Common Connecticut DUI Questions

What happens when I get a DUI in Connecticut?

Two things: one, you have to go to the Connecticut Superior Court in the geographic area where you were arrested and defend the DUI charge in court. Two, you will receive a suspension notice from the DMV and you have to schedule a hearing challenging the suspension.

What happens if I do not schedule a DMV hearing?

Your Connecticut driver’s license or privilege to drive in Connecticut will be suspended as stated in the suspension notice.

What happens when I schedule the DMV hearing?

You will receive written notification of the date and time to be present for your DMV hearing. This is called the Administrative Per Se hearing. On that date and time, you will meet with a DMV hearing officer. These hearing officers are attorneys engaged in private practice, who represent the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles. They are highly skilled in this area of the law. You will defend your case at this administrative hearing in an attempt to have your license restored.

If I win at the Administrative Per Se Hearing, do the court charges go away?

No. One has nothing to do with the other. The courts have ruled on this. There is no double jeopardy. The DMV matter is an administrative matter while the court matter is a criminal matter.

If I suffer a license suspension either from the DMV, the court, or both, how can I get to work?

You may be entitled to a Special Driving Permit for this purpose. However, if you have a previous alcohol related suspension, you may not qualify. Fill out the proper form and submit it to DMV Driver Services Division. They will review your driver history and determine if you are eligible.

Doesn’t the DMV or the court care about me supporting my family if I cannot drive or am in jail?

It isn’t that these people do not care. They are enforcing the laws passed by the Connecticut legislature and doing what they have to do. Remember, the legislature passes the laws that judges, prosecutors, and the police have to enforce. We have to live within the rule of law. Sometimes, we may all agree that the penalties are too stiff, but that is as far as it goes.

If I disagree with the Administrative Per Se Hearing decision, do I have the right to appeal it?

Yes. Find out more information on appealing the administrative hearing by contacting us.

What is the legal limit for driving under the influence of alcohol in Connecticut?

The legal limit under Connecticut DUI law is .08 BAC (blood alcohol content). Connecticut laws establish that to operate while under the influence (OWI) with a BAC of .08 or higher is “per se” against the law. Simply driving while your blood has over .08% alcohol is illegal.

Does Connecticut have additional penalties for DUI/DWI charges with a high BAC result?

No. Unlike other states, there is no “aggravated DUI” charge in Connecticut.

What are the laws for a DUI in Connecticut if you are under 21 years of age?

If you are under 21, Connecticut has what is called a “zero tolerance policy” for driving after drinking alcohol. The legal limit for alcohol is .02 BAC, which can be as little as one drink. If you are charged with a DUI, your license will be immediately suspended for 90 days for a first offense.

What is the Alcohol Education Program (AEP)?

This is a diversionary program that results in the criminal drunk driving charge being dismissed provided you qualify for the program and complete the course you are offered. There is an application fee of $200. The court, if you qualify, will order you to take either 10 or 15 sessions of this educational program. The added cost for the 10 session program is $350 and for the 15 sessions it is $500.

How do I qualify for the AEP program?

You make the application to the court. You will be placed under oath, by the clerk, and the judge will ask you several questions. If you answer that you have never been convicted of the crime of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, in Connecticut or any other state, and you have not had the AEP in Connecticut or any other state within the past 10 years, you are qualified. Then the Adult Probation Department will check your criminal and driver history to verify the accuracy of your answers.

Remember, when you respond to the judge’s questions you are answering under the penalty of perjury. Some attorneys will tell you that if your conviction for a drunk driving offense is over 10 years old, that you qualify for the AEP program. This is not accurate. If you have a conviction for drunk driving, then you do not qualify for the AEP.

What happens when I complete the AEP program?

Your case is dismissed one year after the judge granted your application for the AEP program and provided you completed it successfully.

What happens if I do not complete the AEP program?

The simple answer is that you will be brought back into court, and at that point, the judge can order you treated as a first offender, which means that you are facing jail, fine, and probation, along with a lost of license for one year. It is your responsibility to complete the course. However, in some instances and for good cause shown, the court may reinstate you into the AEP and give you a certain amount of time to complete it. Remember, when you go on this program, document all that you do, in case a problem arises such as missing a class or having a falling out with the program director or the teacher. When there is a problem, you should contact your lawyer.

When I get placed on the AEP program and my case is dismissed, do I have a drunk driving conviction on my record?

No. However, while you have no conviction, your driver history at the DMV will reflect the AEP program.

What happens if I get caught driving while my license is suspended/revoked?

Driving while your license is suspended should be avoided as it is a new crime. If you drive while your license is suspended for a DUI conviction, you will face a fine ranging from $500 – $1,000 and jail time of 30 days or more. The amount of jail time imposed varies depending on if you have prior DUI convictions.

What is the difference between a DUI, DWI, OUI, OWI, DWUI etc.?

These terms are all acronyms that refer to the offense commonly known as “drunk driving.” Different states have different names for the crime. For example, in New York and New Jersey the charge is known as DWI. Massachusetts calls is OUI. Connecticut law uses the term driving/operating under the influence or DUI.

