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There is nothing routine about DUI cases in Connecticut. DUI cases often involve some of the most complex issues of law. Each case is different. Some involve accidents, injuries, prior offenses, prior out-of-state offenses, high blood alcohol content (BAC), refusals of chemical tests, field sobriety tests, drugs other than alcohol, and additional charges.
At The Sills Law Firm, LLC, our CT DUI lawyers have 20+ years of experience handling all varieties of DUI cases throughout the state of Connecticut. Attorney Jonathan Sills authors Connecticut DUI Law, an annually published volume in the Connecticut Practice Series. The book is a comprehensive guide on handling the DUI case in Connecticut designed for the legal practitioner. Other defense attorneys, prosecutors, judges, and DMV hearing officers regularly consult Attorney Sills’ writing on DUI law. Attorney Sills has appeared in national broadcasts such as The Today Show and is regularly featured in local newspapers such as The Hartford Courant regarding DUI Issues. Attorney Jonathan Sills has handled thousands of DUI cases and has tried to verdict more DUI defense cases than most other lawyers in Connecticut. More often than not his clients hear the words “Not Guilty!”
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Connecticut’s DUI Laws
When you take a drink and then go out and drive in Connecticut you face getting yourself involved with a law—the DUI law—that can have a devastating impact on your life. It is a series of laws that have become so complicated and its punishment so severe that law professionals are often bewildered by it.
Operating Under the Influence is the only motor vehicle offense that gives rise to two completely separate matters:
- A matter at the criminal court in which you could face jail, probation, community service, fines, and license suspension; Connecticut General Statutes § 14-227a makes it a criminal offense to operate a motor vehicle with an elevated BAC of .08% or more, or while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs
- An administrative hearing at the Department of Motor Vehicles in which you could be subjected to a license suspension and ignition interlock device (IID) requirements regardless of what happens at criminal court; Connecticut General Statutes § 14-227b makes it an administrative violation to either refuse or fail a chemical alcohol test after being arrested for DUI
You probably have just realized that a DUI in Connecticut means you face 2 forums:
- The criminal court system with jail, fines, probation, and license suspensions
- The Department of Motor Vehicles Administrative procedure where license suspension is automatic—that’s right automatic—unless you request a hearing and your license or privilege to drive in Connecticut is restored.
The hearing at the DMV is called the Administrative Per Se Hearing. You can contest the automatic suspension. If you win, there is no suspension. If you lose, the suspension goes into effect and before the DMV will reinstate your license, you are required to install an IID. However, you have to contact the DMV to schedule this hearing. Your failure to do so results in the suspension taking effect.
All is not lost. Well, almost all is not lost. If your license is suspended, you may be eligible for a Special Operator’s Permit to drive to and from work and in the course of your employment. The DMV may also allow you to drive for school or medical appointments.
Connecticut DUI Investigations
The drunk driving laws of Connecticut and the United States Supreme Court make it easy for you to be pulled over. Police officers are allowed to pull you over based on a “reasonable articulable suspicion” that you are committing a crime, i.e. driving under the influence. They can pull you over and ask you a lot of questions without first having advised you of your constitutional rights. This is called investigative detention. You have the right to refuse to answer any questions. In fact, you have the constitutional right to refuse to answer the questions and to tell the officer to either arrest you or let you go. The likelihood is that you will be arrested! However, if you answer the questions you will be incriminating yourself and more than likely be arrested. You cannot win!
During and after the stop the officer is observing, listening, and using his sense of smell to determine if you have consumed any alcohol. The officer is also evaluating your dexterity, sense of balance, and the sound of your speech—slurring of words. If you are asked if you consumed a drink containing alcohol, the officer will more than likely ask you to get out of the vehicle to perform field sobriety tests.
The police officer’s observation of your driving, his stopping you, talking with you, and testing you is all being done to establish probable cause to arrest you. Once he asks you out of the car, he will have you perform the following field sobriety tests:
- The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test
- The Walk and Turn Test
- The One Leg Stand Test
The police officer will give you these tests after instructing you what to do in order to determine whether or not you can do several things at the same time—a type of diverted attention test. The officer is trying to determine if alcohol has affected your ability to listen to instructions and then perform the tests according to those instructions. Can you walk and chew gum at the same time? If you cannot, the officer will arrest you for DUI. If you can, he will more than likely arrest you anyway. Again, you cannot win.
After you are arrested, the officer will take you to the police station and offer you either a breath, blood, or urine test. Connecticut law says that if you drive in Connecticut you give your implied consent to taking one of these tests if asked by the police officer. The officer chooses the test, you do not! He will usually ask you to take a breath test. Before asking you to take a test he gives you advisement with regard to the testing procedure and what happens if you take the test or refuse to take the test. He then gives you the opportunity to call an attorney.
