Connecticut Offers an Alcohol Education Program for First Offense DUI Charges
Steven: Here’s where Connecticut is a little bit easier on first offense DUIs than most states. If you never had a conviction for a DUI, and you are charged with a DUI in Connecticut, generally you can be found eligible for the Alcohol Education Program.
The Alcohol Education Program (AEP) Is an Alternate to Traditional Penalties for a First Offense DUI
That’s a program where you do not enter a plea, but you make application for the program. You go for an evaluation which will determine how many classes you are required to attend of this program. Connecticut usually stipulates a 10 class or 15 class series.
After a Year’s Probation and As Long As You Do Not Receive Any Additional Charges, Your Criminal Record Will Be Expunged
Steven: Then there’s a year’s probationary period. You attend the classes. You stay out of trouble. If you do not receive any more charges, and at the end of the year, your case will be automatically dismissed and your criminal history expunged. Then, if you receive another DUI in Connecticut within a 10-year period, then that will be considered your first offense. Then that’s when it’s possible you would go to jail.
In Connecticut, DUI First Offenders Would Typically Be Sentenced to a Suspended Sentence, Probation and Community Service
Generally, the standard penalty for the first offense is six months in jail, of which 48 hours may not be suspended, unless the prosecutor offers you 100 hours of community service in lieu of jail. The typical first offender offer in Connecticut is six months execution suspended, either a year or 18 months of probation and 100 hours of community service. Then there are fines, fees and costs totaling $798. Then, if you pick up another one, then that would be your second offense, which would then be charged at a felony level.
Why Should You Retain an Attorney for Admittance into the AEP?
Interviewer: Is it possible to gain admittance into the AEP without being represented by legal counsel?
Without an Attorney, You Would Have to Speak with the Prosecutor, Who Will Note Your Answers in Writing
Steven: It is possible, but with this caveat. Generally, in Connecticut, and they never used to do this before, but for probably the past three or four years, you have to go to the prosecutor. The prosecutor says to you, “Now, do not forget, you’re a person now that’s been picked up on a criminal violation, DUI.” Now, the prosecutor, whatever he asks you, he’s going to write down, so it’s always possible that you’ve incriminated yourself. He’ll say to you, “Have you ever had a DUI before?” Generally, the person says, “No.” He’ll say, “Well, there’s a program called the Alcohol Education Program is you finish it successfully, that would get the case dismissed.
It Is Advisable to Always Consult an Attorney after Being Charged with DUI
Generally the people say, “Okay,” and they fill out the form, go in front of the judge. Now, in that case, what won’t occur is what an attorney could do, for example, if he or she reviewed the arrest report. It could be a situation in which it was an unjustified police stop and your attorney could have argued successfully to get the case thrown out.
In Connecticut, There Are Two Components to a DUI Charge, One Is Criminal and the Other Is Civil
Also, there’s a second part to a DUI in Connecticut, and that’s everybody who gets charged with a DUI has a suspension hearing at the Department of Motor Vehicles. This hearing is separate and distinct from the criminal hearing. One has nothing to do with the other, but oftentimes, if you win at the DMV, you might cause the prosecutor to rethink his situation.
Having Legal Representation Might Increase the Likelihood of Prevailing at the DMV Hearing and May Benefit Your Criminal Case
Especially if you had a lawyer representing you, the prosecutor might give you a break. He or she might think twice about going ahead or might reduce the charge to reckless driving.
Interviewer: What happens if you just take the AEP program? Will you still have your license suspended? Will the Motor Vehicle Department still do that?
Interviewer: Yes, if you lose your DMV hearing your license will be suspended.
Interviewer: So people may think, “Oh, I’ll just go into this program. I do not have to worry about anything,” but it’s not true. You could still end up with no license and problems.
The Length of Your Driver’s License Suspension Issued by the DMV Is Dependent on Your Breath Test Results
Steven: Right, and the length of the DMV suspension is, if your breath test is .08 to .16, a 90‑day suspension. Above .16, it’s a 120‑day suspension. If you refuse to take the breath test, it’s a six month suspension. However, if you went through the Alcohol Education Program and you lost the DMV hearing, you can qualify for a work permit to restore limited driving privileges.
Interviewer: Do you typically see that clients are truly drunk at the time of arrest or are they close to the .08 limit and they are arrested anyway?
Is the Average Blood Alcohol Level of People That Are Arrested for DUI Generally High?
Steven: No, I would say that the better terminology probably would be that, at the worst, they are impaired. In other words, some of their coordination is off.
Interviewer: That’s what I mean. Is drunk driving a misnomer, and a lot of people aren’t really drunk. They are just maybe impaired a bit?
Below the Legal Limit: Some States Still Maintain an Impairment Statute
Steven: Yes, that’s how I would say it. A number of states have an impairment statute. New York State has an impairment statute so that, if you’re at a certain level below .08, it’s driving while impaired. Connecticut used to have an impaired statute. If you were below .08, you got charged with impaired, and so you didn’t suffer the rigid consequences of a DUI.
If You Are Pulled over by the Police and Fail the Sobriety Tests, You Will Be Charged, Regardless of your Breath Test Result
Interviewer: What happens now if you blow below a .08? Will they let you go? Or they’ll charge with something else?
Steven: No, they’ll charge you. Even if you do not have anything in your system. Once they’ve pulled you over, and they say you’ve failed the field sobriety test. I’ve had people with zero alcohol on the breath test, and they’ve still arrested them.
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