Location:
DRUNK DRIVING;
Scope:
Connecticut laws/regulations; Court Cases; Background;

OLR Research Report


September 21, 2011

 

2011-R-0319

CONNECTICUT DUI LAWS

By: Paul Frisman, Principal Analyst

You asked about Connecticut laws on driving under the

influence (DUI) and related offenses. This report updates OLR Report 2010-R-0415.

SUMMARY

Connecticut's DUI law consists primarily of three statutes, CGS 14-227a, -227g and -227b. The first prohibits a person from driving while “under the influence” of alcohol or drugs or with an “elevated” blood alcohol content (BAC). A person is under the influence if his ability to drive is affected to an appreciable degree. The maximum allowable BAC depends on the driver's age and the type of vehicle he or she is operating.

Drivers over the age of 21 have an elevated BAC if it is found to be .08% or more. Drivers operating a commercial motor vehicle (e.g., a large truck) have an elevated BAC if it is .04% or more. Under the second statute, CGS 14-227g, people younger than 21 have an elevated BAC if it is found to be .02% or more.

The laws specify evidence admissibility criteria for alcohol and drug tests. They establish criminal penalties and driver's license suspension penalties for violations.

Under the third statute, CGS 14-227b, motorists implicitly consent to be tested for drugs or alcohol when they drive. The law establishes administrative license suspension procedures for drivers who refuse to submit to a test or whose test results indicate an elevated BAC. (These provisions are called “implied consent” and “administrative per se,” respectively.) A different procedure allowing a more immediate suspension applies if the driver has a prior license suspension for a DUI conviction or has been involved in a fatal accident. The law provides for longer administrative suspension periods for someone whose BAC is .16% or more. These administrative license suspension penalties are in addition to any suspension penalties imposed for conviction of any criminal DUI charge.

Connecticut law provides for a Pretrial Alcohol Education Program under which certain eligible offenders charged with criminal DUI may successfully complete an alcohol intervention or substance abuse treatment program, as appropriate, and have the DUI charges dismissed (CGS 54-56g).

Two public acts approved in the 2011 session (PA 11-48 and PA 11-51) drastically change the license suspension law for people convicted of DUI. These acts (1)shorten the amount of time a license is suspended, (2) extend the period that an individual must drive only vehicles equipped with ignition interlock devices, and (3) apply the interlock restrictions to drivers on their first, rather than their second, DUI conviction. Starting January 1, 2012, anyone convicted of DUI will have his or her license suspended for 45 days, and must operate only vehicles equipped with ignition interlock devices for one year or longer, depending on how many DUI convictions he or she has. A complete summary of the ignition interlock provisions of PA 11-48 and PA 11-51 is available in the Public Act Summary for those acts.

Use of an ignition interlock device is also required (1) as a condition of restoring a revoked license after a third DUI conviction and (2) for two years following the mandatory one-year license suspension following conviction for 2nd-degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle or 2nd -degree assault with a motor vehicle. The court may also order an individual arrested for DUI, 2nd-degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle, or 2nd-degree assault with a motor vehicle to operate only motor vehicles equipped with ignition interlock devices as a condition of (1) release on bail (2) probation, or (3) granting his or her application to take part in the Pretrial Alcohol Education Program (CGS 14-227j (b)).

Second-degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle (CGS 53a-56b), and 2nd-degree assault with a motor vehicle (CGS 53a-60d), apply to drivers who cause the death or serious injury of another person, respectively, while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Someone who holds a commercial driver's license (CDL) faces disqualification from driving a commercial motor vehicle for one year if he is found to have: (1) a BAC of .04% or more while driving a commercial vehicle, (2) a BAC of .08% or more while driving any other type of vehicle, or (3) refused a BAC test when driving any motor vehicle.

The law requires anyone whose license is suspended for a DUI conviction, or for two more administrative per se suspensions, to successfully complete a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)-approved substance abuse treatment program to get his or her license reinstated. However, PA 11-48 and PA 11-51 eliminate this program, starting January 1, 2012.

In addition, people found to be “persistent operating under the influence felony offenders” are subject to an increased criminal penalty, and the state must impound motor vehicles of certain offenders for 48 hours.

Driving While Under the Influence of Alcohol or DRUGS (CGS 14-227a)

Driving Under the Influence or with an Elevated BAC

The law prohibits driving (1) while under the influence of alcohol or drugs or (2) with an “elevated blood alcohol content.” A person is “under the influence” if his or her ability to drive is affected by alcohol or drugs to an appreciable degree (Infeld v. Sullivan, 151 Conn. 506 (1964)). This may be prosecuted with or without any direct evidence of his BAC.

A person has an elevated blood alcohol content if his or her BAC is at least .08% alcohol by weight. The law also makes it illegal for someone driving a commercial motor vehicle to have a BAC of .04% or more and for anyone under age 21 to drive with a BAC of .02% or more.

The DUI law applies to drivers operating (1) a motor vehicle anywhere, including the operator's property, and (2) snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles.

Before dismissing, declining to prosecute, or reducing a DUI charge a prosecutor must state the reasons for doing so in court.

BAC Tests

A police officer may choose whether to measure a motorist's BAC by testing the driver's blood, breath, or urine. The law establishes a rebuttable presumption that a driver's BAC at the time it is tested is the same as the BAC at the time he or she was stopped. The law requires two tests at least 10 minutes apart. If the result of the second test is .10% or less, and higher than the first test, the prosecution must demonstrate that the BAC at the time of the test accurately reflects the BAC at the time of the offense.

Admissibility of Evidence for Uninjured Drivers

The standard for determining whether evidence is admissible depends on whether the driver was injured.

In order for the test results of an uninjured driver to be admissible:

1. the driver must be given a reasonable chance to call a lawyer before taking the test;

2. a copy of the test results must be mailed or personally delivered to the driver within 24 hours or at the end of the next business day after the results are known;

3. the test must be administered by a police officer or at the officer's direction;

4. the test must be administered using methods and equipment approved by the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP, formerly the Department of Public Safety) and according to DESPP regulations;

5. the test equipment must have been checked for accuracy according to DESPP regulations;

6. a second test of the same type must be administered at least 10 minutes after the first test is conducted (unless the second test is to detect the presence of drugs, in which case it can be of a different type and does not have to be administered within that time frame); and

7. the test must begin within two hours of operation (presumably the time of the alleged offense) (CGS 14-227a (b)).

The DESPP commissioner must determine the reliability of each method and type of device used to test blood, breath, and urine, and certify those suitable for use in Connecticut. He must adopt regulations governing the conduct of tests, the operation and use of test devices, the training and certification of test operators, and the drawing or obtaining of blood, breath, and urine samples (CGS 14-227a (d)).

Evidence that a driver refused to submit to a test is admissible if the procedural requirements of CGS 14-227b (described below) are followed. At trial, the court must instruct the jury as to what inferences it can and cannot draw from a refusal.

Admissibility of Evidence for Samples Taken from Apparently Injured Drivers Requiring Medical Treatment.

A different set of admissibility standards applies to blood or urine samples taken from an injured driver in the course of his or her medical treatment. Results of a chemical analysis of the sample are competent evidence to establish probable cause for the person's arrest by warrant and are admissible in a subsequent prosecution if (1) the sample was taken for the diagnosis and treatment of the injury; (2) a blood sample, it was taken in accordance with DESPP regulations; (3) a police officer satisfies a Superior Court judge that (a) he or she had reason to believe the motorist was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and (b) the blood or urine sample constitutes evidence of this offense; and (4) the judge issues a search warrant authorizing the seizure of the test results. The warrant may also authorize the seizure of hospital medical records prepared in connection with the diagnosis and treatment of the injury (CGS 14-227c).

Penalties

A person convicted of DUI is subject to the criminal penalties listed in Table 1. In assessing these penalties, the law considers a subsequent conviction one that occurs within 10 years of a prior conviction for the same offense.

In practice, the first conviction of a driver for DUI is usually for the driver's second violation. By law, a first offender charged with DUI, or, if under 21, operating a vehicle with a BAC of .02% or more, may apply to the court for admission to the Pretrial Alcohol Education Program (see below). The applicant must state under oath that he or she has not been in the program in the preceding 10 years, or, if under age 21, that he or she has never been in the program. The court must dismiss the DUI charges if the driver satisfactorily completes the program.

