Under Connecticut law, motorists are prohibited from driving while under the influence of alcohol (DUI), which is otherwise known as "operating under the influence" (OUI) in the Constitution State. In most cases, a driver will face possible drunk driving charges in Connecticut if he or she is found to have an "elevated" blood alcohol content (BAC) while behind the wheel - defined under state law as a BAC of 0.08 percent or more.
While police will typically conduct testing of a driver's blood, breath or urine in order to determine whether an elevated BAC exists, this testing must be conducted within two hours of driving under current Connecticut law. Generally, this two-hour limit is in place to help ensure that alcohol testing is as accurate as possible when assessing a driver's BAC. However, earlier this month, a bill was introduced in the Connecticut legislature that will, if passed, eliminate this important two-hour time limit in certain situations.
Using BAC tests in a Connecticut court
The admissibility of alcohol testing in criminal proceedings is a serious matter in Connecticut. Indeed, there are many safeguards provided under the law that must first be met before a court can even consider a BAC test, which include:
- The test must be conducted within two hours of the driver's operation of a motor vehicle
- The driver must be given a reasonable opportunity to contact an attorney prior to testing, and he or she must consent to the test
- After the test results are known, a true copy of the results must be provided to the driver within 24 hours, or by the end of the next business day, whichever is later
- The testing must be performed by police in accordance with the methods prescribed and approved by the state
- The device used to conduct the testing must be checked for accuracy in accordance with state regulations
- An additional test must be conducted at least 10 minutes after the first test
Importantly, as referenced earlier, the first safeguard - the two-hour time limit - will be eliminated if recently introduced Connecticut legislation is passed. In fact, this particular bill, House Bill 5586, will permit alcohol test results to be admitted as evidence if not taken within two hours if it is demonstrated that the "test results [...] accurately indicate the blood alcohol content at the time of the alleged offense."
Sadly, however, the text of the bill makes no mention as to how this burden of proof will be met, nor does it indicate how the proposed change will impact road safety. If anything, this new legislation merely proposes to strip away protections from those accused of drunk driving with no explanation - leaving more questions than answers.
While it remains to be seen whether this bill will gain support, it certainly illustrates the uphill battle faced by many of those charged with drunk driving in Connecticut. Accordingly, if you have currently dealing with OUI/DUI charges, it is often best to seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney in order to learn your rights and options.