PA 16-126—sSB 365

Judiciary Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING CHILD ENDANGERMENT WHILE DRIVING WHILE UNDER THE INFLUENCE

SUMMARY: This act increases the criminal penalties for driving under the influence (DUI) (1) with a child passenger (under age 18) or (2) when driving a school bus, student transportation vehicle (STV, see BACKGROUND), or other motor vehicle specially designated for carrying children, with or without a child passenger. It does so by creating specific crimes for these offenses, separate from the DUI statute (CGS 14-227a).

Among other changes compared to existing DUI law, the penalties for the act's new crimes include longer mandatory minimum and maximum prison terms and required probation for first offenses. For DUI with a child passenger, the act adds to the required components of probation (1) submitting to an interview and risk evaluation by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and (2) cooperating with DCF-ordered programming. Otherwise, the act applies most provisions of the existing DUI law to the new crimes.

The act subjects individuals arrested for the new crimes to the existing “administrative per se” license suspension procedures ( 17, see BACKGROUND). It also generally applies the same restrictions and requirements that now apply to people convicted of DUI to people convicted of the new crimes.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2016

DUI WITH A CHILD PASSENGER OR WHEN DRIVING A SCHOOL BUS OR SIMILAR VEHICLE

The act establishes specific crimes for (1) DUI with a child passenger in any motor vehicle (including a snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle) and (2) DUI when driving a school bus, STV, or other motor vehicle specially designated for carrying children, with or without a child passenger. Under the act, as under existing DUI law:

1. these crimes apply if someone is driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs or with an elevated blood alcohol content (BAC) and

2. the threshold for an elevated BAC is . 08% for most drivers age 21 or older, . 04% for drivers age 21 or older operating a commercial motor vehicle (large truck or bus), and . 02% for drivers younger than age 21 (see CGS 14-227a(a) and 14-227g).

By law, a commercial driver's license (CDL) is required to drive a school bus. Thus, the BAC threshold for such drivers over age 21 is . 04%. Because an STV is not necessarily classified as a commercial vehicle, the BAC threshold for STV drivers over age 21 is generally . 08%.

DUI with a Child Passenger: Criminal Penalties ( 1)

Similar to existing DUI law, the act establishes graduated penalties for the new crime of DUI with a child passenger, including prison sentences and probation terms; fines; and license suspension and ignition interlock requirements.

For a first conviction of DUI under existing law, individuals may either be sentenced to a (1) mandatory minimum prison term or (2) suspended sentence with probation. Mandatory minimum prison terms and probation are required for subsequent offenses.

The act increases the penalties for the new crime relative to those in existing DUI law by:

1. requiring a mandatory minimum prison term for first convictions and increasing the mandatory minimum prison terms for second and subsequent convictions,

2. increasing maximum prison terms for all convictions,

3. requiring probation for first convictions and adding to the required components of probation for all convictions, and

4. increasing maximum fines for first convictions.

Table 1 compares the criminal penalties under existing DUI law and the crime of DUI with a child passenger.

Table 1: Existing DUI Law Compared to DUI with a Child Passenger: Criminal Penalties

Penalty Type

Existing DUI Law

(CGS 14-227a(g), see Act 3)

DUI with a Child Passenger

Under the Act ( 1)

First Conviction

Prison Sentence and Probation

Either (1) up to six months with a mandatory minimum of two consecutive days or (2) up to six months suspended with probation requiring 100 hours of community service

Up to one year with a mandatory minimum of 30 days

Probation required, including (1) 100 hours of community service; (2) submitting to an assessment of the degree of the person's alcohol or drug abuse, conducted by the Court Support Services Division (CSSD); (3) undergoing a treatment program, including chemical screening, if court ordered; (4) submitting to a DCF interview and evaluation to assess any ongoing risk the person poses to the child passenger; and (5) cooperating with any DCF-required programming, treatment, directives, or plan