PA 11-51 allows the Department of Correction (DOC) commissioner, starting July 1, 2011, to release an inmate sentenced for DUI, after admission and conducting a risk and needs assessment, to the inmate's home. The released offender cannot leave his or her home without authorization. Under the act, the offender remains in DOC custody and is supervised by DOC employees. The DOC commissioner can revoke the release and return the person to prison for violating release conditions.

Table 1: DUI Criminal Penalties

(Note: New license suspension penalties and ignition interlock requirements take effect

as noted January 1, 2012.)

Conviction

Prison Sentence**

Fine

License Suspension (Until January 1, 2012)*

License Suspension (Starting January 1, 2012)*

First

Either (a) up to six months with a mandatory minimum of two days or (b) up to six months suspended with probation requiring 100 hours of community service

$500- $1,000

One year

45 days, followed by one year driving only a vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock

Second (Under Age 21)

Up to two years, with a mandatory minimum of 120 consecutive days and probation with 100 hours community service

$1,000- $4,000

Three years or until age 21, whichever is longer, followed by two years of driving only a vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock

45 days or until age 21, whichever is longer, followed by three years of driving only a vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock

Second (Age 21 or older)

Up to two years, with a mandatory minimum of 120 consecutive days and probation with 100 hours community service

$1,000- $4,000

One year, followed by two years of driving only a vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock

45 days, followed by three years of driving only a vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock

Third and Subsequent

Up to three years, with mandatory minimum of one year and probation with 100 hours community service

$2,000- $8,000

Permanent Revocation (Eligible for reinstatement after six years. If reinstated, must drive only interlock-equipped vehicles for 10 years from date of revocation.

Permanent Revocation (Eligible for reinstatement after six years. If reinstated, must drive only interlock-equipped vehicles for 10 years from date of reinstatement.

*For a driver under age 18, the suspension period lasts until he or she turns 18 or the period listed above, whichever is longer (CGS 14-227a (h)).

** Starting July 1, 2011, the DOC commissioner has discretion to allow a sentenced DUI offender to serve his or her sentence under home confinement.

The law requires the court to report DUI convictions to the DMV. The commissioner must suspend the license or nonresident operating privilege of anyone reported as convicted for the period the law requires. The commissioner must determine the length of the suspension based on the number of convictions the person has had within the specified time period, according to the driver history record maintained by DMV, regardless of the sentence the court imposed.

The license suspension is stayed while a conviction is appealed. For motorists driving under a special operator's permit (described below) suspension periods are doubled. In addition to these penalties, the court can order a driver to participate in an alcohol education and treatment program (CGS 14-227a (j)). (But PA 11-48, 307, and PA 11-51, 224, eliminate this education and treatment program as of January 1, 2012.)

Suspension for conviction of a criminal DUI charge is in addition to any previously imposed administrative license suspension under the implied consent law (see below). The Connecticut Supreme Court has held that administrative license suspensions legitimately provide for public safety by promptly removing drivers charged with DUI from the road, and that a suspension is not a bar to criminal prosecution (State v. Hickam, 235 Conn. 614 (1995)).

In addition, if the court sentences someone to probation, it may require as a condition that the offender take part in a victim impact panel program approved by the Judicial Department's Court Support Services Division (CSSD). The panel must provide a non-confrontational forum for victims of alcohol- or drug-related offenses and offenders to share experiences on the impact of alcohol- or drug-related incidents on their lives. The nonprofit organization that conducts the panel may charge a fee of up to $25 for any offender ordered to participate (CGS 14-227a (l)).

Also, any conviction that occurs in another state for an offense that the court determines has substantially the same essential elements as Connecticut's criminal drunk driving offenses, 2nd- degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle, or 2nd- degree assault with a motor vehicle, will constitute a prior conviction of the same offense for purposes of determining someone's prior criminal history (CGS 14-227a (g)).

Reinstating a Revoked License

The law allows an individual whose driver's license has been revoked following a third DUI conviction to seek restoration of his or her driving privileges after six years. The commissioner may restore the individual's license if she determines doing so does not endanger public safety, the individual has met certain requirements (including completing an alcohol and drug education program, see below), and agrees to install and use an ignition interlock. The device must then remain in place for 10 years from the date the license was initially revoked (CGS 14-111 (k) (2)).

However, starting January 1, 2012, PA 11-48, 54, and PA 11-51, 219, significantly extend the length of time such a motorist must use an ignition interlock following restoration of his or her license. Starting on that date, the interlock must remain in place for 10 years from the date the commissioner reversed or reduced the license revocation, rather than from the date she revoked it.

Sixteen and Seventeen Year-Old Drivers

The law imposes stricter rules on 16- and 17-year-old drivers cited for either driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or with an elevated BAC (which for anyone under age 21 is .02% or more). Under these conditions, the police officer must seize the driver's license for 48 hours on behalf of the DMV commissioner and have the vehicle removed (CGS 14-36i (b)). The license seizure begins on the date and time the arrest is made or the summons or infraction complaint is issued, and the driver's license is considered suspended for 48 hours.

To regain the license, the 16- or 17-year-old and, unless he or she is an emancipated minor, his or her parent or legal guardian, must appear in person at the police department, state police barracks, or other designated location and sign a written acknowledgement of its return. No restoration fee may be charged for return of the license. The police officer who seized the license must send a written report of the violation and the suspension to the DMV commissioner.

As noted above, the suspension period for a DUI conviction for a driver under age 18 lasts until he or she turns 18 or the period listed in Table 1, whichever is longer (CGS 14-227a (h)). A driver under age 18 who is arrested for DUI is not eligible for youthful offender status (CGS 54-76b).

IGNITION INTERLOCKS

Ignition interlocks are devices installed in motor vehicles to prevent people from driving under the influence of alcohol. They require the driver to breathe into them to operate the vehicle. If the device detects a BAC above a certain threshold (.025% in Connecticut), it

prevents the vehicle from being started. Interlock devices also require the driver to submit periodic breath samples while he or she is driving. Offenders must pay DMV a $100 fee before the device is installed; DMV uses this money to administer the interlock program (CGS 14-227a (i)). (Offenders are also responsible for the costs of installing and maintaining the devices.)

New Ignition Interlock Requirements

As noted earlier, the license suspension and ignition interlock requirements for people convicted of DUI will change dramatically starting January 1, 2012 (PA 11-48, 51-57, and PA 11-51, 216-222). Starting on that date, ignition interlock requirements will apply to drivers on their first DUI conviction. Until then, ignition interlock requirements apply only to drivers convicted of DUI for a second time. The acts also (1) shorten the length of time licenses are suspended and (2) increase the length of time drivers may drive only interlock-equipped vehicles.

Interlock Requirements through December 31, 2011. For second offenders age 21 or over, the law imposes a mandatory one-year license suspension followed by two years in which the offender can operate only vehicles equipped with ignition interlocks. For offenders under age 21, the law imposes a suspension of three years, or until the offender's 21st birthday, whichever is longer, and requires the offender to drive only a vehicle equipped with an interlock for two years after the offender completes the suspension (CGS 14-227a (g)).

Interlock Requirements Starting January 1, 2012. Starting January 1, 2012, all drivers convicted of DUI, including those convicted for a first time, will be subject to ignition interlock restrictions. PA 11-48, 51, and PA 11-51, 216, subject DUI offenders age 21 and older to 45-day license suspensions and interlock requirements of varying lengths, as described below.

First offenders, after serving the 45-day suspension, must drive only vehicles equipped with ignition interlocks for one year. Second offenders (age 21 or older) must drive only interlock-equipped vehicles for three years after completing the 45-day suspension. Second offenders under age 21 must also drive only these vehicles for three years following license suspension, but their licenses are suspended for either 45 days or until they turn 21, whichever is longer.

The law re-imposes license suspensions on anyone whose license has been suspended and subsequently restricted to driving only interlock-equipped vehicles who do not install and use the device as required. The re-suspension must be for a period not to exceed the period of the original suspension (CGS 14-111(l)).