Hiring the Right Connecticut DUI Defense Attorney
The experienced CT DUI attorneys at The Sills Law Firm, LLC will always defend you in both the criminal court case and the administrative DMV hearing. This is essential to any comprehensive DUI defense in Connecticut. Before retaining a Connecticut DUI Defense Attorney, you will want to ask the following questions:
WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE IN CONNECTICUT DUI CASES?
DUI is a highly technical and complex area of the law. You will want to inquire how experienced the attorney is in defending DUI cases in Connecticut. You will want to know how many DUI cases he or she has defended, whether her or she is published in the area of DUI law, and what percentage of the attorney’s caseload is devoted to DUI and criminal cases.
At The Sills Law Firm, LLC, our attorneys have successfully defended thousands of DUI cases of all varieties. Our attorneys author the leading text book on DUI Law in the state of Connecticut. Nearly 100% of our practice is devoted is defending the rights of those accused of DUI and other criminal offenses.
The Sills Law Firm, LLC has access to experts involved in every aspect of DUI Law. These experts enable its’ lawyers to analyze and research every aspect of a client’s drunk driving case in order to provide the client with the best defense possible. These experts include medical doctors, investigators, and forensic experts, all of whom work with The Sills Law Firm for your benefit.
HOW FAMILIAR ARE YOU WITH THE CT COURT AND DMV WHERE MY CASE WILL BE HEARD?
Although the CT DUI laws are the same in all Connecticut courthouses, all prosecutors, judges, and court personnel do not approach DUI cases the same way. The handling of DUI cases and court procedures vary throughout the State of Connecticut Geographical Area (G.A.) Courts. The attorneys at The Sills Law Firm, LLC have successfully defended DUI cases in every court in Connecticut. In doing so, we have gotten to learn the tendencies and values of the prosecutors and judges in every Connecticut courthouse. We have appeared in DUI cases in the following courts:
This also holds true for the administrative DUI hearing at the Department of Motor Vehicles. There are four locations that hear DMV Per Se Matters in Connecticut: Bridgeport, Old Saybrook, Waterbury, and Wethersfield. There are about 8-10 DMV Hearing Officers at any given time who will decide whether or not to suspend your driver’s license or privilege to drive in the state of Connecticut. The DUI defense lawyers at The Sills Law Firm, LLC have appeared at every DMV location and before every DMV Hearing Officer. We have gotten to know which DMV Hearing Officers are receptive to certain types of legal arguments and evidence so that we can present your DUI DMV defense in the most effective manner possible.
WHAT IS YOUR CT DUI DEFENSE TRIAL EXPERIENCE?
Perhaps the most important question to ask your Connecticut DUI defense attorney is to detail his or her DUI defense trial experience. While very few DUI cases actually go to trial, if you want the best possible result, it is important for prosecutors to know that your attorney is willing to go the distance and will not back down. Prosecutors have no incentive to offer defense attorneys their best deal if they know the attorney will advise the client to accept whatever offer is on the table to avoid trial.
Many attorneys, who profess themselves to be DUI Defense Attorneys in Connecticut, have not tried a single DUI case to verdict. Prosecutors are acutely aware of this, and as a result, those attorneys have little to no negotiating power. At The Sills Law Firm, our attorneys have tried many DUI cases and felony DUI cases to verdict. Prosecutors throughout the state of Connecticut know this. As a result, we have had many more DUI cases nolled, dropped, dismissed, or reduced without having to go to trial. In some cases, trial is unavoidable. In those cases, you will want to know that you have an experienced Connecticut DUI trial lawyer in your corner.
If you have been arrested and charged with DUI in Connecticut, the very first thing you should do is speak with an experienced DUI attorney at Sills Law Firm by calling (860) 524-8118.
DUI Frequently Asked Questions
Essential Information for those Accused of DUI
What happens if the police officer didn’t have a reason to pull me over?
Generally speaking, a Connecticut police officer is only permitted to stop a person if he or she has a reasonable articulable suspicion that a crime has or is about to be committed. However, a police officer may initiate a traffic stop if he or she observes any violation of our traffic laws. Most commonly, DUI suspects are pulled over failing to maintain their lane or for failing to observe traffic control signals. However, a DUI case can begin with a traffic stop for something as benign as the light illuminating your license plate being out. In some situations, police are permitted to conduct sobriety checkpoints in which they do not need any reason at all to stop your vehicle.