Fine

$500- $1,000

$500- $2,000

License Suspension

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

Same as existing DUI law

Second Conviction within 10 Years of Prior Conviction

Prison Sentence and Probation

Up to two years, with a mandatory minimum of 120 consecutive days

Probation required, including (1) 100 hours of community service; (2) submitting to an assessment of the degree of the person's alcohol or drug abuse, conducted by CSSD; and (3) undergoing a treatment program if court ordered

Up to three years, with a mandatory minimum of 180 consecutive days

Probation required, with the same conditions as for a first conviction (see above)

Fine

$1,000- $4,000

Same as existing DUI law

License Suspension

45 days, followed by three years of driving only a vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock device, with operation for the first year limited to travel to or from work, school, an alcohol or drug abuse treatment program, ignition interlock service center, or appointment with a probation officer

Same as existing DUI law, except during first year of travel with ignition interlock device, the act also allows travel to DCF-ordered treatment programs and appointments with DCF caseworkers

Third or Subsequent Conviction Within 10 Years of Prior Conviction

Prison Sentence and Probation

Up to three years, with mandatory minimum of one year

Probation required, with same conditions as for second DUI convictions (see above)

Up to five years, with mandatory minimum of two years

Probation required, with same conditions as for a first or second DUI with a child passenger conviction (see above)

Fine

$2,000- $8,000

Same as existing DUI law

License Suspension

License revoked, but the offender is eligible for reinstatement after two years

If the license is reinstated, the offender must drive only interlock-equipped vehicles for as long as he or she drives, except that the motor vehicles (DMV) commissioner may lift this requirement after 15 years

Same as existing DUI law

Subsequent Convictions. Under existing DUI law, a subsequent conviction is one that occurs within 10 years of a prior conviction in Connecticut for:

1. DUI,

2. 2nd degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle, or

3. 2nd degree assault with a motor vehicle.

A conviction in another state within the past 10 years of a crime with substantially similar essential elements is also considered a prior conviction under existing law.

Under the act, convictions for any such crimes, or the act's new crimes, are counted as prior convictions for purposes of DUI or DUI with a child passenger ( 1 & 3).

The act also specifies that a conviction for the separate crime of DUI by a driver under age 21 is a prior conviction for purposes of the new crime of DUI with a child passenger ( 1).

DUI While Driving a School Bus, STV, or Similar Vehicle: Criminal Penalties ( 2)

The act creates a separate crime for DUI while driving a school bus, STV, or other “motor vehicle specially designated for carrying children. ” It defines the last term as any motor vehicle, other than a registered school bus or STV, that is designated or used to transport children to or from any program or activity organized primarily for minors, regardless of whether the passengers are charged a fee, but not including a passenger vehicle normally used for personal, family, or household purposes operated by someone without a public passenger endorsement.

Unlike existing DUI law, this crime does not have graduated penalties for subsequent convictions. As compared to existing DUI law, the act:

1. requires a mandatory minimum prison term and probation for first convictions,

2. increases the maximum prison terms for all convictions, and

3. eliminates minimum fines while increasing maximum fines.

The act requires the same period of license suspension and ignition interlock usage for convictions of this crime as for second convictions under existing DUI law.

Under the act, the mandatory minimum prison term is longer (120 days) if the offense occurs when there is a child passenger on the bus or similar vehicle than if there is no such passenger (30 days).

Table 2 describes the criminal penalties for this new crime.

Table 2: DUI While Driving a School Bus, STV, or Similar Vehicle: Criminal Penalties

Penalty Type

Penalty

Prison Sentence and Probation

One to 10 years, with a mandatory minimum of (1) 30 consecutive days or (2) 120 consecutive days if a child was a passenger when the offense occurred

Probation required, including (1) 100 hours of community service; (2) submitting to a CSSD assessment of the degree of the person's alcohol or drug abuse; and (3) participating in a treatment program, including chemical screening, if court ordered

Fine

Up to $10,000

License Suspension

45 days, followed by three years of driving only a vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock device, with operation for the first year limited to travel to or from work, school, an alcohol or drug abuse treatment program, ignition interlock service center, or appointment with a probation officer

Pretrial Alcohol Education Program( 4 & 5)

Existing law provides for a pretrial alcohol education program, the successful completion of which may result in the dismissal of charges for certain eligible offenders charged with DUI.

