticket. If so, a person’s license can get suspended pursuant to Connecticut General Statute 14-140. This requires the DMV to suspend the license until you pay the ticket or it goes back to the docket. If you have to reopen a ticket closed out under 14-140, you need to pay a fee of $60. This money should go to the clerk’s office responsible for the ticket. Also, you need to send notice of that to the DMV to have your privilege restored.
- A person’s license faces suspension for accumulating too many points. Point assessment can happen for a number of infractions. Also, the DMV will notify a person that they must attend a driver retraining program. Sometimes, a series of infractions can take a person from a low point total to above the limit with the person realizing this. There is no warning before a points suspension.
- A person who pleads guilty to operating under suspension or other serious motor vehicle violations could face suspension pursuant to state law. A list of the suspendable offenses is in Appendix A. If a person operates while under suspension, the penalty jumps from a one year suspension to a five year suspension. The five year date runs from conviction date, not from the date of the offense.
The Connecticut DMV learns of a conviction in another state through the national driver register. The NDR consists of a central repository of information on individuals whose privilege to drive got revoked, suspended, canceled, or denied, or who have gotten convicted of serious traffic‑related offenses. All 50 states have access to this information.
Also, 48 states belong either to an agreement called the driver’s license compact or the non‑resident violator compact. The only states that don’t belong to one or the other are Michigan and Wisconsin. When you get a ticket outside of your home state, you have certain consequences. You face consequences in both the state where charged as well as your home state. This is due to the fact that, under the driver’s license compact, the DMV in the state where a person gets charged will relay the information to your home state and impact your driving record as if the ticket happened there.
Many people find this especially difficult because had the arrest been in Connecticut, it may have been possible to avoid a conviction altogether by using the alcohol education program and now that individual will not benefit from the program. (The Connecticut Appellate Court has found that there is no violation of the law in imposing the one year suspension).
DUI in Another State
If charged with a DUI in another state, you will be subject to the penalties imposed in that state. In some cases, this will mean returning to the state where the charge took place in order to appear in court to fight the charge. But sometimes, you might have to return to that state in order to complete an alcohol education program. Although, if you receive permission from the court, you could take any DUI classes in Connecticut in order to avoid unnecessary traveling. In addition, you face Connecticut’s DUI penalties. This includes a license suspension in Connecticut. It is in your best interest to hire a DUI lawyer in the state of your conviction as well as a Connecticut DUI lawyer in order to help you through this complex process.
Some states also differ in the kind of drunk driving offenses they arrest for. For example, in the state of New York, a charge exists called driving while ability impaired (DWAI) that does not exist in Connecticut. If caught drinking and driving, but your BAC is between .05 and .07, you aren’t driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated under the law. However, you still might be operating a vehicle with impaired judgment, so New York considers driving with a BAC of .05-.07 a driving violation. As leading New York DWI Attorney Harold Dee explains, “DWAI is not a crime but a traffic infraction so [it] is a common plea down when the [BAC] is less than a .16 in Westchester, [or less than] .13 in Manhattan, Rockland, and Orange Counties.” Because a DWAI is a traffic infraction, the penalties are much less severe than those for a DWI or DUI.
In the state of Connecticut, action doesn’t get taken against drivers with a BAC of less than .08. This courtesy extends to Connecticut drivers while driving in the state of New York. If pulled over in New York, and your BAC is between .05 and .07, the police will take no action against you, since you are a licensed driver in a sister state that does not charge for DWAIs. Attorney Dee also points out that, “Similarly, [New York State] traffic offenses are not listed on a Connecticut driver’s abstract.”