Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol and/or drugs is a serious charge that brings with it steep penalties. Depending on the facts of your case, you could be facing a driver’s license suspension, hefty court fees and fines, jail time, probation, mandatory community service, and more. A DUI conviction can also have lasting collateral consequences, like increased insurance premiums and even difficulty getting a job.
While a DUI is a significant criminal offense, you can still fight back. A skilled DUI lawyer in New Haven, CT can investigate the facts of your case and put together strong factual and legal defenses to the charge against you. Your attorney can take immediate steps to protect your driving privileges, legal rights, and your future.
At The Sills Law Firm, our New Haven DUI attorneys have extensive experience handling DUI cases in jurisdictions throughout Connecticut. We have both the legal insight and the resources to take on even the toughest charges. From first-time DUIs to cases involving multiple offenses, accidents, and felony level allegations, we will aggressively advocate for you and help you achieve the best possible outcome for your case.
How Does Connecticut Law Define Driving Under the Influence?
In the state of Connecticut, there are two ways that you can be charged with driving under the influence, which may also be referred to as operating under the influence (OUI). First, you may be charged with a DUI for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Second, you can be charged with a DUI if you operate a motor vehicle while your blood alcohol content (BAC) is elevated (also known as a “per se” DUI).
For the first type of DUI, the prosecutor does not have to prove that you had a certain amount of alcohol or drugs in your system. Instead, it is enough to demonstrate that your ability to safely operate your vehicle was impaired by your intoxication. Importantly, you can be charged with this type of DUI if you are under the influence of drugs — including both prescription medications and over-the-counter drugs. A chemical urine test can be used to show that you had drugs in your system at the time that you were driving.
A per se DUI is based on your BAC, as determined by a chemical breath or blood test. For most drivers, the “legal limit” is .08% BAC. However, if you are driving a commercial motor vehicle at the time that you are stopped, the legal limit is .04% — a much lower threshold. Under Connecticut’s zero tolerance law, anyone under the age of 21 who drives with a .02% or greater BAC can be charged with a DUI.
No matter which type of DUI you are charged with, a seasoned criminal defense attorney can develop defenses. For example, there are many reasons why a person might have a false positive breath test, such as having diabetes or using a breath spray shortly before taking the test. There may also be reasons why a person may appear to be intoxicated, such as allergies that cause red, watery eyes, even though they are completely sober.
What Are the Penalties for a Connecticut DUI?
If you are convicted of a DUI in Connecticut, you will face significant criminal penalties. The severity of these penalties will be based on the facts of your case as well as your criminal history.
For purposes of DUI penalties, any conviction for driving under the influence within the previous 10 years will be considered a prior offense. This is known as the lookback period. Penalties for a DUI may include:
- First offense: up to 6 months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. Probation is an alternative to jail time, but will also require 100 hours of community service.
- Second offense: up to 2 years in prison, a fine of up to $4,000, probation, 100 hours of community service, drug and/or alcohol assessment, and possible treatment program.
- Third or greater offense: up to 3 years in jail, up to $8,000 in fines, probation, 100 hours of community service, drug and/or alcohol assessment, and possible treatment program.
The punishments for a DUI may be elevated if certain factors are present, known as aggravating factors. For example, if you had a particularly high BAC level, caused an accident, had an open container in the vehicle, or had a child in the car, your charge could be elevated from a misdemeanor DUI to a felony DUI. This will result in much higher penalties.
In addition, if you are convicted of a DUI, your driver’s license will automatically be suspended or revoked for 45 days. For a first conviction, you will also be required to install and use an ignition interlock device (IID) for a period of 1 year. An IID requires you to submit an alcohol-free breath sample in order to start your vehicle and to continue to operate it.
The length of IID requirement increases with each additional DUI conviction within a 10 year period. For a third DUI offense, the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) may also permanently revoke your license, and your car may be impounded.
People who hold commercial driver’s licenses (CDL) will face additional consequences if they are caught drunk driving behind the wheel of their commercial vehicle. The legal limit is much lower (.04%) in this situation. Your CDL may also be permanently revoked if you are convicted of DUI/OUI while driving your commercial motor vehicle.
A DUI is a criminal charge, which means that a conviction will remain on your criminal record. This may make it difficult to get a job, obtain a professional license, or otherwise advance in your life or career. In addition, your car insurance premiums will typically skyrocket after a DUI conviction and remain high for years afterward.
