Changes to Connecticut’s DUI Laws for 2012

In 2011, Connecticut lawmakers passed some major amendments to the state's drunk driving laws that went into effect January 1, 2012. Advocates of the new DUI laws believe that the changes will reduce the number of drunk driving accidents and help offenders get treatment.

Changes to the Law

One of the changes to the law that will have a significant impact for many individuals is that those with multiple DUI convictions will be able to regain their driving privileges if they install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles. The law also allows Department of Corrections officials to release those incarcerated for DUI offenses to serve their mandatory minimum sentences through home confinement, rather than remaining in jail.

For a first time offense, an individual may be eligible to participate in Connecticut's Alcohol Education Program, a diversionary program that results in the dismissal of an individual's DUI charge upon successful completion of a Court approved Alcohol Education Program and a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Victim Impact Panel (for information about the MADD VIP's, click here).

A first time offender who is not convicted of DUI is not eligible for the ignition interlock device, and if his or her license is suspended through the Department of Motor Vehicles, he or she must apply for a work permit (Special Operator's Permit to Operate a Motor Vehicle to and From Work) or a permit to travel for educational purposes (Special Operator's Permit for Higher Education) in order to be able to drive during the period of suspension.

For a first time DUI conviction, a person faces a penalty of up to six months in jail, with either 48 hours of incarceration being mandatory or the performance of 100 hours of community service as a condition of probation; a fine of not less than $500; and a mandatory license suspension of 45 days. Now included in the statute is a mandatory one-year ignition interlock order; under the previous law, the sentencing judge had discretion whether to require the defendant to use an ignition interlock device. Such interlock device can be installed after the 45-day license suspension.

For a second DUI conviction, a person faces a mandatory sentence of 120 days in jail. Although the law has changed to allow a portion of this sentence to be served through home confinement, that process currently involves an unspecified time to be served in jail. Such person's license will be suspended for 45 days, and he or she cannot operate a motor vehicle unless it is equipped with an ignition interlock device for a three-year period following the 45-day suspension period.

A third DUI conviction (within ten years after a prior conviction for the same offense) carries a mandatory jail sentence of one year in jail, as well as permanent license revocation. However, after two years a person may petition to have his or her driver's license reinstated. If the driver's license is reinstated, the driver must use an ignition interlock device for at least 15 years afterward.

Impact of the Changes

Supporters of the laws hope that the changes will make the roads safer for everyone. Studies show that approximately 78 percent of individuals who lose their licenses end up driving regardless of whether their license is under suspension. Officials hope that ignition interlock devices will prevent more people from driving while intoxicated, and ultimately reduce the number of alcohol-related auto accidents. Authorities cite the 30 percent decrease in DUI fatalities in New Mexico after that state passed similar legislation as evidence that ignition interlock devices make the roads safer.

Proponents of the new laws believe that it will benefit the offenders, as well. Rather than having those convicted of DUI offenses without transportation or in a jail cell, the new law allows them the mobility to get treatment and maintain employment so they do not offend again in the future, provide for their families, and/or support themselves.

If you are charged with a DUI, or have any questions related to a DUI arrest or motor vehicle license suspension or the ignition interlock device, contact a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney.