If you are a motorist charged with drinking and driving for the first time, you might fear the worst. You could be worried about jail time, fines or losing your driver's license. While repeated convictions for driving under the influence usually mean stiff penalties, first-time offenders should not lose hope.
Connecticut DUI Law Overview
Connecticut law holds that driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a crime; the law will presume you were intoxicated if you registered an "elevated" blood alcohol content, or BAC, of 0.08 percent or more. If you are under 21, the elevated level is 0.02 percent, and for commercial motor vehicle drivers it is 0.04 percent. Keep in mind, too, regarding Connecticut drunk driving defense, that a person may be convicted of DUI even if he or she does not have a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher. This is because, under Connecticut law, DUI includes driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol, regardless of your BAC.
In other words, DUI in Connecticut is not synonymous with blood alcohol content of 0.08 or over. You can potentially be prosecuted if you exhibit signs of being impaired, even if there was no BAC test.
Administrative Penalties for DUI in Connecticut
If you have a Connecticut driver's license, you are presumed to consent to a BAC test. Failing the test - blood, breath or urine - or refusing to submit to it, can result in having your driver's license suspended or even revoked.
A Connecticut DUI license suspension period is greater if you refuse the test, register a BAC of 0.16 or higher, or have a prior DUI conviction. The length of your suspension will also be enhanced if you are less than 21 years old. Especially if you were 16 or 17 years old when cited for DUI, it can be difficult to get your license back.
Connecticut's New Implied Consent Laws
New legislation significantly changes the driver's license suspension law for people convicted of DUI, according to Connecticut's Office of Legislative Research. These punishments are separate from the criminal consequences following a DUI conviction.
Starting in January 2012, the license suspension period for first and second convictions will be shortened to 45 days. Before, suspension lasted at minimum a full year, with three years of suspension if you were under 21 years old and convicted of a second DUI.
As a trade-off, the new law applies ignition interlock device restrictions to drivers on their first, rather than second, DUI conviction. The period that you must drive only interlock-equipped vehicles will now be either one or three years based on whether you are 21 years and over and whether it is your first or second DUI. If you reach a third DUI, your license will be revoked, with a chance of reinstatement after six years.
For a first-time DUI charge, you might be able to apply to the court for admission to an alcohol intervention or substance abuse treatment program. If you complete the program, you can apply to have the DUI charges dismissed; if unsuccessful, the criminal case will proceed. A conviction will result in either a sentence of up to six months, with a mandatory minimum of two days, or probation with 100 hours of community service. The fine is $500-$1,000.
Repeat offenders can get up to two years in prison and probation with 100 hours of community service, along with a $1,000-$4,000 fine. If you are convicted of three DUI offenses or more, you could be looking at up to a three year sentence as well as probation, 100 hours of community service and a fine of up to $8,000.
If you have been arrested and charged with a DUI offense, it is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney. A defense lawyer will raise your available defenses and advocate on your behalf for alternatives to incarceration.