Five Key Things to Know About DUI Arrests in Connecticut
1. Remain calm and respectful to the officers during the intital stop.
Connecticut has a "Stop and Identify" law, which means that any person pulled over while operating a motor vehicle must provide identification, proof of insurance, and vehicle registration to an officer. While retrieving your documents, be respectful to the officers and try to remain calm. If you have been pulled over under suspicion of DUI/DWI, the officers will be carefully observing you for signs of intoxication during this initial encounter-- for example, if you are slurring your words or if you seem confused or unsteady. The officer may smell alcohol on your breath, but even if you have had a drink or two, remember that it is legal to drive after drinking a small amount, and try to remain calm and clear-headed.
2. You are not required to take the field sobriety tests (e.g. one leg stand, gaze test, walk and turn).
If during the initial encounter, the officers have reason to suspect you are intoxicated, they will ask you to step out of the vehicle to take the field sobriety tests. The Standardized Field Sobriety Tests consist of the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the one-legged stand test, and the walk and turn test. In addition, the officers may administer other optional tests at their discretion. If you fail one or more of these tests, that gives the officers probable cause to arrest you for DUI/DWI and bring you to the police station. It is important to make clear that you are not legally required to take the field sobriety tests. You may feel like cooperating with the officers will be favorable to you, or that you may make them suspicious by refusing. However, by taking the field sobriety tests, you only give the officers more evidence for your arrest (and at this point, you are likely going to be arrested anyway). It may feel awkward in the moment to refuse an officer's request, but you can simply and respectfully say something like, "on the advice of my attorney, I respectfully refuse to take the field sobriety tests." You may politely repeat this if the officer persists.
3. You will be penalized for refusing to take the chemical test (breath, blood, urine) at the police station.
If you have been arrested for a DUI/DWI in Connecticut, the officers will read you your Miranda rights. At this point, it is advised that you request to speak with an attorney, and do not disclose any additional information to the police officers that they could use against you in court (e.g. how many drinks you had, what prescription drugs you took, where you were coming from when pulled over). At the police station, the officers should read you the "Implied Consent" advisory prior to the administration of the chemical test. As part of the Implied Consent procedure, the officer must inform you that you have the right to speak to an attorney prior to taking the test, and that refusal and/or failure of the test will lead to a license suspension. If you refuse the test, your license will be suspended for a minimum of six months and it may be held against you in court. It is strongly recommended to speak with a DUI/DWI attorney prior to submitting to the chemical test.
4. If charged with a DUI/DWI in Connecticut, you must fight the charges in two places: (1) in court, and (2) at the DMV.
In addition to fighting your charges in court, you will also face a license suspension with the DMV. Upon a DUI/DWI arrest, your license is immediately suspended for 24 hours. After that, your license will be briefly reinstated until you receive a suspension notice from the Connecticut DMV. In this letter, the DMV will describe the date and length of your suspension (minimum of 45 days). Your attorney may schedule an Administrative Per Se hearing with the DMV to argue against a license suspension on technical or constitutional grounds. Your attorney can also assist you in receiving a Special Operation Permit so that you may still drive to work or school while you're under a license suspension.
5. If this is your first DUI/DWI, you may be eligible to get your charges dismissed.
If this is your first DUI/DWI, you may be eligible for a diversionary program, in particular, the Adult Education Program ("AEP"). The AEP is facilitated through the state of Connecticut and consists of 10-15 alcohol education classes. Your DUI/DWI attorney will carefully prepare your application and argue for your admission into this program in court. If the court accepts your admission into the AEP, upon completion of the program, your DUI/DWI charges will be dismissed and your criminal record of this incident will be erased.
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Douglas D. Rudolph is a Connecticut criminal defense attorney. Learn more about Doug here.