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