Chemical Testing for DUI in Connecticut
Under statute, chemical test results can be used for two purposes:
- To show that the driver of a vehicle had a blood alcohol content which met or exceeded the legal limit in a criminal case; OR
- To show that the driver of a vehicle had a blood alcohol level in excess of the legal limit in a hearing before the DMV.
A chemical test may use one of three methods. The test may analyze the driver’s blood, breathe, or urine. The test may be administered following a valid arrest for driving under the influence. The statute requires that blood alcohol content tests be given after any accident that results in death or serious injury.
In order for blood alcohol tests to be admitted into evidence in a criminal proceeding, the prosecution must show that six requirements have been met. The requirements are:
- The defendant was given a reasonable opportunity to telephone an attorney and consented to the test;
- The defendant was mailed a copy of the test results within 24 hours after the results were known, or the results were hand delivered to him;
- The test was performed using a machine which met the standards set by the Department of Public Safety and the test was administered in accordance with the regulations made by the Department of Public Safety;
- The testing device was checked for accuracy when required by regulations issued by the Department of Public Safety;
- A second test was administered no less than 10 minutes after the first test; AND
- Evidence is presented that indicates that the test was performed no later than two hours after the defendant operated a vehicle.
The prosecution is required to provide some form of evidence that the defendant had illegally high blood alcohol content at the time he was driving. The evidence will include some form of expert testimony.
The prosecution is given a rebuttable presumption that the blood alcohol content of the defendant at the time of the test was the defendant’s blood alcohol level at the time he was driving. This presumption does not apply if the second test shows a blood alcohol content of less than 0.10 and the results of the second test are higher than the first.
The requirements for admissibility are not always strictly enforced. One example of this is found in the interpretation of the requirement that a law enforcement officer monitor the defendant between the two required tests. The requirement that the defendant be monitored between tests is imposed through regulations issued by the Department of Public Safety. The court noted that the regulation was imposed to prevent the defendant from eating, smoking, or doing any other activity which would make the results of the test unreliable. The court therefore held that the law enforcement officer is only required to watch the defendant to ensure that the defendant does not eat, smoke, or do another activity which could render the test unreliable. The court stated that this did not require the law enforcement officer to continuously monitor the defendant.
The regulations from the Department of Public Safety do not need to be followed if the actions of the law enforcement officer provide a greater level of protection to the defendant. In one case the regulations required that the testing device be checked for accuracy at the beginning of the officer’s shift. The defendant argued that the regulation should be strictly enforced and that the results of his test should be excluded because the testing device was checked for accuracy before each of the two tests he took. The court stated that checking the device for errors more frequently reduced the chance that the device would report a false reading of a blood alcohol content exceeding the legal limit and admitted the tests.
In cases where the defendant has been seriously injured while driving under the influence, his blood alcohol test results may be admitted into evidence without satisfying the requirements for admissibility given above. If the sample taken from the defendant by the hospital in the course of treatment, the sample and test results may be seized by the police through a valid warrant. In these cases the test results from the hospital are sufficient to prove the operator’s blood alcohol content.
In a criminal case where the defendant is charged with driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor, the results of a blood alcohol content test may not be admitted into evidence except through his request. If the defendant is charged with driving with a blood alcohol content above the legal limit, the results of a blood alcohol content test are automatically admissible. In cases where the defendant’s blood is taken during a hospital procedure and the test results seized by a valid warrant, the prosecutor may be able to introduce the results into evidence without the defendant’s consent.
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