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DUI Frequently Asked Questions in Vermont

What are lawful/unlawful vehicle stops in Vermont?

Under Vermont law a roadblock to screen intoxicated drivers is constitutional if the initial stop and contact between the officers in the field and the motorist involves an explanation of the nature of the roadblock, the guidelines are followed in the operation of the roadblock, approaching drivers are given adequate warning of the roadblock, the likelihood of apprehension or hear is dispelled by a visible display of legitimate police authority and vehicles are stopped on a systematic nonrandom basis that shows drivers they are not being singled out for arbitrary reasons. Also, roadblocks to screen intoxicated drivers must service the public interest as a safety measure, operating as one method of detecting intoxicated drivers, and further the public interest in reducing the number of intoxicated drivers by acting as a deterrent to any person who might consider driving after drinking. If the roadblock violates any of the six previously mentioned requirements, such as arbitrary, unfair, unauthorized, etc, then it will be deemed unlawful under VT law.

What evidence can/cannot be admitted in Vermont?

Under VT law the results of a breathalyzer test may be admitted into evidence so long as proper foundation for admission was laid out. For example, if it is shown that the analysis of the BAC met performance standards contained in the regulations for that state. Also, out of state BAC results may be admitted as evidence in a DUI case as long as it was proper for the officer to had proper permission to administer the test is the other said state.

It is also permissible for the state to enter into evidence secondhand and non-direct evidence supporting the officer’s belief that the driver was driving while intoxicated. Also, the officer’s observations may be admitted into evidence as support that he had reasonable reason to believe the motorist was operating the vehicle while intoxicated. If the motorist refused to submit a chemical test, this may also be admitted into evidence in a criminal trial against them. However, test results that were improperly administered or inaccurate may not be entered as evidence against the defendant.

Prior convictions and license suspensions may be admitted into evidence as well in order to determine what number conviction is at issue and the appropriate penalties to be ordered. Lastly, the identification of the defendant at trial as the operator of the vehicle is required evidence under VT law.

Can a DUI be expunged in Vermont?

Although VT does allow some criminal offense to be expunged, a DUI is not included as one of those expugnable offenses. Vermont used to have a statutory law in which their was a forgiveness period of 15 years and if the motorist had not received a DUI violation within 15 years from his or her past conviction the past conviction would be overlooked in determination of sentencing for the recent conviction. However, as of 1991 that forgiveness period has been eliminated, thus if you have a second offense 30 years later it is still considered a subsequent offense and relevant penalties will apply as a subsequent offense. Thus, in the state of VT because they have heightened penalties for multiple DUIs they may not be expunged. If DUI convictions could be expunged there would be no way of administering heightened penalties for subsequent offenses.

What are the DUI laws regarding underage suspects?

In the state of Vermont a driver who is under the legal drinking age and is convicted of a DUI will have enhanced sentences compared to a motorist of the legal drinking age. For example, the first offense is an automatic 6-month suspension rather than 90 days. Also, for a second offense as a minor their license is suspended until they reach the age of 21, which potentially could be five years if the driver is 16, rather than the 18 months period of suspension for motorists who are of the legal drinking age.

Also, if the driver is under 21 there is a rebuttable presumption that their BAC at the time of operation or the attempt to operate was .02 if there was at anytime within two hours of operation a BAC of .02.

What are the laws regarding commercial drivers?

The legal limit for a motorist driving a commercial vehicle is lesser than that of a regular vehicle, if the vehicle is commercial the BAC level is .04 compared to .08. Also, commercial vehicles are not eligible to be driven with an RDL during a license suspension. Also, if the commercial vehicle is a school bus then the BAC limit is further limited to .02, rather than .04 or .08. The license suspension period for someone operating a commercial vehicle is the same as someone operating a regular vehicle. Thus, the first offense is 90 days, the second offense is 18 months, and the third is disqualification of commercial license.

Also, if the motorist is operating a commercial vehicle any measurable amount of alcohol in the blood stream, even as little as .01 or .02, results in an immediate out of service for twenty four hours. Lastly, if an officer has reasonable belief that the motorist is intoxicated he may request a chemical test, if the operator of the vehicle refuses that test it also results in an automatic twenty four hour out of service penalty and possible disqualification of commercial license.

What is the Implied Consent Law in Vermont?

Vermont has an implied consent statue that states every person who operates, attempts to operate or is in actual physical control of any vehicle on a highway in the state is deemed to have given consent to an evidentiary test of that person’s breath for the purpose of determining the person’s alcohol concentration or the presence of other drugs in the blood. Also, if breath-testing equipment is not reasonably available or if the officer has reason to believe that the person is unable to give a sufficient sample of breath for testing of the law or under the influence of a drug other than alcohol, the person is deemed to have given consent to the taking of an evidentiary sample of blood

Can I Receive a DUI for Prescription Drugs?

Under Vermont law it is unlawful for any person to operate or attempt to operate a vehicle under the influence of any regulated drug or any substance or combination of substances, other than alcohol, which affects the nervous system, brain, or muscles of a person so as to impair, noticeable and appreciably, a person’s ability to drive a vehicle safely. This definition of a drug under Vermont statutory law is broadly defined in order to include prescription drugs as a drug that may impair one’s ability to safely operate a vehicle. However, not only do the drugs have to be present in the person’s blood stream they must be elevated to the extent that it impaired the person’s ability to drive. It is irrelevant whether the operator is permitted to consume this drug through a prescription, if there is enough present in the blood stream to determine that it impaired the operator’s ability to safely operate a vehicle a DUI suspect will likely be convicted.

Can I be stopped and arrested for DUI even if the vehicle is not moving?

Yes, the car does not need to be moving. Under VT law the definition of operation as stated in the state statues is any operation or attempt to operate regardless of the successfulness of the attempt. Thus, if you are sitting in a nonmoving vehicle but attempted to operate the vehicle you may still be stopped and arrested for DUI.

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

A motorist does not have the right to speak to an attorney before giving a breath sample if the officer has reasonable belief that the operator of the vehicle is intoxicated. However, before consenting to an evidentiary test the motorist as the right to contact an attorney and has thirty minutes from the time of the request to determine if they want to consent to an evidentiary test. However, failure to perform the test may be admitted into evidence in a criminal proceeding.

Do I have to give a blood or urine sample?

A motorist has the option to refuse to submit a sample unless the accident resulted in death or serious bodily injury. In such case if the motorist refuses to comply with the evidentiary test an officer may apply a search warrant to obtain a sample for an evidentiary test and the refusal may be introduced as evidence. Also, if death or serious injury does not occur the operator may refuse to submit a sample, however, this refusal may be used as evidence in a criminal proceeding.

Do I have to submit a field sobriety test?

No, a field sobriety test is exclusively voluntary and refusal has no immediate penalties unlike refusing to take a breath test. Many people refuse to participate in field sobriety tests because they can be faulty and misleading. If one does refuse a field sobriety test it is up to the officer to rely on his reasonable belief that you are intoxicated to further the investigation through chemical testing. Refusing a field sobriety test may make it easier for a DUI suspect to defend against the conviction in arguing that the officer did not have reasonable grounds to believe that further investigation was necessary.

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