Common Myths About DUIs
Connecticut (45%) is outranked only by Texas (46%) in the percentage of highway fatalities attributed to alcohol impairment. According to Forbes, there were 1,080 drunk driving fatalities in Connecticut between 2009 and 2018. Though DUI (driving under the influence) arrest statistics for 2021 are not yet available, over the recent Thanksgiving holiday, 51 drivers were arrested in the state for DUI.
A DUI is not something you want on your record. A conviction can lead to fines, jail time, the suspension of your driver’s license, mandatory treatment programs, and even probation. It can also cause your insurance company to cancel your policy or significantly raise your premiums.
Many drivers who had a few too many rationalize their DUI arrest as if there’s nothing they can do, so they may as well just accept their punishment. This viewpoint is among many of the misconceptions about DUIs.
At DeMatteo Legal Solutions, I have represented several drivers in and around West Haven, Connecticut, and in the surrounding communities of New Haven, Milford, Meriden, Bridgeport, Derby, and Waterbury who have faced DUI charges.
I have consistently fought to get the charges dismissed and also challenged driver’s license suspensions to reinstate my clients’ driving privileges. You don’t have to — and shouldn’t — just throw up your hands and accept whatever the legal system deals you.
Let’s look at some common misconceptions and help set the record straight about your rights.
DUI Charges in Connecticut
Like every other state, Connecticut considers a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% to constitute “driving under the influence” for drivers aged 21 and older. Under the age of 21, the BAC threshold drops to 0.02%. If you’re operating a commercial vehicle such as a large truck, the BAC level is 0.04%.
A first-time DUI conviction can result in two days to six months in jail, or a six-month suspended sentence with probation requiring 100 hours of community service. A fine of $500 to $1,000 can also be levied, and your driver’s license will be suspended for 45 days. After that, for the next year, you must install an ignition interlock device (IID) on all vehicles you drive.
In truth, however, a first offense may really be the second since the first time you’re pulled over for a DUI you can request to attend a Pretrial Alcohol Education Program, which will result in no conviction going on your record.
Things really get tough with second and subsequent convictions. For a second DUI, you will spend a minimum of 120 days in jail and a fine of $1,000 to $4,000. The IID goes on your vehicle for three years after your 45-day license suspension.
Common Myths About Driving Under the Influence
- A DUI charge isn’t worth fighting.
Wrong. Remember, the prosecution has to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that you were driving under the influence. In court, you can challenge the results of the breathalyzer test.
Police officers must follow prescribed routines for administering the test and also for calibrating the breathalyzer device between tests. You and your attorney can challenge the results and even the administration of the test.
- The charge is so common that it isn’t serious.
Remember, a DUI conviction goes on your criminal record, and that can lead to problems obtaining employment, qualifying for public benefits, signing a lease or a loan, and seeking professional licensing. One conviction can haunt you for years — even for a lifetime.
Your insurance company, if it doesn’t outright cancel your policy, is also going to raise your premiums and put restrictions on you. Do you really want to spend two days (or more) in jail and then face loss of driving privileges, along with a criminal record that never goes away?
- You must submit to a breathalyzer or field sobriety test.
In every state, you can refuse a field sobriety test — the one where you walk forward and then turn around, stand on one leg, and do other agility or balance tests. If you take the test and fail, the officer likely will use that as probable cause to arrest you for drunk driving. If you refuse to take it, there are no administrative penalties.
You can also refuse a breathalyzer test, but you will then face an automatic six-month driver’s license suspension. Refusing a breathalyzer or blood test may also result in DMV administrative actions.
- You have to be actually driving to be arrested for a DUI.
Connecticut, like many other states, allows DUI arrests as long as you have “actual physical control” of your vehicle. This means you could leave the bar, hop in your car and try to sleep it off, and still be arrested. If you have the car keys in your possession and a policeman knocks on your window to see what you’re doing, you could be charged with a DUI. You can try to avoid this by throwing the keys in your trunk and sleeping it off in the back seat, not the driver’s seat.
- When stopped, I have to answer all of the officer’s questions.
Other than providing your driver’s license and your name and other identifying information, you can and should remain silent. Get an attorney involved immediately if they haul you in. If they don’t read you your rights, then the whole case can be thrown out.
- A DUI will fall off your record after seven years.
Unfortunately, a DUI conviction is essentially a lifetime sentence in Connecticut. The only way to get it off your record is through a pardon or erasure.
Trust a Skilled DUI Defense Attorney
A DUI is definitely worth fighting. At DeMatteo Legal Solutions, I am experienced in challenging drunk driving charges. I will investigate your particular case and come up with a solid defense strategy to get you the best possible result.
Remember, a DUI conviction is not over and done with after you spend a couple of days behind bars, pay a fine, and undergo alcohol counseling, as bad as those consequences are. It will be part of your criminal record for the rest of your life unless the governor intercedes on your behalf.
If you’ve been arrested and/or charged with a DUI, contact me immediately. I serve clients in the West Haven, Connecticut area, or nearby in Derby, Milford, Bridgeport, or New Haven.