Starting January 1, 2012, the DMV commissioner may extend the period of ignition interlock restrictions beyond the one- and three- year periods specified above for drivers who do not comply with the interlock installation or use requirements. The commissioner must adopt regulations specifying (1) which actions constitute a failure to comply with those requirements, (2) which of these actions will result in DMV increasing the length of time the individual must drive only interlock-equipped vehicles, and (3) the length of these extensions (PA 11-48, 52, and PA 11-51, 217).

Ignition Interlock Requirements for Other Offenses

The law requires anyone convicted of 2nd-degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle or 2nd-degree assault with a motor vehicle to operate ignition interlock-equipped motor vehicles for two years following a mandatory one-year license suspension (CGS 53a-56b and -60d). A court also may order anyone convicted of these crimes to only operate motor vehicles equipped with ignition interlock devices as a condition of (1) release on bail, (2) probation, or (3) granting his or her application to participate in the Pretrial Alcohol Education System (CGS 14-227j (b)).

Penalties for Evading Ignition Interlock Restrictions

People under a court order regarding ignition interlocks or subject to DMV ignition interlock restrictions face the following criminal penalties for evading those restrictions.

Penalties through December 31, 2011. Until January 1, 2012, anyone under a court order or subject to DMV ignition interlock restrictions who (1) drives a vehicle (a) not equipped with a functioning ignition interlock, or (b) that a court has ordered him or her not to drive; (2) asks another person to breathe into the interlock to start a vehicle; or (3) tampers with, bypasses, or alters the interlock, commits a class C misdemeanor, punishable by up to three months in prison, up to a $500 fine, or both.

Penalties Starting January 1, 2012. Although asking another person to breathe into the interlock to start a vehicle and tampering with, bypassing, or altering the interlock remain class C misdemeanors, starting January 1, 2012, PA 11-48 and PA 11-51 impose tougher penalties on drivers who drive a vehicle (1) not equipped with a functioning ignition interlock or (2) that a court has ordered them not to drive.

Starting January 1, 2012, for a first offense, the penalty is a fine of between $500 and $1,000 and imprisonment for up to one year, 30 days of which cannot be suspended. A driver who, for a second time, is subject to and violates these suspension and interlock restrictions is subject to a fine of between $500 and $1,000 and imprisonment for up to two years, 120 days of which cannot be suspended. An individual who has suspension and interlock restrictions placed on him or her for a third or subsequent time and violates these restrictions faces a fine of between $500 and $1,000 and imprisonment for up to three years, one year of which cannot be suspended. In each case, the court is not required to impose the mandatory minimum sentence if there are mitigating circumstances (PA 11-48, 56, and PA 11-51, 221).

Also, starting on January 1, 2012, the DMV commissioner:

1. must allow an offender who has served the 45-day suspension period and installed ignition interlocks on his or her vehicles to drive these vehicles even if he or she has not finished serving an administrative per se suspension (see below); and

2. may, at the request of anyone whose license is suspended for DUI on that date, reduce the suspension (presumably to 45 days) and instead require the motorist to drive only a vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock for the remainder of the original suspension period.

A driver is ineligible to operate a motor vehicle with an ignition interlock if his or her license was suspended for any reason other than conviction of (1) DUI, (2) 2nd-degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle, or (3) 2nd-degree assault with a motor vehicle (CGS 14-227a (i)).

PERSISTENT DUI OFFENDERS (CGS 53A-40F)

A person is considered a “persistent operating under the influence felony offender” if he or she (1) is convicted of 2nd-degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle or 2nd-degree assault with a motor vehicle and (2) within the previous 10 years has been convicted of either of these offenses, DUI, or of substantially similar offenses in other states.

The court may impose the prison sentence for the next higher degree of felony for a persistent DUI offender. Thus, it increases, from 10 to 20 years, the maximum possible prison term for a persistent offender convicted of 2nd-degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle and from five to 10 years the maximum possible sentence for a persistent offender convicted of 2nd-degree assault with a motor vehicle.

