Driving in Connecticut is a privilege. When a Connecticut resident gets a driver’s license, obtaining that license gives implied consent for blood alcohol testing at any time a law enforcement officer pulls them over and suspects alcohol impairment. Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs is a criminal offense in Connecticut, punishable by stiff fines, loss of driving privileges, and jail time. A conviction also comes with significant lasting impacts on the convicted person’s life.
The state takes impaired driving seriously. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs slows reaction times, impacts coordination and reflexes, and causes vision problems and loss of cognitive awareness. These effects put lives at risk, including the driver’s life and those of others on the road to whom the driver owes a duty of reasonable care to prevent injuries. In the event of an accident caused by a drunk driver, the charges escalate into second-degree manslaughter.
If you or a family member were charged with a DUI in Connecticut, it’s important to fully understand the legal consequences.
What is “Driving Under the Influence” in Connecticut Law?
Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is also called Operating a motor vehicle Under the Influence (OUI) in Connecticut. The state defines DUI or OUI as operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level (BAC) of .08% or higher. For drivers of commercial vehicles, a BAC of .04% or higher is a DUI, since the state holds commercial drivers to a high safety standard. For drivers under age 21, having a BAC of .02% or higher is illegal.
Connecticut considers a motorist “under the influence” when a driver noticeably lacks the ability to function at their full capacity while driving due to alcohol or other substances affecting their physical, cognitive, and nervous system processes.
Understanding Reasonable Suspicion in a Connecticut DUI Case
The reason an officer pulls over a driver plays a significant role in a DUI charge. Law enforcement only needs to have a “reasonable suspicion” that a driver is intoxicated. These signs fall into the following categories:
Any of the above driving behaviors give an officer reasonable suspicion to pull over a driver. If the driver exhibits signs of impairment or smells strongly of alcohol, the officer may perform a field sobriety test and BAC test. Refusing the test results in immediate driver’s license suspension.
What are the Penalties for DUI Convictions in Connecticut?
Connecticut judges have the discretion to determine penalties for drunk driving convictions within the limits of the state statutes. Penalties differ for repeat offenders compared to first-time DUI convictions. Connecticut statutes have the following penalties in place:
A conviction for a first offense DUI/OUI includes: from 48 hours up to 6 months in jail, up to 100 hours of community service, a $500-$1,000 fine, 45-day license suspension, installation of an ignition interlock device on the driver’s vehicle for 1 year following license reinstatement
A conviction for a second offense includes: from 120 days to 2 years in prison, $1,000 to $4,000 in fines, 45-day license suspension, installation of an ignition interlocking device for 3 years, and 100 hours of community service
A conviction for a 3rd DUI offense includes: 1 to 3 years of prison time, $2,000 to $8,000 in fines, permanent license suspension, and 100 hours of community service
In some cases, those who’ve been arrested for a first-time DUI may be eligible for a pre-trial intervention program with mandatory alcohol-abuse education.
What Happens During a DUI Arrest?
A first-time DUI arrest is distressing and frightening. Being under the influence of alcohol or other substances can also cause you to react with anger, resistance, and belligerence which may result in additional charges. Most DUI arrests in Connecticut follow a specific process. Deviation from this process may result in dropped charges if the deviation violated your rights. In most cases, this is what you can expect during a DUI arrest in Connecticut:
An officer pulls you over for suspicion of intoxicated driving
The officer performs a field sobriety test and/or a breathalyzer test
You’ll be read your rights by the officer and detained
The officer will have your vehicle towed at your expense to an impound lot and transport you to the county jail in their police cruiser
You’ll undergo a blood test by law enforcement to further document your blood alcohol level
If your BAC is over the legal limit, you’ll be held in lockup until you make bail
Police send a record of your DUI arrest to the DMV
Everyone deserves a strong defense, especially against a charge that has a significant impact on the rest of your life. A DUI attorney in Connecticut can defend your rights and best interests throughout the legal process.
Long-Term Consequences of a Connecticut DUI Conviction
Going forward after a conviction for DUI in Connecticut can mean facing some long-term consequences. You’ll almost certainly find an increase in the cost of your car insurance. Also, prospective employers often run background checks which reveal DUI convictions. This could impact your career options in the following ways:
You may be ineligible for driving-related jobs such as driving a commercial truck or a school or city bus
You may be ineligible for a military career
You may be unable to work in law enforcement
Some government jobs may be unavailable after a DUI conviction
You may not be granted admittance to certain universities, colleges, or trade schools
Some scholarships may be unavailable due to the conviction
These potential impacts of a DUI conviction can linger long after you’ve served your time and met the terms of your sentence.
It’s critical to have a strong defense in place to defend your rights throughout the DUI arrest process, arraignment, and trial.