Arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) are sadly common in Connecticut and throughout the United States. In 2021, an astonishing 13,384 fatalities occurred due to drunk drivers, amounting to approximately 1 death every 39 minutes. Connecticut alone sees an average of over 100 drunk-driving-related traffic deaths per year according to data in the last decade— making the state the third highest in the U.S. for drunk-driving fatalities.
Law enforcement in Connecticut takes drunk driving very seriously. The penalties for a first offense include up to 6 months in jail, a $1,000 fine, community service, a 45-day license suspension, and an ignition interlock breathalyzer device placed on your vehicle for a year after the reinstatement of your license. The penalties increase substantially with each further drunk driving conviction.
Every driver has a duty to take reasonable measures to prevent causing harm to others on the road. An important part of that duty is understanding the real consequences of drunk driving, which means avoiding common misconceptions about Connecticut’s DUI/OUI laws such as the following:
A DUI is Only a Traffic Offense if You Weren’t in an Accident
Some DUI arrests come with additional charges if the drunk driver caused an accident with injuries or a fatality. Causing a traffic accident death due to being under the influence of alcohol or other substances results in a charge of second-degree manslaughter. However, driving under the influence is a crime in Connecticut even if you don’t cause a fatality or an accident. An officer only needs reasonable suspicion to pull over a driver. A conviction comes with significant immediate legal and financial impacts, plus long-term consequences to the convicted individual’s future such as lost career and education opportunities and a permanent criminal record. Any subsequent DUI convictions become felonies, with further consequences, including the loss of your right to vote and own firearms.
If I Have a Cup of Coffee Before Driving I Can Sober Up
While coffee or other caffeinated beverages may help to counteract the drowsiness caused by alcohol, it does not correct the impacts of alcohol on vision, reflexes, and cognition. In other words, it does not make you sober. You can still face an arrest and conviction for DUI in Connecticut after drinking multiple cups of coffee. Coffee does not mask the alcohol on your breath or help you to pass a breathalyzer test.
If I Can Still Drive Correctly, I Won’t Get a DUI
Though DUI and OUI are used interchangeably, beginning in 2006, DUI charges in Connecticut became Operating a Motor Vehicle while Under the Influence (OUI). This change opened the door to further arrests because the offense no longer has to take place on a public road or highway. Law enforcement officers may charge a person over the state’s legal limit blood alcohol level (BAC) of .08% with an OUI even if they aren’t driving. Simply sitting in a vehicle in a parking lot is a chargeable offense if the individual has started the car or operated the vehicle’s electrical system in any way that indicates the preliminary steps toward driving the vehicle.
I Can Fool a Breathalyzer Test
Breathalyzer tests are accurate and not easy to fool. Contrary to popular myth, popping a mint into your mouth or brushing your teeth before driving does not mask the alcohol vapor and won’t result in a lower reading. Using mouthwash before driving can actually result in a higher score since most mouthwashes contain alcohol.
The widely held myth that sucking on a copper penny neutralizes alcohol is also false. The test reads vapor from the lungs, not from the saliva in a suspect’s mouth.
Finally, inhaling instead of exhaling into a breathalyzer is not a viable option. The test simply fails and the officer will instruct you to exhale—they’ll also be more convinced than ever that you’ve got something to hide.
Breathalyzer tests only estimate your BAC based on the vapor in your breath. It doesn’t provide an actual blood alcohol level. If you think the estimation was higher than it should have been, you can request a blood test.
You Can Refuse a Breathalyzer Test
Yes, you can refuse to take a roadside breathalyzer test, but it’s a misconception to believe that refusing solves the problem. If you refuse a breathalyzer, you’ll automatically lose your driver’s license for 6 months. Obtaining a driver’s license in Connecticut means you’re giving implied consent to this testing in the event you’re detained by law enforcement. What’s worse, by refusing the test you open yourself up to a $500 fine and up to two years in prison.
Law enforcement officers have the obligation to explain informed consent when they pull over a DUI suspect. If they did not advise you of this law, it can benefit your chances of keeping your driver’s license.
Connecticut Will Drop the DUI Charge as Long as I Agree to Go to Some AA Meetings
While it’s true that most first-time offenders qualify for the state’s pretrial alcohol education program, it isn’t as simple as attending a few AA meetings. It’s a diversionary program offered by the state in lieu of a criminal conviction. However, the program is a privilege and not a right. Not everyone who applies qualifies since no two arrests are the same. If you have a prior DUI conviction in Connecticut or any other state, you won’t qualify. Prior convictions of many other offenses also disqualify candidates for the diversionary program. Commercial license holders do not qualify for the education program.
The diversionary program doesn’t allow you to simply attend a few meetings. Instead, it includes 12 mandatory alcohol education classes. Some offenders may require an intense program with additional classes and a treatment program.
You Can’t Compare Your Case to Someone Else’s
Even if you know someone who was arrested for DUI and didn’t have to do jail time, does not guarantee that you won’t serve time after a conviction. Each judge has discretion within the state’s statutes and can set a sentence for incarceration anywhere from 48 hours to 6 months for a first offense. Hiring a skilled New Haven DUI accident attorney to protect your rights and best interests throughout the case is essential. Remember, everyone has the right to a strong defense, especially with so much at stake.