Is a DUI in Connecticut a misdemeanor or felony charge?

In Connecticut, a DUI is usually a misdemeanor crime. However, if you have one prior DUI convictions in the past 10 years, the second or greater DUI conviction is a felony offense.

Will my defense lawyer be able to plea bargain/negotiate my Connecticut DUI charge down to another (lesser) offense?

Possibly. Plea bargaining and charge reduction are two areas that any experienced Connecticut DUI lawyer would discuss with the prosecutor on the client’s behalf. The DUI statute specifically states that a prosecutor cannot reduce or nolle a DUI case without a statement on the record as to the reasons for such.

I am licensed to drive in a state other than Connecticut and I was cited for a DUI in Connecticut. Will my driver’s license be suspended?

Connecticut only has the authority to suspend your right to drive in the state of Connecticut. However, Connecticut and 44 other states and the District of Columbia have adopted an agreement known as the “Driver License Compact.” Connecticut will report a DUI conviction to the home state of the driver (assuming the home state has also adopted the compact). Your home state will then generally take action to suspend your license.

This also works in reverse. If you are a Connecticut licensed driver and you are convicted of a DUI charge in another state, Connecticut will suspend your license if it learns of the conviction.

Will I have to install an ignition interlock device on my car?

An ignition interlock device (IID) is a breath alcohol measurement device that is connected to a motor vehicle ignition. In order to start the motor vehicle, a driver must blow a breath sample into the device which then measures alcohol concentration. If the alcohol concentration exceeds the startup set point on the interlock device, the motor vehicle will not start.

If you have your license suspended for a second DUI conviction within the past 10 years, you may be able to get your license restored to you by installing an IID for 24 months. To be eligible, you must first serve one year of the required license suspension. You may then apply for the ability to drive only with an IID. Contact your Connecticut lawyer to see if you may be eligible for an IID license. Note: If you don’t install an ignition interlock following your second DUI conviction, your license will be effectively suspended for at least three years.

What will a Connecticut DUI do to my car insurance?

If your insurance company finds out about your DUI one of two things are likely to happen. Either your Connecticut insurer will raise your rates or you may be cancelled or non-renewed.

I missed my Connecticut court appearance. What do I do now?

At a minimum, the Connecticut court typically issues a warrant for your arrest (known as a bench warrant). Talk to an attorney as soon as possible. Often, your only option is to turn yourself in on the outstanding warrant. A new court date will then be scheduled.

If I’m stopped by a police officer and they ask me if I’ve been drinking, what should I say?

You are not required to answer potentially incriminating questions. A polite, “I would like to speak with an attorney before I answer any questions” is a good reply. On the other hand, saying that you had one or two beers is not incriminating: it is not sufficient to cause intoxication – and it may explain the odor of alcohol on the breath.

Do I have a right to an attorney when I’m stopped by an officer and asked to take a field sobriety test?

There is no right to an attorney until you have submitted to (or refused) blood, breath, or urine testing. In Connecticut, there is a right to consult with counsel upon being arrested or before deciding whether to submit to chemical testing.

What should I do if I’m asked to take field sobriety tests?

There are a wide range of field sobriety tests (FSTs), including heel-to-toe, finger-to-nose, one-leg stand, horizontal gaze nystagmus, alphabet recitation, modified position of attention (Rhomberg), fingers-to-thumb, hand pat, etc. Most officers will use a set battery of three to five such tests. Unlike the chemical test, where refusal to submit may have serious consequences, you are not legally required to take any FSTs. The reality is that officers have usually made up their minds to arrest when they give the FSTs; the tests are simply additional evidence which the suspect inevitably “fails”. Thus, in most cases a polite refusal may be appropriate.

Why did the officer make me follow a penlight with my eyes to the left and right?

This is the “horizontal gaze nystagmus” test, a relatively recent development in DUI investigation. The officer attempts to estimate the angle at which the eye begins to jerk (“nystagmus” is medical jargon for a distinctive eye oscillation). If this occurs sooner than 45 degrees, it theoretically indicates a blood-alcohol concentration over .05%. The smoothness of the eye’s tracking of the penlight (or finger or pencil) is also a factor, as is the type of jerking when the eye is as far to the side as it can go.

This field sobriety test has proven to be subject to a number of different problems, not the least of which is the non-medically trained officer’s ability to recognize nystagmus and estimate the angle of onset. Because of this, and the fact that the test is not accepted by the medical community, it is not admissible as evidence in many states; it continues, however, to be widely used by law enforcement.

Should I agree to take a chemical test? What happens if I don’t?

The consequences of refusing to submit to a blood, breath, or urine test are severe. In Connecticut, if you refuse a test when asked, your license will be suspended for a minimum of six months.

The officer never gave me a “Miranda” warning: Can I get my case dismissed?

No. The officer is supposed to give a Fifth Amendment warning after they arrest you. Often, however, they do not. The only consequence is that the prosecution cannot use any of your answers to questions asked by the police after the arrest. Of more consequence in most cases is the failure to advise you of the state’s “implied consent” law – that is, your legal obligation to take a chemical test and the results if you refuse. This can effect the suspension of your license.

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