If your attorney can show that the police officer lacked a reasonable articulable suspicion to stop your vehicle and that you were stopped illegally, he or she may be able to get certain evidence suppressed and possibly even the case dismissed. Under the Exclusionary Rule, any evidence that is obtained as “the fruit of a poisonous tree” must be suppressed. If the DUI stop was illegal (the poisonous tree), any evidence obtained thereafter (the fruit) must be suppressed. In most DUI cases that will then leave the State with no evidence to prosecute you and will force them to nolle or drop your case and then force the Judge to dismiss the case.
The Exclusionary Rule only applies in the criminal setting however. It does not apply to your administrative DMV matter. Therefore, it is possible to have your criminal DUI case dismissed because of an illegal stop, but still have your license suspended for either refusing or failing a chemical alcohol test.
Can I refuse to take a field sobriety test?
Yes, you can. In Connecticut, a police officer cannot force you to take a field sobriety test. However, most people are unaware of this and agree to take the field sobriety tests anyway. Most individuals in this situation view the field sobriety tests as their opportunity to prove to the officer that they not drunk and are OK to drive.
If you refuse to submit to the standardized field sobriety tests you will likely be arrested anyway. Connecticut courts have ruled that field sobriety tests are not required for the police to arrest you for DUI. In addition, Connecticut courts have ruled that the fact finder – either a Judge, Jury, or DMV Hearing Officer – may draw a negative inference from your refusal to submit to the field sobriety tests. Basically, if you were not drinking and were not under the influence, why would you not at least attempt the field sobriety tests?
Whether to submit to a field sobriety test is often one huge catch-22. They are difficult tests which can be affected by any number of external factors. So it is very possible to not be drunk, perform poorly on these tests, and get falsely arrested for DUI. However, if you do not submit, you will likely be arrested anyway.
What happens if the police did not have probable cause to arrest me?
Even if the police were legally entitled to stop your vehicle, your Connecticut DUI Defense Lawyer can still challenge the legality of the arrest if the police officer did not have probable cause to arrest you. Probable cause exists when the facts and circumstances within the knowledge of the officer and of which he has reasonably trustworthy information are sufficient in themselves to warrant a man of reasonable caution to believe that a crime has been committed.
Some Connecticut courts have ruled that if all of the facts relied on by the arresting officer were indistinguishable from otherwise innocent conduct, then the police officer lacks probable cause to arrest for DUI.
If your attorney can convince the prosecutor that there was not probable cause to arrest you, then he or she will be forced to drop your charges and then the Judge will dismiss the case. Additionally, if your lawyer can convince the DMV Hearing Officer that there was no probable cause, then your license will not be suspended and you will not be required to install an Ignition Interlock Device.
Should I refuse the breathalyzer?
This is often one of the most difficult decisions you will need to make in any DUI investigation. There is no right answer across the board to whether or not you should submit to the breath test. It is a very case specific inquiry. The easiest case for a Connecticut DUI Defense Attorney to defend is the case where you submit to a breathalyzer and test well under the legal limit. Often the most difficult type of DUI case to defend is the case where you submit to the breath test and test well over the legal limit. Refusals are often somewhere in between.
Many factors go into whether or not you should submit to a breathalyzer. If it is your first offense, it is generally advisable to submit to the breath test as you will likely qualify for court diversion to have your criminal charges dismissed, and you would then only be required to have an IID for the minimum 6-month term. However, if you know you have been drinking and believe you will fail the breathalyzer, in many situations it is advisable to refuse the test. These include situations where you are under the age of 21, were involved in a serious accident with injuries, or have prior convictions for DUI.
The police never read me my Miranda Rights. Will my DUI case be dismissed?
Your case cannot be dismissed for this reason. This is one of the biggest misconceptions of our criminal justice system. Your Miranda rights to do not apply unless and until you are in police custody and subject to police interrogation. In addition, the police are not required to read you your Miranda Rights; they can verbally summarize them for you or provide you with them in writing. As long as they advise you of your rights, their obligation is satisfied.
If the police violate your Miranda Rights, the proper legal remedy is suppression of evidence obtained after or as result of the Miranda violation – not dismissal of your charges.
Can I really go to jail?
Yes, you can and prosecutors will try to put you in jail. Often times people charged with DUI underestimate how serious the state takes DUI charges. With public pressure from special interest groups such as Mother’s Against Drunk Driving “MADD,” long gone are the days where a police officer will simply drive you home since you only live right around the corner, or the prosecutor will throw your case out because you are single mother who stands to lose her children.
For a first offense DUI, you can be sentenced up to 6 months in jail with 48 hours mandatory unless the judge agrees allow you to perform community service in lieu of jail time. For a second offense DUI, you can be sentenced to a maximum of 2 years in jail with 120 days being minimum mandatory. For a third or subsequent DUI, you can be sentenced to a maximum of 3 years in jail with 1 year being mandatory.
