In Connecticut, it is illegal to drive while drunk or high on drugs. An OUI (operating under the influence), sometimes called “DUI,” results in criminal and administrative penalties.
Many drivers can participate in the Alcohol Education Program (AEP) to maintain a clean record following a first OUI. But programs and less painful options disappear as a driver accumulates OUI convictions. Criminal and administrative penalties increase in severity for every subsequent OUI that occurs within ten years of a prior conviction. This article focuses solely on the penalties for a third offense.
“Criminal penalties” are those imposed by a judge in court. Generally, a third OUI carries:
(Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 14-227a(g)(3) (2017).)
Here are more of the details.
Felony. Like a second OUI, a third-offense OUI is a felony. (McCoy v. Commissioner of Public Safety, 300 Conn 144 (2011).)
Prison. A third OUI conviction yields a mandatory minimum prison term of one year. In many cases, the judge imposes a three-year term but suspends two years. So the defendant serves only the unstayed portion of the sentence. The balance of the three-year sentence hangs over the driver’s head and can be imposed if the driver violates probation. The Department of Corrections (DOC) sometimes permits “transitional supervision,” “early release,” or “home confinement,” but none of these are automatic.
Fines. The majority of cases resolve with the minimum $2,000 fine. However, on top of the fines, there are court costs. These costs are presently less than $100, but periodically go up as the legislature looks for ways to raise revenue.
Probation. A third offender should expect at least two years of probation, which commences once the driver gets out of jail. The cost of probation is $200.
The judge will impose a myriad of probation conditions. All third offenders must do 100 hours of community service, be assessed for alcohol and drug abuse (and complete recommended treatment), and not drive while license revocation is in effect. And the sentencing court can, and often does, order additional conditions. For example, most judges order OUI offenders to attend a “Victim Impact Panel.”
License revocation. A third conviction triggers permanent license revocation. After two years of revocation, the driver can petition the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for license reinstatement. But there’s no guarantee the DMV hearing officer will grant the petition. (See below for more on license reinstatement.)
An OUI arrest—even without a conviction in court—triggers administrative consequences from the DMV. For a third OUI, the DMV imposes a 45-day license suspension followed by a two-year ignition interlock device (IID) requirement. The DMV requires an IID in every car the motorist drives.
However, once the DMV receives notice that the driver was convicted in court of a third OUI, the permanent revocation goes into effect. The revocation eliminates all driving privileges.
After completing two years of revocation, the driver can petition the DMV for license reinstatement. To be eligible for reinstatement, the driver must prove at a hearing that reinstatement would not “endanger the public safety or welfare.” Proving this requires—at a minimum—a showing that the driver has completed an alcohol and drug education program and had no alcohol or drug-related convictions within the two years preceding the petition.
Should the driver be fortunate enough to have the revocation set aside, there’s a lifetime IID requirement. The driver must pay the DMV a $175 restoration fee and a $100 IID processing fee. IIDs must be leased, another monthly fee, and installed in every car the individual drives. Each month, the driver must bring the IID to a service location to be tested. Fortunately, this testing is covered under the monthly lease fee. The lifetime IID mandate can be challenged after fifteen years for “good cause.”
(Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § § 14-111(i)(2), 14-227b (2017).)
This article gives an overview of third-offense OUI penalties, but it’s no substitute for the advice and guidance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. If you’ve been arrested, you should always contact an attorney right away. A third offender faces significant prison time and lifetime driving restrictions. Don’t go it alone. A qualified attorney can explain how the law applies to the facts of your case and let you know what your options are.