Dec 13 2022

What Every Driver Should Know About Driving Under the Influence

By Attorney Matthew Willis / In Criminal Defense

Connecticut drivers thinking about having a few drinks before getting behind the wheel, beware! Connecticut residents whose licenses are suspended after being charged with operating under the influence are required to install a breathalyzer in their vehicles. This device is called an ignition interlock or an “IID.” 

In order to operate a vehicle with an IID, an operator must blow a breath sample into a tube in order to start their vehicle. Most IIDs also require that intermittent breath samples be provided once the vehicle is moving. While it is best to avoid drinking and driving, the following article addresses some legal basics you should know about drinking and driving.


DUI Checkpoints

What Are Police Departments Doing to Curb Drinking and Driving?
Law enforcement agencies throughout Connecticut are out in full force in an effort to crack down on drunk drivers. Their efforts include an increase in local patrols as well as DUI checkpoints. Some departments utilize roving checkpoints, where the police set up at several different locations in one night. These checkpoints can easily result in your unexpected arrest for a DUI.  

What Happens at a DUI Checkpoint?
If you are caught at a routine checkpoint, law enforcement will shine their flashlight into your vehicle, and in your face, to help them determine whether you have been drinking and driving. They will lean in closely to smell you to determine whether there is an odor of alcohol emanating from your vehicle. They will ask for your driver’s license and registration while evaluating whether you fumble for these documents. They will study whether your hands are shaky or unsteady. You will be asked simple questions such as, “Where are you are coming from?” and whether you have had anything to drink. If you stutter, stammer, or look away, these “indicators” may be used by law enforcement in evaluating whether you may be intoxicated.  

Am I Required to Comply with DUI Checkpoint Orders?
YES and NO. You must comply with a checkpoint officer’s command to stop your vehicle, turn off the motor, or pull over to a side shoulder as the case may be. You do not need to answer any substantive questions during a checkpoint interview. Additionally, whether or not you are arrested, you are not required to participate in any field or sobriety tests. It should be noted that a refusal to take a breath test comes with some additional consequences, and I often instruct clients to submit to these tests when their arrest stems from a simple stop at a DUI checkpoint. Remember, with almost any police interview or questioning, anything you say can, and will, be used against you later.  

After your initial interview by the police officer at the checkpoint, the officer will determine whether he suspects you are operating under the influence. If the officer believes you are intoxicated, you will be instructed to pull over to the side of the road and asked to perform some field sobriety tests. Again, you are not required to perform these tests, but if you refuse, you should expect some intense scrutiny from the officer. You are also free to contact an attorney while you are waiting to be screened at a DUI checkpoint, just be careful and make sure you use a hands-free device. 

What Happens if I’m Arrested at a DUI Checkpoint?
If the officer determines there is probable cause to make an arrest, you will be taken to the police station and booked and processed for a DUI. At this point, I recommend you contact an attorney so that your individual situation may be evaluated. In any event, after you are processed, you will likely be released with a bond and given a court date in the near future.

Do I Need a Lawyer?
There is no simple answer to this question. Our law provides that a person may represent themselves, so it is not a requirement that you hire an attorney. However, taking into consideration that the prosecutor who will be handling your case has a minimum of four years of college, three years of law school, in addition to specialized training in the prosecution of these cases, it is probably in your best interest to at least consult with an attorney.

Is There Anything Else I Should Know About the DUI Laws in CT?
Yes. Please be aware that simply having your keys in the ignition while your car is running can support a conviction for operating under the influence. You cannot “sleep it off” while having your keys in the ignition. Please call a cab or risk needing to call a lawyer! 

If you are issued a traffic citation or arrested for a motor vehicle offense, please call me at 860-812-1743 to discuss your rights. 

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