OUT-OF-STATE OFFENSES

By law, DUI and other alcohol related criminal offenses that occur out-of-state and the essential elements of which are determined by the court to be substantially the same as Connecticut offenses constitute a prior offense for determining the imposition of penalties for second or subsequent offenses. By federal and state law, states must record convictions for certain highway related offenses, including DUI, committed by nonresidents and report these convictions to the offender's home state for imposition of penalties. Thus, if someone has a prior Connecticut DUI conviction and is subsequently convicted for DUI in another state, DMV is informed of the out-of-state conviction and imposes the license suspension Connecticut law requires for a second or subsequent offense.

IMPLIED CONSENT TO TEST AND ADMINISTRATIVE PER SE LICENSE SUSPENSION (CGS 14-227b)

Implied Consent

Anyone who drives implicitly consents to the testing of his or her blood, breath, or urine. If the driver is a minor, his or her parents or guardians are considered to have given their consent.

Before administering the test, the police officer must:

1. inform the driver of his or her constitutional rights;

2. give the driver a chance to call a lawyer;

3. inform the driver that his or her license will be suspended if he or she refuses to take the test, or if the test results indicate an elevated BAC; and

4. inform the driver that evidence of a refusal may be used against him or her in a criminal prosecution.

Administrative Per Se

This law requires an administrative license suspension process for drivers who refuse to submit to the test or whose test results indicate an elevated BAC (at least .08% for non-commercial vehicle drivers, .04% for commercial vehicle drivers, or .02% for drivers under age 21). In such cases, the police officer, acting on behalf of the motor vehicle commissioner, must revoke the driver's license for 24 hours and submit a report to the DMV. The report must include any test results and the grounds the officer had for making the arrest. In cases of test refusals, a third party who witnessed the refusal must sign the report (CGS 14-227b (c)).

A different procedure applies when someone gives a blood or urine sample at a police officer's request because these require a laboratory analysis. In this case, the officer cannot immediately take possession of the person's license or follow the other procedural requirements of the per se law. Instead, immediately upon receiving test results showing an elevated BAC, the officer must notify the DMV commissioner and submit the required written report.

The process followed once the commissioner receives the police report depends on the driver's circumstances. As long as the driver either has not (1) previously been suspended for a DUI conviction within the 10 years preceding the current arrest or (2) been involved in a fatal accident, the commissioner may suspend his or her license or nonresident operating privilege starting on a date not more than 30 days after the person receives notice of his arrest by the police officer. In the case of someone with a prior DUI license suspension or who has been involved in a fatal accident, the commissioner may suspend his or her license or operating privilege on any date specified in the suspension notice. This can be immediate (CGS 14-227b (e)).

In either case, the driver is entitled to a DMV hearing. In the first case (no prior DUI suspension or fatal accident involvement), this must occur before the suspension goes into effect, provided the person contacts DMV no later than seven days after DMV mails the suspension notice. In the latter case (prior DUI suspension or fatal accident involvement), the hearing can occur after the suspension, but not more than 30 days after the person contacts DMV to schedule a hearing.

In either case, the issues at the hearing are limited to whether: (1) the police officer had probable cause to make the arrest, (2) the driver was arrested, (3) he or she was driving, and (4) he or she refused the test or had an elevated BAC. In the case of test results obtained from a blood sample taken from an apparently injured driver, the hearing must additionally determine whether the blood sample was obtained according to the statutory conditions for admissibility and competence as evidence. If the answer to any of these questions is no, DMV must return the license to the driver. If the answer to all of the questions is yes, the driver's license is suspended for the period specified in Table 2. Longer suspensions apply if the person's BAC was measured at .16% or more.

Table 2: Administrative Per Se License Suspension Periods for Drivers Age 21 and Older

Per Se Offense

First Offense

Second Offense

Third or Subsequent Offense

BAC of:

.08% or more

90 days

9 months

2 years

BAC of .16% or more

120 days

10 months

2 years

Test Refused

6 months

One year

3 years

The test refusal penalties also apply to someone who takes the initial test but refuses to take the second test. These provisions do not apply to someone whose condition makes such tests medically inadvisable. These administrative license suspension penalties are in addition to any suspension penalties imposed as a result of conviction on any criminal DUI charge (see Table 1).

Enhanced Administrative Penalties for Drivers Under Age 21

Anyone under age 21 who does not contact DMV for a hearing, fails to show up for a scheduled hearing, or who receives an adverse hearing decision, is subject to a license suspension that is twice as long as the period that would otherwise be imposed (CGS 14-227b (j)).

