In Connecticut, it is against the law to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. If you are stopped by the police while drunk driving, you could be charged with operating under the influence (OUI/DUI). A DUI charge could lead to harsh consequences – particularly if you are under the age of 21.
Connecticut has a much lower threshold for DUI offenses for minors. If you’re under 21, you could be arrested for DUI with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of just .02% – compared to the legal limit of .08% for adults aged 21 and older. In addition, you may face prison time, steep fines, a license suspension, and even other charges, such as a minor in possession of alcohol charge.
The Sills Law Firm represents people of all ages who have been charged with drunk driving and related offenses. If you are a minor facing DUI charges, reach out to the best DUI lawyers in CT for a free consultation. We’ll fight for your rights and work hard to get you the best possible outcome for your case.
How Connecticut’s DUI Laws Apply to Minors
For most drivers, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle in CT if you have a BAC of .08% or higher, or if you are under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. For those under the age of 21, however, Connecticut has enacted what is essentially a zero-tolerance policy. A minor can be arrested and charged with an OUI/DUI with a BAC of just .02%.
Even though the standard for legal intoxication is much lower, minors are subjected to the same penalties that adults may receive. When a minor is arrested for suspicion of operating under the influence, they will typically go through two separate proceedings; a criminal court prosecution and an administrative hearing with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). As described in greater detail below, this can result in jail time, fines and fees, a license suspension, and other penalties.
For teenage drivers, there is a special procedure after a DUI/OUI arrest. If a 16 or 17-year-old driver is arrested for operating under the influence, then the police will tow the vehicle and seize the youth’s driver’s license for a period of 48 hours. During this time, their driving privileges will automatically be suspended.
The driver’s parent(s) and/or legal guardian(s) must appear at the police station and sign to retrieve their license. The driver and their family will also be responsible for all towing and storage expenses.
Even after a minor gets their license back from the police station, they will still be subject to an automatic 6-month license suspension from the DMV. After receiving the DMV notice, you have a small window of time during which you can file an appeal and request a hearing to contest the administrative per se license suspension.
Importantly, Connecticut is an implied consent state, which means if you drive in the state, you have impliedly consented to submitting to a chemical breath and/or blood test. If you refuse to take a chemical breath or blood test after being arrested on suspicion of operating under the influence – even as a minor – then you could face additional penalties.
Penalties for an Underage DUI in Connecticut
The penalties for an OUI/DUI are the same for everyone in Connecticut. In other words, whether you are 16 or 30, you will face the same consequences if you are convicted of or plead guilty to operating under the influence.
So what happens when a minor gets a DUI in CT? The penalties for a DUI for a minor are as follows:
- First offense: a jail term of 48 hours to 6 months, fines of $500 to $1,000, and probation. In addition, a minor will have their license suspended for 45 days and be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) for a period of 1 year.
- Second offense: if a minor has a second conviction within the 10-year lookback period, they will be sentenced 120 days to 2 years in jail, $1,000 to $4,000 in fines, and probation. In addition, their license will be suspended for 45 days and they will be required to install an IID for a period of 3 years.
- Third or greater offense: 1 to 3 years in prison, $2,000 to $8,000 in fines, and probation. Their license may be permanently revoked, with the possibility of reinstatement in the future.
Importantly, the potential license suspension increases significantly based on the BAC of the minor. For example, if an underage driver is caught with a BAC of .02% to .08%, then their license will be suspended for 6 months. However, if a minor is caught driving with a BAC greater than .08%, then their license will be suspended for a full year.
Minors can seek a special operator’s permit so that they can continue to drive to school and/or to work. However, if you drive outside of these restrictions or drive while your license is suspended without a permit, then you could be sentenced to jail time.
There are other criminal offenses associated with minors and alcohol. If an underage driver is arrested for an OUI/DUI, they could be hit with additional charges, such as minor in possession, soliciting alcohol, and/or possession of false identification if they used a fake ID to buy alcohol. A skilled Connecticut criminal defense attorney can represent you in all charges related to an OUI/DUI offense.
Similarly, if you are an unlicensed driver who is caught driving under the influence as a minor, it will be considered an aggravating factor. This may upgrade a misdemeanor OUI to a felony offense, resulting in steeper fines and longer jail terms. You may even be barred from seeking a driver’s license for an extended period of time.
Finally, even though Connecticut has legalized the recreational use of marijuana, these laws only apply to adults aged 21 or over. For any driver – including those under 21 – it is still illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana. If you have been charged with a marijuana DUI as a minor, you will face the same penalties as described above for an OUI/DUI.
Charged with OUI in Connecticut? Reach Out Today.
Being charged with a DUI can have a serious impact on your life. Even if you complete the terms of your sentence, the OUI/DUI will remain on your driving record for a period of 10 years. Our law office will help you fight back against DUI charges, whether you are 16 or 61.
The Sills Law Firm represents people of all ages who have been charged with criminal offenses in the state of Connecticut. We work hard to help minors facing DUI charges get the best possible outcome. To learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation with a DUI defense lawyer in our Hartford or Waterbury offices, call us at 860-524-8118 or fill out our online contact form.