License Suspensions for Driving Under the Influence in Connecticut

June, 2015

By: Cody N. Guarnieri, Esq.

When a driver is arrested for operating under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, two different processes start. First, the driver will be given a court date to appear at the Superior Court and face criminal prosecution. Second, the driver will receive a letter from the Department of Motor Vehicles indicating that their driver's license has been suspended for a certain period of time and beginning on a date certain in the near future.

With regard to the criminal process, if a defendant is convicted of Operating Under the Influence of Alcohol or other substances ("DUI") in violation of Connecticut General Statutes Section 14-227a, he or she will face a suspension of their driver's license. This suspension "overrides" or takes precedence over that of the DMV,1 discussed below. Also, this suspension is wholly reliant on if the defendant has been convicted of a DUI before and if so, how many times. Additionally, since January of 2012, the license suspension for an DUI conviction entails both a suspension period as well as a period of time that a driver will need to have an Ignition Interlock Device ("IID")2 installed on any motor vehicle the person owns or operates for some length of time.

Pursuant to statute,3 these are the applicable license suspensions for OUI convictions:

Conviction

Suspension

IID period

First

45 days

1 year

Second (Person Under 21)

45 days or until person reaches the age of 21 (whichever is longer).

3 years

The first year of such IID period can only drive to or from work or school, an alcohol or drug abuse treatment program, an ignition interlock device service center or an appointment with a probation officer.

Second (Person Over 21)

45 days

3 years

The first year of such IID period can only drive to or from work or school, an alcohol or drug abuse treatment program, an ignition interlock device service center or an appointment with a probation officer.

Third (or Subsequent)

Permanently Revoked. The person can request restoration after 2 years and only upon evidence presented to the Commissioner of the DMV.

If restored by the Commissioner, the person will require an IID for life and can petition the Commissioner for its removal only after 15 years.

However, many individuals arrested for a DUI may not be convicted, particularly if it is their first arrest and they are eligible for the pretrial diversionary program, the Alcohol Education Program (which ultimately results in a dismissal of the case if successful). In these instances, the only license suspension is entirely administrative through the Department of Motor Vehicles. This suspension is triggered by a person's arrest (not conviction) for operating under the influence (communicated to the DMV through the arresting officer's A-44 report transmission).

While the suspension can be challenged through the administrative process at the DMV, it will upheld if it can be shown at a hearing that it is more likely than not that (1) the police officer had probable cause to arrest the person for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs or both, (2) the person was arrested, (3) the person refused to submit or submitted to a chemical alcohol test and the results indicated an elevated blood alcohol level4 and (4) the person was operating a motor vehicle.

Assuming that the suspension is valid or otherwise upheld, the duration of the suspension will depend on a number of considerations, including whether the arrest was before or after July 1st of 2015:

For arrests occurring prior to July 1, 2015:

Blood Alcohol Content

Suspension

Driver is 21 years old or older

Submit to Test

.08 to .159

90 days

Submit to Test

.16 or above

120 days

Refusal

Refusal

6 Months

Submit to Test and has once Previously had License Suspension by DMV for OUI

.08 to .159

9 Months

Submit to Test and has once Previously had License Suspension by DMV for OUI

.16 or above

10 Months

Refusal of Test and has once Previously had License Suspension by DMV for OUI

Refusal

1 Year

Submit to Test and has Previously had License Suspended by DMV for OUI More than Once

.08 to .159

2 Years

Submit to Test and has Previously had License Suspended by DMV for OUI More than Once

.16 or above

2 ½ Years

Refusal to Test and has Previously had License Suspended by DMV for OUI More than Once

Refusal

3 Years

Driver is Under the Age of 21

Driver is between 18 and 20 years old.

The suspension is for twice that period applicable for a person over the age of 21 above.

Driver is 16 or 17 years old.

Driver submitted to the test and had a BAC .02 or greater

One year

Driver is 16 or 17 years old.

Driver refused to the test

18 months

For arrests occurring on or after July 1, 2015

The applicable suspension is the longer of that which the driver would face if he or she was convicted, as addressed in the first table above, or as follows:

Arrest / Submittal

Suspension

IID period

Driver is 21 or Older

First; Submitted to the Test

45 days

6 months

Second; Submitted to the Test

45 days

1 year

Third or Subsequent; Submitted to the Test

45 days

2 years

First; Refusal

45 days

1 year

Second; Refusal

45 days

2 years

Third; Refusal

45 days

3 years

Driver is Under 21

First; Submitted to the Test

45 days

1 year

Second; Submitted to the Test

45 days

2 years

Third or Subsequent; Submitted to the Test

45 days

3 years

First; Refusal

45 days

1 year

Second; Refusal

45 days

2 years

Third; Refusal

45 days

3 years

1 See Conn. Gen. Stat. Section 53a-227a(i).

2 "Ignition interlock device" means a device installed in a motor vehicle that measures the blood alcohol content of the operator and disallows the mechanical operation of such motor vehicle until the blood alcohol content of such operator is less than twenty-five thousandths of one per cent. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 14-227j(1).

3 Conn. Gen. Stat. § 14-227(g).

4 An elevated blood alcohol level is that which is over .08% or, if operating a commercial motor vehicle, .04%. Conn. Gen. Stat. Section 14-227a(a). For individuals under the age of 21, Connecticut is a "zero tolerance" state and the minor will be deemed to have an elevated blood alcohol level if over .02%. Conn. Gen. Stat. Section 14-227g.