The act extends to the new crimes the same rules as existing law regarding eligibility for this program. Thus, among other things, the program is not available to an individual who (1) participated in the program in the preceding 10 years, (2) has prior DUI-related convictions, (3) was driving a commercial motor vehicle or had a CDL or commercial driver's instruction permit at the time of the offense, or (4) caused a serious injury in committing the crime (although this may be waived for good cause).

Because a CDL is required to drive a school bus, individuals driving such vehicles when the offense occurred are ineligible for the pretrial alcohol education program, under existing law and the act.

Other DUI Provisions ( 6-37)

In most other respects, the act extends existing DUI law to the new crimes it creates. For example:

1. An applicant for a public passenger endorsement is ineligible if convicted of such a crime within the prior five years (this endorsement is required to drive a school bus or STV) ( 10).

2. Someone with a CDL convicted of one of these crimes is disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle for one year, and faces a lifetime ban on driving such vehicles for two such convictions, subject to possible reinstatement after 10 years ( 11).

3. An individual operating a motor vehicle while his or her license is suspended or revoked for such a crime is subject to additional criminal penalties ( 16).

4. In a civil action, a judge or jury may award double or triple damages if (a) the defendant deliberately or with reckless disregard operated the vehicle in violation of the applicable DUI law and (b) the violation was a substantial factor in causing the injury, death, or property damage ( 22).

5. A person is considered a “persistent operating under the influence felony offender” if he or she (a) is convicted of 2nd degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle or 2nd degree assault with a motor vehicle and (b) within the previous 10 years was convicted of either of these offenses, DUI, one of the act's new crimes, or substantially similar offenses in other states ( 30).

A few provisions of existing DUI law do not apply to the act's new crimes or only apply in certain situations, as follows.

Home Confinement. Existing law allows the Department of Correction (DOC) commissioner to release, to the inmate's home, an inmate sentenced for DUI, after admission to DOC custody and a risk and needs assessment. The offender cannot leave his or her home without authorization, remains in DOC custody, and is supervised by DOC employees. Under the act, this applies to a first conviction for DUI with a child passenger but not to (1) subsequent convictions for this crime or (2) any conviction for DUI while driving a school bus, STV, or similar vehicle ( 25).

Special Operator's Permit. Existing law generally allows individuals with a suspended driver's license to apply for a special operator's permit that allows certain work-, education-, or medical treatment-related driving. This permit is not available to operate a vehicle for which a CDL or public passenger endorsement is required.

The act provides that someone with a prior license suspension for one of the new crimes is ineligible for such a permit ( 9). Existing law provides that a person is not ineligible for such a permit solely on the basis of two DUI convictions, unless the second conviction was for a violation committed after a prior conviction. (Thus, a person could still be eligible if convicted on the same day for two DUI offenses. ) The act does not extend this provision to the new crimes.

BACKGROUND

Risk of Injury to a Minor

In practice, individuals arrested for DUI while driving children are often also charged with risk of injury to a minor, a class C felony (see Table on Penalties) which prohibits anyone from willfully or unlawfully causing or permitting a child under age 16 to be placed in a situation endangering the child's life or limb (CGS 53-21).

Student Transportation Vehicle

By law, a student transportation vehicle is any motor vehicle, other than a registered school bus, used by a carrier for transporting students to or from school, school programs, or school-sponsored events (CGS 14-212).

Administrative Per Se License Suspension

By law, 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. )

Administrative license suspension penalties are in addition to any suspension penalties imposed as a result of conviction on any criminal DUI charge (CGS 14-227b; see act 17).

OLR Tracking: JO; DC; PF; MK; bs