Now more than ever it is imperative that you secure the best possible DUI defense to give yourself the best possible chance to avoid jail time.
Will I at least be able to drive for work?
If it is your first offense, most likely. Otherwise probably not. The Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles offers a Special Operator’s Permit to certain individuals whose license is suspended as a result of a DUI. The permit, if approved, will allow you to drive for work, school, and medical appointments during your DUI suspension. To be eligible for a Connecticut Special Operator’s Permit, your official driving history must not show any prior alcohol related suspensions or three or more moving violations. The DMV will also need to verify your employment prior to issuing you the permit. This is done by either contacting your employer directly, or if you are self-employed, by verifying your self-employment with the Connecticut Secretary of State.
Will I need to install an ignition interlock device?
Ignition Interlock Devices or IIDs are now mandatory as a condition of your license being reinstated after every DUI related suspension – even for first offenses. If your license is suspended for DUI, you will be required to install and maintain an IID for anywhere between 6 months and 3 years before the DMV will allow you to drive without an IID. Before the DMV will reinstate your license, you must submit proof that you have installed an IID in your vehicle. If you do not own a vehicle, the DMV will allow you to install the IID in someone else’s vehicle provided that person permits you do so. After your 45-day DUI suspension expires, the DMV will not allow you to drive until you install an IID.
Its only my first offense, do I need a lawyer?
If you have a vested interest in your future, want to make sure that your rights are protected, and want to ensure the best possible outcome, you will want to retain a Connecticut DUI Defense Attorney. Not only should you have an attorney, you have the right to an attorney. So important is the right to an attorney that it is guaranteed by both the United States and Connecticut Constitutions.
When you represent yourself, not only do you give up your right to an attorney, you also give up your right to remain silent which puts you at a significant disadvantage to the prosecution backed by the full power of the state of Connecticut. Our DUI laws are some of the lengthiest and most complex laws we have on our books. A proper defense requires specialized knowledge and training.
It was Abraham Lincoln, the famous trial lawyer, who once said, “A man who represents himself has a fool for a client.”
Will the DUI go on my record?
In Connecticut DUI cases, you have two records at stake: you driving record and your criminal record.
If your license is suspended administratively the Department of Motor Vehicles pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes § 14-227b for either refusing or failing a chemical alcohol test, then the suspension will be maintained as part of your official driving record for at least 10 years. If you participate in the Alcohol Education Program or are convicted of DUI pursuant to § 14-227a, there will be separate notation on your driving record for at least 10 years.
If you are convicted of DUI in criminal court, your criminal record will reflect the DUI conviction. If it is a first offense DUI conviction, it will be recorded as a misdemeanor. Second and subsequent DUI convictions will be recorded on your criminal record as felonies. Three years after a misdemeanor DUI conviction and five years after a felony DUI conviction, you can apply for a pardon, which if granted, would result in the conviction being removed from your criminal record.
Do I Need a DUI Lawyer if I was Barely Over the Legal Limit?
You can still be arrested and charged regardless of your blood alcohol level. Given how common a DUI arrest is, it’s easy to understand why the legal process is “streamlined” by police officers more interested in ensuring a speedy conviction than a thorough defense and fair trial for you. Even if you were sleeping in your car or barely over the legal limit when you were arrested for driving under the influence, the court doesn’t care. That’s why you need a DUI lawyer.
Unlike a public defender, who typically lacks time and resources, a skilled DUI lawyer can challenge all aspects of your case, including the initial arrest and law enforcement protocol. If you’re barely over the legal limit, a lawyer can question the final chemical BAC tests, penalties, license suspensions, and field sobriety tests.
In Connecticut, it is illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 or above if you are over the age of 21. If you’re a few points above the .08 limit (let’s say .10), a lawyer can challenge the breathalyzer test readings (which can be inaccurate) to claim you were below the legal limit during the time of your arrest.
The Sills Law Firm, LLC, is at the Forefront of Cutting-Edge DUI Defense
Our firm is proud to have 20+ years of collective experience in defending all varieties of DUI cases. We are familiar with the judges and prosecutors in every DUI court in Connecticut. We will do everything possible to secure the most positive outcome for your case by preparing and implementing an innovative personalized strategy for you. Our Connecticut DUI Lawyers offer two convenient, central office locations in Hartford and Waterbury to easily serve you.
DON’T HESITATE: CONATCT OUR FIRM NOW TO BEGIN YOUR DUI DEFENSE.
ADDITIONAL DUI RESOURCES:
- DUI & Improperly Obtaining Evidence
- What’s the Process After A DUI Arrest
- Can DUI’s Be Felonies in Connecticut?
- Your Rights if You’re Stopped for A DUI
- 3 Components of A Strong DUI Defense