Driving Under the Influence FAQ

Posted by Tamar BirckheadJun 04, 2023

Driving while intoxicated (DWI), operating a vehicle under the influence (OVI), or driving under the influence (DUI) are all ways to describe the same thing: intoxicated driving. Intoxication may be the result of alcohol or another chemical substance (e.g., marijuana) or both. To charge someone with DUI in Connecticut, the state must prove that your blood alcohol content (BAC) was at or above the legal limit of .08, you had an illegal chemical substance in your system, or your driving abilities were otherwise impaired.  If you are 21 or younger and your BAC is at or above .02, you are considered legally intoxicated.

In Connecticut, law enforcement makes hundreds of arrests every day for intoxicated driving. Those arrested are often people like you and me: law-abiding citizens. At Birckhead Law LLC, our DUI defense lawyer works hard to help you get the best possible outcome in your unique situation. Contact us at (203) 805-7851 to learn more about how we will help you. In the meantime, here are some of the most commonly asked questions that our clients ask when we first meet them about their DUI charge.

What is “blood alcohol content” level?

Blood alcohol content (BAC) is a measurement of the amount of alcohol found in the blood expressed as a percentage. It is calculated in grams per 210 liters of breath, and a BAC of 0.08 means there is 0.08% alcohol by volume. Measuring BAC is a way for law enforcement to calculate the amount of alcohol someone has had and their ability to drive a motor vehicle. 

What are my rights during DUI traffic stops?

If you are pulled over due to suspicion of drunk driving or pulled over for a traffic stop and then the police officer suspects intoxicated driving, you should remember you have certain rights as a U.S. citizen. Namely,

  1. The driver and any passengers have the right to remain silent (except you must show the police your driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance upon request); and
  2. If you are a passenger, you are free to leave.

If you are arrested or detained, you have additional rights, including Miranda warnings.

  1. You can say you wish to remain silent and ask for a lawyer immediately.
  2. You have the right to make a local phone call.

If you believe your rights were violated in any way, try to write down everything you remember, including the police officer's agency (state police, county police, etc.), badge number, and patrol car number.

After a DUI arrest in Connecticut, will my driver's license be suspended or revoked?

There are two different types of suspensions. The first is an administrative suspension, and the DMV will suspend your license if you refuse a breathalyzer or have a BAC over a certain level. This means you can lose your driving privileges even when you have not been found guilty of driving while intoxicated or under the influence of a chemical substance.

The other type of suspension occurs when you are convicted of an intoxicated driving offense.  Whether your driver's license will be suspended or revoked depends on your BAC level and whether this is your first offense. 

What is meant by an "administrative suspension" of my driver's license by the Connecticut DMV?

If you are arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, the police send the arrest report to the Connecticut Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Once the DMV receives this report, they will impose a suspension of your driver's license for either failing the blood, breath, or urine test, or for refusing a chemical alcohol test. This suspension is directed under the Connecticut General Statute §14-227b.

In most cases, the mandatory 45-day driver's license suspension—during which you cannot drive—will begin 30 days after the arrest date. The license suspension is based on the arrest information. It is also separate from any penalties or requirements that may be imposed as a result of the court case.
A notice of your driver's license suspension will be mailed to the address of record, allowing you seven days to request a hearing. If you wish to request a hearing to try to prevent the suspension of your license, call the Administrative Per Se Unit at 860-263-5204 (8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday) before the deadline stated on your suspension notice. You may also contact the Administrative Per Se Unit to request a hearing by email at [email protected].  For the best chance of winning at the Per Se hearing, contact Birckhead Law LLC for representation so that you have the legal advice and advocacy that you need.

Can I restore my driver's license by installing an ignition interlock device (IID)?

Yes, the DMV requires the installation of an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) prior to reinstatement for all alcohol-related suspensions. Following restoration, the IID must be maintained for the following length of time:

IID requirement for drivers under age 21 with a BAC of .02 or higher:

One year for 1st offense, two years for 2nd offense, three years for 3rd offense.

IID requirement for drivers age 21 and older:

Six months for 1st offense, one year for 2nd offense, two years for 3rd offense.

Can I refuse a breathalyzer test in Connecticut?

You can refuse a breathalyzer test. These are portable instruments police have with them to test your breath for alcohol.  However, if you do and you do not prevail at the Per Se hearing, the IID requirement imposed by the DMV will be longer:

IID requirement for all drivers who refuse the breathalyzer test:

One year for 1st offense, two years for 2nd offense, three years for 3rd offense.

*An IID may be required for a longer term than the timeframes above. This may occur if you are convicted in court for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs under Connecticut General Statute §14-227a, §14-227g, §14-227m, or§14-227n.

What happens to my driver's license if I am convicted in a criminal court of DUI in Connecticut?

The second way you can lose your license is if you are convicted in court for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 

Under Connecticut's criminal law, a driver arrested for DUI will receive both a summons and a court date. If the court proceedings result in a conviction, the following penalties (involving driver's license suspension) must be imposed by the DMV. 
For legal reference, see: Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs Connecticut General Statute §14-227a, §14-227g, §14-227m, §14-227n*, or §14-111n
First Conviction: 45 day suspension.  If no other suspensions, eligible for restoration after the 45-day suspension regardless of whether the suspension for failing or refusing a chemical test for the same arrest has been fully serve

IID required for one year following restoration.

Second Conviction: 45 days license suspension, or until twenty-first birthday, whichever is longer
If no other suspensions, eligible for restoration after the 45-day suspension regardless of whether the suspension for failing or refusing a chemical test for the same arrest has been fully served. IID required for three years following restoration

During the first year of this three-year period, you may drive only to or from work, school, an alcohol or drug abuse treatment program, an IID service center, or an appointment with a probation officer.