The law makes the administrative license suspension even longer for a 16- or 17-year-old. Specifically, the suspension for a first per se violation by a 16- or 17-year-old is one year if the driver submitted to a BAC test that showed a BAC of .02 or more or 18 months if the driver refused to take the test.

Additional information on specific penalties for drivers under age 21 is available on the DMV website at: http://www.ct.gov/dmv/cwp/view.asp?a=813&q=245234.

SUBSTANCE ABUSE TREATMENT PROGRAM (CGS 14-227F)

PA 11-48, 307, and PA 11-51, 224, eliminate this program starting January 1, 2012. Until that date, however, the law requires anyone whose license or nonresident operating privilege has been suspended for any DUI conviction, or for two or more administrative per se suspensions for test failures or refusals, to successfully complete a DMV-approved substance abuse treatment program that includes an assessment of the degree of alcohol abuse and treatment deemed appropriate for the person. The offender must successfully complete the program before DMV may restore his or her driver's license or nonresident operating privilege. The program must provide intensive treatment and continuing individual aftercare supervision and monitoring.

An offender may ask the commissioner to waive the program participation requirement on the grounds that (1) he or she is presently undergoing or has already completed an equivalent program subsequent to his or her most recent arrest, either as a result of a Superior Court order or on a voluntary basis and (2) a Connecticut licensed physician attests, based on a personal examination, that the defendant does not have a current addiction problem that affects his ability to operate a vehicle safely. (Starting July 1, 2011, a licensed physician assistant or advance practice registered nurse may also make such a determination (PA 11-213, 36)).

PA 11-48 and PA 11-51 do not change existing laws requiring (1) a court to order a driver to take part in the program and (2) the commissioner to consider participation in such a program, among other things, when deciding whether to restore a permanently revoked license.

PRETRIAL ALCOHOL EDUCATION PROGRAM (CGS 54-56G)

Someone charged with DUI or, if under 21, operating a vehicle with a BAC of .02% or more, may apply to the court for admission to the Pretrial Alcohol Education Program. The applicant must pay a $100 application fee and a $100 nonrefundable evaluation fee. The applicant also must make certain affirmations under oath before the court, including that he or she has not had the program previously invoked on his or her behalf within the preceding 10 years, or ever, if under age 21. The court must seal the file when the offender applies for the program.

The court can grant the application after considering the recommendations of the state's attorney. If the court grants the application, it must refer the motorist to CSSD for assessment and confirmation of his or her eligibility and to the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) for evaluation. Upon confirmation of eligibility, the person is referred to DMHAS for placement in either an appropriate alcohol intervention program for one year, or a state-licensed substance abuse treatment program.

If the court makes a determination of ineligibility or if the program provider certifies to the court that the defendant did not successfully complete the assigned program or is no longer amenable to treatment, the court must order the court file to be unsealed, enter a plea of not guilty for the defendant, and immediately schedule the case for trial.

If the defendant satisfactorily completes the assigned program, he or she may apply for dismissal of the charges. The court must dismiss them on a finding of satisfactory completion.

The offender's license suspension remains in effect while he or she participates in the program, although he or she has the option of not starting the program until the end of the suspension period.

A driver is ineligible for the program if involved in an accident that caused a serious physical injury or if the charge resulted from operating a commercial motor vehicle.

RELATED PROVISIONS

Forty-Eight Hour Impoundment (CGS 14-227H)

A police officer must impound for 48 hours the motor vehicle of anyone he or she arrests for DUI whose right to drive in Connecticut is under suspension or revocation. The owner may reclaim the vehicle after paying all towing and storage costs.

Operating While License Suspended For DUI (CGS 14-215(C))

Anyone who operates a motor vehicle while his or her license is suspended or revoked for (1) DUI, (2) 2nd-degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle, (3) 2nd-degree assault with a motor vehicle, or (4) refusing to submit to a BAC test or whose test shows an elevated BAC, is subject to a fine of between $500 and $1,000 and imprisonment for up to one year. The offense also carries a 30-day mandatory prison sentence unless the court specifies mitigating circumstances.

