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DUI Legal Process in Connecticut

Following an arrest for DUI, the state begins two separate processes.  The DMV begins the process of suspending the driver’s license and the state begins a prosecution against the driver.

The state’s implied consent law expressly permits the DMV to suspend the license of any driver who has refused to take a test to measure the driver’s blood alcohol content.  If the driver’s blood alcohol content is tested and exceeds the legal limit, the statute permits the DMV to suspend the driver’s license.  This suspension will last for a twenty-four (24) hour period.

The law enforcement officer will transmit a report of the arrest to the DMV.  The DMV will send a notice of suspension to the driver.  If, during the past ten (10) years, the driver has not had his driving privileges suspended due to driving while intoxicated, the suspension will begin thirty (30) days after the notice of suspension is delivered.  If the driver has a prior suspension or has caused an accident resulting in death, the suspension will begin as soon as the notice is received.

Once the DMV has imposed a suspension, the driver may appeal.  The first appeal is to the DMV, which will appoint an officer to oversee the hearing.  This hearing is similar to a court case.  The driver may have an attorney present and can summon witnesses to appear.  The rules of evidence are more relaxed and the burden of proof is lower.  If the hearing officer upholds the suspension, the driver may appeal to the state superior court and then may request review from higher courts.

The second process which is started by an arrest for DUI is in the criminal court.  The driver will be required to appear at an arraignment, where he will formally be told of the charges against him and may be required to pay bond.  A plea will be required at this time.  The next step is the pre-trial conference where the parties will privately discuss the case an attempt to resolve the case through methods such as plea-bargaining.  The third step is pre-trial motions, where each party makes various requests of the court.  One of the most common requests is to suppress improperly gathered evidence.

After the motions have been heard, the case will proceed to trial.  The defendant will be able to request a jury trial if desired.  If a jury trial is requested, the parties will begin jury selection.  At jury selection both the defendant and the prosecution will be able to examine potential jurors.  Any potential juror found unable to render an impartial verdict will be excused.  Each party will be permitted a set number of times where they will be able to excuse a potential juror without cause.  Once a jury is selected, the case will proceed to trial.

At trial the prosecutor will be required to show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the driver committed all the elements of the crime.  The trial will begin with opening statements, which will summarize the arguments for each side for the jury.  The prosecutor will present his evidence first, with the defendant or his attorney being able to cross examine witnesses.  Once the prosecution has finished, the defense will present its evidence while the prosecution is able to cross-examine any witnesses.  The trial then concludes with closing statements where each side summarizes the strengths of their case and the weaknesses of the other side’s arguments.  The prosecutor is entitled to be the last one who speaks to the jury.  If the defendant is convicted, the case will continue to sentencing.

After sentencing the case may be appealed.  An appeal may be made to the intermediate appeals court.  If either party disagrees with the ruling made by the appeals court, they may request that the Supreme Court of Connecticut review the case.

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