Can I Fight a DUI Charge?
Being charged with a DUI can be a scary experience, particularly as you start to worry about what the criminal charge will mean for your future. There are a number of ways that you can defend against a DUI charge based on the facts of your case.
For example, a skilled New Haven DUI lawyer can use their knowledge of the science behind chemical breath and blood tests to put together an argument that the results of the test were faulty. Expert witnesses and independent laboratory tests may even be used to demonstrate that the results from the police lab were false and that you were not intoxicated at the time that you were driving.
In some cases, your attorney can ask the court to suppress — or throw out — the evidence obtained against you. This may be done when the police did not have a legal basis to stop your vehicle, for example, or if they did not comply with the laws on DUI checkpoints.
At the Sills Law Firm, our legal team has more than 20 years of combined experience representing clients who have been charged with DUIs and other criminal offenses. We have handled thousands of criminal cases throughout the state of Connecticut, providing small-firm attention backed by big-firm resources for each of our clients.
We represent clients who have been charged with:
- First-Time DUI & Multiple DUI
- Commercial Driver DUI
- DUI Causing Accident, Injury, or Death
- Out-of-State DUI
- Driver’s License Suspension & DMV Hearings
- Chemical BAC Tests & Field Sobriety Tests
Our legal team handles all aspects of DUI cases, including criminal proceedings concerning potential penalties such as fines and terms of imprisonment, and administrative DMV hearings regarding one’s driving privileges. Our efforts are focused on meticulously reviewing all aspects of a case to ensure our client’s rights were not compromised by law enforcement during stops, searches, and arrests, and to secure the best possible resolutions – whether through a dismissal of charges, alternative sentencing options, reduced charges or penalties, and more.
Will I Go to Jail for a DUI?
Even for a first-time DUI offense, there is a possibility of jail time. The state of Connecticut takes drunk driving very seriously. As a result, all DUI charges carry a potential term of imprisonment of anywhere from 6 months to 3 years.
Working with a DUI lawyer New Haven can reduce the likelihood of spending time in jail for a DUI. Your attorney will thoroughly investigate the facts of your case, then reach out to the prosecutor to attempt to secure a reduction or dismissal of the charges against you. In many cases, a plea agreement can help you avoid jail time.
However, if your DUI charge involves particularly serious facts — like an accident that injured or killed another person — then the possibility of going to jail is increased. In this situation, your lawyer can put together a strong defense to protect your rights and your freedom.
What Is the Alcohol Education Program?
The alcohol education program, or AEP, is a way that some people with first-time DUI charges can resolve their case. The AEP is a drunk driving education class that takes place over 10 to 15 weeks. If the Court grants AEP in your case, it will specify how many classes you are required to attend.
Being approved for the AEP is not automatic, and will not be granted in all first-time DUI cases. For example, if your BAC was particularly high or if you refused to take the chemical breath or blood test, the judge could deny your application to participate in the AEP. Your New Haven DUI lawyer can work with the prosecutor to convince them to not object to the AEP, and then make an argument to the judge that you should have an opportunity to participate in this program.
The main benefit of the AEP is that if you successfully complete the program, then your DUI will be dismissed and you will no longer have a DUI on your record. The key is that you must comply with the rules of the AEP, which typically include not showing up late and attending all classes. If you have been charged with a first-time DUI, talk to your criminal defense attorney about the possibility of participating in this program.
What Happens If My BAC Is Particularly High?
In Connecticut, the legal limit for most drivers is 0.08% BAC. If you are stopped on suspicion of a DUI and your BAC is at or above this level, then you will be charged with a DUI. However, if your BAC is well above the legal limit, you could face additional consequences.
A BAC of 0.16% or higher is considered an aggravating factor in Connecticut DUI/OUI cases. As such, the penalties for a DUI could be substantially higher, even if it is your first DUI offense.
Charged with a DUI? Don’t Wait to Call.
When you have been charged with a DUI, one of the most important things that you can do is contact a lawyer as soon as possible. The police and prosecutor aren’t waiting to put together a case against you — so you shouldn’t wait to start building a top-notch defense team.
With law offices in Hartford, Waterbury, and Westport, the Sills Law Firm is well-equipped to represent clients throughout the state. We offer free initial consultations and work hard to help our clients achieve the best possible outcome for their case. To learn more or to schedule a consultation with a New Haven DUI attorney, contact us today at 866-971-5795 or fill out our online contact form.