A driver who operates a motor vehicle while his or her license is suspended or revoked for a second violation of the above is subject to a fine of between $500 and $1,000 and imprisonment for up to two years, 120 days of which cannot be suspended unless the court specifies mitigating circumstances. A motorist who drives a motor vehicle while his or her license is suspended or revoked for a third or subsequent violation of the above is subject to a fine of between $500 and $1,000 and imprisonment for up to three years, one year of which cannot be suspended unless the court specifies mitigating circumstances.

The judge must specify the mitigating circumstances, or lack of them, in writing.

Testing After Accidents (CGS 14-227c)

The chief medical examiner and other specified officials must include in any investigation of a fatal motor vehicle accident a blood sample from any driver or pedestrian who dies in the accident. These samples must be examined for the presence and concentration of alcohol and drugs by the chief medical examiner or the DESPP Division of Scientific Services. A blood or breath sample must be obtained from any surviving driver whose vehicle is involved in an accident resulting in the death or serious physical injury to another person if a police officer has probable cause to believe that the driver operated the vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both. Since the law requires the sample to be tested for drugs as well as alcohol, and breath samples cannot provide reliable evidence of the presence of drugs, the law, in effect, appears to require blood samples from surviving operators.

The testing of any such samples must be performed at the direction of a police officer according to methods and using equipment approved by DESPP. The person performing the test must be certified or recertified for this purpose by DESPP or recertified by someone certified as an instructor by DESPP.

Test equipment must be checked immediately before and after the test by someone who is DESPP-certified. If a blood test is performed, the sample must be taken by someone licensed to practice medicine and surgery, a qualified laboratory technician, a registered nurse, a physician assistant, or a phlebotomist.

Special Operator Permits (CGS 14-37A)

By law, anyone who has had a driver's license suspended, except in certain instances, may apply for a special driving permit that allows certain work- or education- related driving. A person is eligible for this permit even with two previous DUI convictions unless the second of those convictions occurred within 10 years of the previous conviction.

The DMV commissioner may condition issuance of a work-related special operator permit on the driver operating only a vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock device. As of July 1, 2011, she may also impose this condition when issuing a special operator permit for educational purposes (PA 11-213, 37).

CDL Holders (CGS 14-44K)

If someone holding a CDL (required to drive buses, large trucks, and trucks carrying hazardous materials) is found to have either refused to submit to a BAC test or has taken a test that resulted in a BAC of .04% or more, he or she is disqualified from driving a commercial motor vehicle for one year. If an offense involves driving a vehicle transporting hazardous materials requiring placards under federal law, the disqualification is for three years (CGS 14-44k (c) & (d)).

The disqualification applies for (1) any BAC test refusal, regardless of the type of motor vehicle he or she was driving, (2) a BAC result of .04% or more while driving a commercial motor vehicle or .08% or more while driving any other motor vehicle, or (3) a conviction of operating any vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both.

The disqualification periods apply to convictions in another state if the commissioner believes the offenses in those states are similar to those under Connecticut's administrative per se and implied consent law.

Second Degree Manslaughter with a Motor Vehicle

CGS 53a-56b establishes the crime of 2nd degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle. A person commits this offense when, while operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or any drug, he causes the death of another person as a consequence of the effect of the alcohol or drugs. The penalty is a prison term of up to 10 years, or a fine of up to $10,000, or both. The operator's driver's license is suspended for one year and he or she can only operate vehicles equipped with an ignition interlock device for two years after completing the suspension period.

Second Degree Assault with a Motor Vehicle

CGS 53a-60d establishes the crime of 2nd degree assault with a motor vehicle. A person commits the offense when, while operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, he causes serious physical injury to another person as a consequence of the effect of the alcohol or drugs. The penalty is a prison term of up to five years, or a fine of up to $5,000, or both. The operator's driver's license is suspended for one year and he or she can only operate vehicles equipped with an ignition interlock device for two years after completing the suspension period.

By law, a “serious physical injury” is one that creates a substantial risk of death, or causes serious disfigurement, serious impairment of health, or serious loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ (CGS 53a-3(4)).

PF:ro