During the 2011 Connecticut legislative session, a number of changes were made to the Connecticut statutes which deal with driving under the influence. The proponents’ goals were two-fold: first, to improve road safety and second, to provide more treatment and accountability for offenders. The changes went into effect on January 1, 2012 and impacted suspensions, penalties, ignition interlock device requirements, and sentencing, along with continuing to offer a diversionary program for first-time offenders.
“The changes offer a much more positive outcome for first and second time DUI / DWI offenders,” Mark Sherman, a Stamford and Greenwich DWI / DUI attorney in CT explains. “License suspensions have been shortened and the option to serve part or all of a jail sentence at home has been added.” This additional freedom is tempered, however, by the requirement that an interlock device be added to the car at the time of the first conviction. In the past, a first or second conviction netted a one year suspension for drivers over 21 years of age and up to three years for younger offenders. After the second conviction, reinstatement of a license after suspension required the installation of an interlock device.
The new laws have shortened the suspension period for the first two offenses to 45 days. After the suspension, an ignition interlock device is required for one year for the first offense, and three years for minors or second convictions. “These changes reflect an acknowledgement that long license suspensions did not stop people from driving. The need to attend school or court-ordered counseling and support a family drives many people to drive without a license, and there is nothing in the vehicle to monitor their sobriety,” continues attorney Sherman.
Studies confirm this contention, and show that almost 80% of drivers who lose their licenses will eventually drive in spite of the suspension. Under the new law, the offenders will only require alternate transportation for a shortened period of time, but once they start driving their sobriety will be monitored by the interlock. Connecticut is not the first state to try this option, and the success has been documented. In fact, New Mexico has documented a 30% decrease in DUI deaths since they enacted similar interlock provisions.
A new diversionary program is available for first-time offenders which can allow them to avoid a conviction altogether if they are accepted into the program and complete it satisfactorily. This is one reason a person should consult an experienced DUI attorney. In CT, a third conviction within a ten-year time frame becomes a felony with a mandatory one-year jail sentence and a permanent license suspension. “Permanent” is relative, however, and after two years a driver can petition for reinstatement. If the license is granted, then the interlock device can be required for 15 years. Successful completion of a diversionary program can result in all DUI charges being dropped, which allows a person a second chance at a clean record.
Sentencing has also been reduced. For the first conviction, the sentence is a mandatory 48 hours up to 6 months in jail or 100 hours of community service. A second conviction has a mandatory minimum jail term of 120 days, though the law allows the corrections department discretion to serve a portion of this at home. How much is not specified, but a good DUI lawyer from Stamford will fight for you to be allowed home detention, an option that is less much less disruptive for families.
Mark Sherman, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Fordham University of Law, has been a member of the Connecticut, New York and Florida state bar associations since 1998. He has offices in Stamford, Connecticut and New York, New York which provide both criminal and civil representation. He was recognized as one of the top attorneys in 2011 by Connecticut Magazine and “Super Lawyer” by both New England and Connecticut Super Lawyers for 2011 2012, and 2013. His firm as successfully represented clients on a wide range of criminal charges including DWI / DUI, assault, drugs, larceny, and forgery among others.