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DUI Frequently Asked Questions in Connecticut

 What evidence can and cannot be admitted in a DUI Case?

A charge of driving under the influence can be proven through direct and circumstantial evidence.  Direct evidence is provided through the Blood Alcohol tests administered after an arrest by a law enforcement officer.  These tests provide a reading of the driver’s blood alcohol content at the time of testing and are required to be taken within hours of an arrest.  The timing requirement allows the tests to provide a good indication of the driver’s level of intoxication while he was driving.

Circumstantial evidence can be admitted to help prove the elements of a charge of driving under the influence.  In cases where the driver was not seen operating the vehicle, courts have looked at the circumstances surround the incident to determine if the vehicle was driven there.  For example, a court found that the driver had driven a vehicle when his shoes matched the only set of shoeprints leading away from the stranded car.

The results of field sobriety tests and the reports of law enforcement officers noting a driver’s glassy eyes and a smell of liquor have been used to infer that the driver was intoxicated.

Circumstantial evidence is given the same weight as direct evidence in court.

Evidence will generally be admitted unless there it was gathered in a way which violates the protections of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

When can you be arrested for DUI?

An operator of a motor vehicle may be arrested for driving under the influence any time a law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe that the elements of the crime are satisfied.  The law enforcement officer may arrest the operator for driving under the influence after a valid stop for other purposes.

The statute in Connecticut permits a law enforcement officer to arrest an individual without a warrant if the individual is caught in the act or if the officer has probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed.  Probable cause to arrest only needs to exist at the time of arrest.   This allows the law enforcement officer to arrest individuals without a warrant following a traffic stop.

In one case, an officer made a proper traffic stop when he observed the car moving back and forth in its lane.  The officer saw empty beer bottles in the car and noted that the driver’s eyes were glassy.  The driver then failed a series of field sobriety tests.  The presence of the bottles and the driver’s failure of the sobriety tests gave the officer sufficient probable cause for an arrest.

Lastly, the statute permits the officer to arrest any individual that commits an offense in the officer’s jurisdiction.  The arrest does not need to happen within the officer’s jurisdiction.

Prescription Drugs and DUI:

The statute expressly prohibits driving under the influence of any drug.  These drugs can be either illegal substances, prescription drugs, or over the counter medication.  Courts have held that an individual is driving under the influence of drugs when the drugs sufficiently impair the individual’s ability to operate the motor vehicle.  This is the same standard used to determine if an individual has been driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor.

The defendant does not need to know that the drug will impair his driving ability.  In one case a driver who had taken an over the counter allergy pill did not know that the pill would react badly with the other prescription medication in her body.  All the medication in the woman’s body was either prescribed by a physician or an over the counter pill.  The court found the woman guilty of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs.   

Does the Car need to be moving in order to be charged with DUI?

The vehicle does not have to be moving for a driver to be stopped and arrested for DUI.  The law makes it illegal for anyone to operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated.  Operating a motor vehicle means completing an act which will lead toward the motor vehicle being able to move under its own power.  In one case, a defendant was arrested for attempting to start his stalled vehicle while intoxicated even though the engine did not start.

The driver may be arrested for DUI if there is enough circumstantial evidence to support the belief that the driver must have driven the motor vehicle to a specific location.  A defendant has been arrested when his car was found on the side of the road and illegally parked.  The court reasoned that since the car was in good working order there was enough evidence to reasonably conclude that the defendant had driven it to the location.

Do I have the right to talk to an attorney before giving a sample?

The statute gives drivers the right to contact an attorney prior to giving a sample for blood alcohol testing.  This right is found only in the statute and a case has held that drivers have no constitutional right to counsel before deciding whether to provide a testing sample.  The refusal to allow the driver to contact an attorney may not be sufficient to prevent the DMV from imposing a suspension for refusing to comply with requests to provide a sample for testing purposes.

Do I have to give a blood or urine sample?

The driver may refuse to give a sample, but that will cause the DMV to automatically suspend his license.  The implied consent statute states that anyone who drives on the roads of the state has already given consent to provide a sample for blood alcohol testing once arrested for DUI.

It may be possible to contest a suspension for refusing to provide a testing sample if one of the three testing methods is unavailable.  In one case the driver refused to provide either a blood or urine sample.  The officer did not have the equipment necessary to provide a breath test.  The court lifted the suspension, holding that the statute permitted the driver to request which test to take.

May I refuse to perform a field sobriety test?

A driver may refuse to perform a field sobriety test for any reason.  In one case a driver refused to perform any field sobriety test other than the Horizontal Eye test.  This refusal was granted and the officer only performed the Horizontal Eye Test.  In another, the driver refused to perform any of the tests.

Refusal to perform the tests does not mean that the law enforcement officer will not have sufficient cause to arrest the driver.  The field sobriety tests are not required to be performed and are usually used together with other evidence as circumstantial evidence of intoxication.

In one case a driver refused to perform any field sobriety tests and refused to provide a sample of breath for blood alcohol content testing.  The court found probable cause for his arrest, citing the driver’s glassy eyes and the fact that there were witnesses who stated he was driving erratically.

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