Connecticut’s OUI/DUI Implied Consent Laws: Refusal to Take a Blood, Breath, or Urine test

Learn about Connecticut’s OUI/DUI chemical testing laws and the consequences of refusing a test.

In Connecticut, a motorist can be convicted of operating under the influence (OUI) for driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher (.02% or higher for underage drivers). But to determine a driver’s BAC, law enforcement must test the driver’s blood, breath, or urine.

Connecticut’s “implied consent” laws require all drivers lawfully arrested for operating under the influence (OUI) to submit to chemical testing for the purpose of measuring BAC. This article gives an overview of Connecticut’s implied consent laws and the penalties for refusing a chemical test.

(Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. §§ 14-227a, 14-227b, 14-227g (2017).)

Implied Consent Procedures

Prior to testing a driver’s BAC, the officer is supposed to:

  • read the driver his or her constitutional rights
  • give the driver an opportunity to call an attorney
  • inform the driver that a failed test or refusal to submit to a test can lead to license suspension, and
  • tell the driver a refusal can be used against the driver in criminal court.

The officer then chooses which test—blood, breath, or urine—the driver must take. In most cases, the officer chooses a breath test. Breath tests provide immediate results, whereas blood and urine tests—though generally more accurate—require analysis at a lab. This analysis can lead to significant delay.

If the driver refuses to submit to the chosen chemical test, the officer notes the refusal in the police report. A third party—typically another officer—must also sign the police report, attesting to witnessing the refusal. (Without the third-party witness, the police report generally can’t be used as evidence against driver.) The arresting officer then forwards the police report to the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within three business days of the arrest.

Per Se Hearings: Contesting a Refusal Finding

After receiving the arrest report of the refusal, the DMV will issue and mail a suspension letter to the driver. To appeal the suspension, the driver must contact the DMV—within seven days of when the DMV mailed the suspension notice—and request a “per se” hearing. The DMV prefers that the appeal hearing occur prior to the date the suspension is scheduled to commence. However, it’s typically possible for the motorist to get at least one postponement of the hearing. And the DMV generally will grant one 15-day delay of the driver’s suspension.

At the hearing, the hearing officer (who serves the function of a judge) usually admits and considers the officer’s arrest report. The driver can also subpoena and question witnesses and present other evidence. The hearing officer then decides whether:

  • the officer had probable cause for the OUI arrest
  • the officer actually arrested the driver
  • the driver was operating a vehicle, and
  • the driver refused a chemical test.

If the evidence fails to establish any one of these four factors, the DMV must reinstate the driver’s license. Otherwise, the suspension remains in place.

(Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 14-227b (2017).)

Refusal Penalties

If the driver doesn’t contest the suspension or loses the per se hearing, the DMV will suspend the driver’s license (or out-of-state driving privileges) for 45 days. The suspension is followed by a mandatory interlock ignition device (IID) period of:

  • one year for a first suspension
  • two years if the driver has a prior OUI-related suspension, and
  • three years if the driver has two or more prior OUI-related suspensions.

A driver who is ultimately convicted of an OUI will face additional penalties. For more information, see our firstsecond, and third-offense OUI articles.

Should You Refuse a Chemical Test?

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Every arrest presents a different set of facts. Factors that might impact the wisdom of refusing a chemical test include whether:

  • there was an accident
  • the driver has a criminal and DMV history, and
  • the officer actually witnessed the person driving.

As noted above, the law provides a driver the chance to call an attorney prior to deciding whether to take a chemical test. Taking advantage of this opportunity might help to inform your decision.

Talk to an Attorney

Even if you did not reach an attorney prior to the chemical test, you should always contact one as soon as possible after the arrest. Remember, an OUI arrest leads to both administrative and criminal proceedings. A qualified attorney can explain how a chemical test refusal is treated by the DMV and the courts.

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