As a former police officer, Attorney Gregory Cerritelli shares his expertise on everything you should know about driving under the influence.
Police can stop a car when they have reason to believe a crime or motor vehicle offense has been committed. The common DUI stop involves an officer spotting a vehicle weaving in a traffic lane or otherwise being driven erratically. Additionally, once a vehicle is pulled over for any reason, the officer might notice the smell of alcohol emanating from the vehicle or notice that the driver has slurred speech or glassy eyes.
If an officer has reason to believe a driver may be operating a vehicle under the influence, the officer might ask the driver to step out of the car and perform roadside tests in order to confirm or to dispel his or her belief. Some of these tests involve reciting the alphabet in a certain manner, performing a balancing test or a walking test, and also conducting a horizontal gaze test with a pen light.
If the results of these tests coupled with the officers’s observations indicate that the driver has been drinking, the officer will then make an arrest and transport the arrestee to the police station where most commonly a breathalyzer test will be administered. If you are an adult, it is illegal in Connecticut to have a blood alcohol content over .08. If you’re under the age of 21, it is illegal in Connecticut to have a blood alcohol content over .02.
You do not have to perform the roadside sobriety tests if requested by the officer, however, this will not guarantee you avoid a DUI arrest. Sometimes the officer can claim that there is enough independent evidence of a DUI that the arrest can be made even with no roadside tests performed. For example, an officer might notice the smell of alcohol on the driver’s breath or observe slurred speech. Additionally, it is not uncommon for drivers to admit consuming alcohol when questioned by authorities.
A driver is entitled to consult with a lawyer prior to taking a breathalyzer. However, if an arrestee refuses to take a breathalyzer that fact may later be used against him or her in the prosecution of the case in court. Additionally, refusal to take a breathalyzer will result in automatic license suspension. This is a serious issue because if someone is caught driving while under suspension for a DUI, the law imposes a 30-day mandatory minimum sentence in jail.
The DUI stop involves the officer pulling a driver over for a motor vehicle violation and discovering some evidence that he or she had been consuming alcohol or another mind-altering substance such as marijuana. In a DUI roadblock, the police stop vehicles passing through its parameters based on a pre-determined neutral formula. They will usually stick their head in the window to see if they see or smell any evidence of alcohol. Additionally, they may question the driver as to whether or not he or she has been drinking. In order to be a valid DUI road block, checkpoints must be advertised prior to the stop.
If you see a DUI roadblocks you can back up to avoid it without penalty or refuse to answer the officers questions regarding alcohol.
For a first time DUI offense, a person will typically get what is called an “alcohol education program,” which involves a series of classes concerning the dangers of drinking and driving. It is not an inexpensive program and the defendant must pay for it. This program is typically granted to first-time offenders who have not been involved in an accident and in which there are not any serious extenuating circumstances.
Completion of the program results in a dismissal of the charges, however, the program can only be used once every 10 years. A subsequent DUI conviction will result in a more severe penalty, including being placed on probation, performing community service, and/or spending a couple of nights in jail and receiving a license suspension.
If you are arrested for a DUI, your license will be suspended for a period of time and an interlock ignition device will be placed in your vehicle.