Third or subsequent conviction: permanent revocation of license.  Must wait at least two years from the date of revocation to request a hearing for reconsideration.

What are standardized field sobriety tests (FSTs)?

Standardized field sobriety tests (FSTs) are tests approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These tests are allegedly designed to help police determine whether a driver is intoxicated or not.

There are three standardized FSTs:

  1. the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN test)
  2. the One-Leg Stand Test (OLS test)
  3. the Walk-and-Turn Test

The results of these tests may be used as evidence against you in an intoxicated driving case. Non-standardized tests, on the other hand, are not validated by NHTSA and are typically not admissible as evidence.

Non-standardized FSTs include:

  • finger to nose test
  • the finger count test
  • the hand pat test
  • the alphabet test
  • the reverse counting test
  • the coin pickup test

Can I refuse field sobriety tests in Connecticut? 

The ability to refuse a field sobriety test is allowed in Connecticut, although there may be consequences, such as being asked to complete a breathalyzer test or provide a blood sample. A refusal to complete a field sobriety test typically does not carry the same serious repercussions as refusing a breathalyzer test. 

What are the possible penalties for a DUI conviction?

If you are arrested for drunk driving, what happens next depends on the facts and circumstances. As explained above, DUI arrests result in two processes after an arrest: (1) the administrative or "per se" hearing, which results in civil penalties, including driver's license suspension; and (2) the criminal process, which can result in a conviction in the absence of a strong DUI defense. A conviction can lead to fines, driver's license suspension/revocation, imprisonment, ignition interlock device (IID) installation, and other penalties.

Connecticut's laws require that anyone convicted of a First Offense DUI must face the following penalties:

  • Suspended license for 45 days with IID requirements
  • DUI fine of $500 to $1000 dollars
  • Jail- 48 hours mandatory minimum, with a possible sentence of up to six months OR
  • Suspended six-month jail sentence with 100 hours of community service

Can I still get auto insurance in Connecticut after a drunk driving conviction?

Your ability to obtain or maintain auto insurance after a drunk driving conviction depends on whether it was your first conviction. You will likely find insurance after a first conviction, although your rates will increase significantly. 

Note, however, that even if you have been convicted of only one drunk driving offense, you may still be required to obtain SR-22 insurance. SR-22 is a certificate of financial responsibility required by either your jurisdiction or a court order. This form is not insurance, but rather proof that your auto insurance policy meets the minimum liability coverage required by state law. A fee, which ranges from $300 to $800 on average, is most often charged to file this form.

Can I beat a drunk driving charge in Connecticut?

It is possible to beat a drunk driving charge, although it is not typically an easy process. It will require a thorough understanding of the law and a thorough understanding of the technical nature of field sobriety tests, breath tests, blood tests, and urine tests. Understanding the latter tests is critical to identifying errors (technical or human-made errors) to highlight the unreliability of the results.

Aside from errors or unreliable test results, an alleged DUI offender may have had their constitutional rights violated. This happens more often than you might imagine. A violation can lead to the inadmissibility of some or all evidence. Without sufficient evidence, the case will be dismissed, or a jury may return with an acquittal.

You will need a drunk driving defense attorney to help you beat an intoxicated driving charge. These cases can be highly technical, as much as legally complex.

Can I just plead guilty to drunk driving?

An arraignment is a hearing where the defendant can plead guilty, no contest, or not guilty. You can plead guilty, but the real question is whether you should or not. It would be a mistake to plead guilty at this time, especially without the counsel of a drunk driving lawyer in Connecticut, and there are multiple reasons for this.

  1. If you plead guilty immediately, you lose any opportunity to fight the DUI charge.
  2. If you plead guilty immediately, you also lose any opportunity for a plea deal, if that is what would be best in your unique circumstances. Admittedly, a plea deal means you would plead guilty, but the process can render a better outcome than an immediate plea of guilty. In some jurisdictions, you may be able to plead down to a lesser offense.
  3. The sentencing is often harsher when given in response to a plea of guilty during the arraignment, as opposed to what a plea deal would entail or a sentencing after a conviction would impose. The reason is simple: you have time to mitigate and negotiate.

If it's your first drunk driving charge, it can be tempting to plead guilty right away so that you can get the case over faster and get on with your life. But if you do not fight to get the charge dismissed or to get yourself acquitted, it will be your first drunk driving charge. With the latter on your record, you want to keep in mind that subsequent DUI convictions will assuredly lead to harsher penalties.

Do I need a drunk driving lawyer in Connecticut to win my DUI case?

If you plan to fight your drunk driving charges, it is in your best interest to have an attorney represent you. The law can be complex. The evidence can be highly technical and scientific. Police and state expert testimony can be damaging. All these things can lead to a conviction, unless you have the necessary skills and knowledge to successfully counter them. Most alleged DUI offenders do not have that kind of knowledge and skills.

How Much Does a DUI Defense Lawyer Cost?

There are a lot of factors to consider when determining the cost of a defense lawyer, like:

  • The experience of the lawyer
  • Whether you take a plea deal
  • Whether you go to trial
  • The costs of the experts if you go to trial
  • More

It also depends on whether the attorney charges by the hour or a flat rate. You can expect to pay anywhere between a $1,000 or upwards to $5,000 or more if the case is appealed. The more experienced lawyers will cost more, but they can save you more in the long wrong in terms of auto insurance and lost wages.

Contact a DUI Defense Attorney in Connecticut Today

At Birckhead Law LLC, we know the law and the technical, scientific make-up of field sobriety tests, blood tests, breath tests, and urine tests. We also know how to identify and proactively address any constitutional rights violations to benefit your case. Contact our DUI defense lawyer in Connecticut today at (203) 805-7851 to schedule a free consultation and get honest advice on your best legal options.