Obtaining and maintaining a driver’s license is considered a privilege and not a right in the state of Connecticut. For purposes of a DUI, this is important because the state can suspend or revoke a person’s license, after violating certain laws. One of the most common ways that the privilege of driving is taken away is following an arrest for a DUI.
Implied Consent Law
After a DUI arrest, the arresting police agency will notify the DMV of the arrest, and the DMV can suspend the driver’s license. The DMV will mail the driver a notice of suspension, and the driver has seven days to request a hearing during which the suspension can be contested. All of this occurs independently from the criminal charge of DUI which is handled in the court system. The license suspension hearing is a separate hearing that is used to challenge the suspension and not the DUI charge.
C.G.S. §14-227b is the Connecticut statute that prohibits a person from refusing to take a blood alcohol test or failing the test when requested by an officer. The DMV handles violations of this statute by refusal or failure.
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The failure or refusal violates the implied consent law in Connecticut, which states that any driver has implicitly consented to submit to a blood alcohol content (BAC) test when driving on the roads. The DMV will handle administrative hearings that revolve around failures and refusals of BAC tests and handle license suspensions.
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 and will send the driver a suspension notice, which will inform the driver that their violation will result in license suspension. It 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 first offense with a BAC of .16% or higher, the suspension will be 120 days. For a second offense, the suspension will be for 10 months. For a third offense, the suspension will be for 2.5 years. For a BAC refusal, the suspension period is six months for a first offense. A second offense means a suspension of one year. A third offense results in a suspension of 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 second offense results 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.
Taking a BAC Test
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 the one hand, a BAC refusal prevents evidence of the BAC test, which reveals the driver’s intoxication, to be 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.