DMV Information

If you have been charged with a DUI, you likely know that you will have to deal with the DMV and fight to keep your driver's license. On this page, we outline the burden of proof in the DMV process, rights vs. privileges when it comes to your driver's license, defending yourself against a DMV license suspension, and more.


At the Connecticut DMV, all applications for new licenses and renewals get reviewed for previous DUI convictions in other states as well as other serious offenses prior to issuing the license. If a person applying for a Connecticut state license has a previous DUI in another state, they consider it a prior offense within Connecticut.

Connecticut uses many different techniques when detecting and apprehending drunk drivers. This includes:

  • Sobriety checkpoints.
  • Blanket patrols.
  • Publicized enforcement campaigns.
  • Standardized field sobriety testing.
  • Preliminary breath tests.
  • Mobile videotaping.
  • BAT mobiles.

The state of Connecticut has over 3.5 million drivers and on average, about 20,000 DUI arrests each year.

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Any person convicted of DUI will have “at-risk driver” imprinted on the back of their license to easily identify them.

Burden of Proof in DMV Process

Unlike a criminal case, the standard of proof for a driver’s license suspension is not beyond a reasonable doubt. Rather, it is much lower. The state must prove the elements of the offense against you by a preponderance of evidence. The burden is on the plaintiff at the administrative hearing to prove that the decision by the DMV to suspend their license is wrong. See Schallenkamp v. DelPonte, 229 Conn. 31, 39, 639 A. 2d 1018 (1994); Lawrence v. Kozlowski, 171 Conn. 705, 713-14, 372 A. 2d 110 (1077). However, there must still be “substantial evidence” in the record to support the commissioner’s findings. Bialowas v. Commissioner of Motor Vehicles, 44 Conn. App. 702, 692 A. 2d 834 (1997).

They can do this because driving is a privilege. They can rescind that privilege much easier that to take away your constitutional rights. This means that you are responsible for providing enough evidence to counter the state’s reports beyond a preponderance of the evidence.

You might wonder how you can have two hearings and if that is double jeopardy. The short answer is no. Back in the early 1990s, a number of other citizens throughout the United States also thought that the state was punishing them twice for one solitary act. In the state of Connecticut, a woman named Wendy Hickam appealed this exact issue after she lost her license.

Rights vs. Privileges

The court said that driving does not constitute a constitutional right protected by the state and federal Constitution. Licensed driving exists as a privilege given to people by the state and because of this, the state can take it away much easier than your right to freedom. This does not constitute double jeopardy. The judges reasoned that the state has compelling interest to keep accused drunk drivers off the road. It is for this reason that it is far harder for the state to suspend one’s license than to require jail time.


There are defenses to the DMV process, but each year the DMV and legislature change the rules to take away these defenses. One of the best ways to win is to simply fight the case. People who don’t fight the DMV suspension always lose because the suspension is automatic.

In Cusano v. Commissioner of Motor Vehicles, 2 Conn, Ops. 1262 (1996), the plaintiff agreed to submit to chemical testing only four minutes after initially refusing testing. The court held that this did not constitute an unreasonable delay or “refusal” to testing under Conn. Gen. Stat. §14-227b, because it was “unreasonable for police to refuse to accede to the plaintiff’s request to be tested.” Id. At 1263.

One of the areas which also plays a significant role in determining if the test is valid is the timing of the test. As you can see from the law above, the test must happen within two hours. The court, however, decided that the two hour rule was not a hard and fast rule.

Case Law

In Tuttle v. Commissioner of Motor Vehicles, 2 Conn. Ops. 812, 17 Conn. L. Rptr. 231 (1996), the plaintiff argued that the commissioner did not have the power to suspend his operator’s license because the police requested the test more than two hours after operation of the vehicle. Specifically, the plaintiff was tested twice but the machine malfunctioned, and the police requested that he be tested in a neighboring police station approximately two and one-half hours after being arrested.

The court conducted an exhaustive review of §14-227b and its “per se” provisions and concluded: The obligation of a person who operates a motor vehicle in this state to submit to a chemical test, in accordance with the provisions of that statue, is independent of the “per se” provisions in that statue relating to the timing of the test and the test results.

Specifically, the two-hour time limitation for administering the test to a person who has agreed to take it is of critical significance in many respects, but it not a limitation on the general obligation of all motor vehicle operators in the state to submit to a test when requested by the police.

It follows that the commissioner is required to suspend the license of an operator who has been arrested for drunk driving and who refuses to be tested, even if the police request the test after the two-hour time period required by the per se provisions of the statute. It is not necessary, in test refusal cases, to show that the request was made within a reasonable time after the arrest, considering all the circumstances, including the availability of the testing devices and the physical condition of the person arrested. Id. at 813.

Cross Examination

Finally, one of the ways a DUI attorney may try to win your license back is by bringing in the police officers to cross examine them at the hearing. In Silver v. Commissioner of Motor Vehicles, 3 Conn. Ops. 243 (1997),the arresting officer failed to appear for cross-examination after two subpoenas were issued and the plaintiff had agreed to a continuance to ensure the witness’ appearance. However, the police report was admitted over the plaintiff’s continual hearsay objection under Conn. Gen. Stat §4-178, and denial of the opportunity to cross-examine the author of the report.

The court held the officer’s statements were ripe for cross-examination: and that the report was not inherently reliable to be admitted. Id. at 244. Sometimes, however, it may be for good reason that an attorney chooses not to subpoena an officer to a hearing, especially when it is likely that the officer’s testimony may jeopardize a possible defense to the criminal portion of the case.

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