There’s no question that Connecticut lawmakers are getting tougher on DUI / DWI / OUI arrests in Connecticut. Last year, we saw a new law passed that required anyone arrested for DUI in Connecticut under CGS § 14-227a or CGS § 14-227g to install an “ignition interlock device” (called an “IID”) in their cars – even if they never pled guilty to a Connecticut DUI / DWI and even if their case got dismissed.
This year, Connecticut lawmakers raised the stakes with a new law that goes into effect in October that will all but guarantee jail if you’re convicted of drunk driving with children in your car…
The new law—formally called “An Act Concerning Child Endangerment While Driving While Under the Influence” – Public Act No. 16-126 —officially goes into effect on October 1, 2016, and targets anyone accused of driving under the influence in Connecticut with minor children in the car. Many of the best Connecticut criminal lawyers and attorneys downstate here in Stamford, Greenwich, Darien and New Canaan Connecticut probably know that Connecticut is late to the party here (as New York passed a similar law in 2009 called “Leandra’s Law,” which escalates a misdemeanor DUI / DWI to a felony if children under 16 are in the car while someone is allegedly drunk driving).
But Connecticut has taken it to the next level, with the hope that Connecticut drivers will think twice before they even consider drinking and driving with any child under 18 in their car. While you can click here for the full text of Connecticut’s new law, we expect a big publicity push from law enforcement and victim advocacy groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and maybe even private sector companies like Uber who will also try to get the word out about this new law.
Under the old statute, the penalties for DUI / DWI convictions were as follows: a mandatory 2 days in jail for a first Connecticut DUI / DWI conviction (or 100 hours of community service), a mandatory 120 days in jail for a second conviction, and a mandatory 1 year in jail for a third or subsequent conviction. This jail exposure is in addition to fines, probation, and mandatory DMV license suspensions and penalties that typically come with a Connecticut DUI / DWI conviction.
However, under the new Connecticut DUI / DWI child endangerment law, a guilty plea to a DUI / DWI under 14-227a that also involves a person under the age of 18 in your vehicle compels the court to apply “sentence enhancements” to your Connecticut DUI / DWI CGS 14-227a conviction. The new law requires a mandatory 30 days in jail for a Connecticut first time DUI / DWI offender conviction (with no community service alternative), a mandatory 6 months in jail for a second time offender conviction, and a mandatory 2 years in jail for a third time or repeat offender Connecticut conviction.
Not only does the mandatory jail time increase for convictions under Connecticut’s new DUI law, but fine amounts, probation lengths, and conditions of probation also increase. Additionally, any Connecticut conviction for DUI / DWI with kids in the car—regardless of whether you are a first time or repeat offender—also results in a mandatory order for 100 hours of community service.
Many Connecticut criminal lawyers are concerned about the implications this new Child Endangerment DUI / DWI law will have on teenagers who typically like to experiment with alcohol during high school and college. Presently anyone 16 and over who is arrested for DUI / DWI in Connecticut must report to adult court to fight their Connecticut DUI / DWI charges. These teenagers will likewise be exposed and treated as adults with respect to the new sentence enhancements if they are driving other teenagers under 18 years old in their cars while they are impaired by alcohol, marijuana, prescription drugs, or other recreational drugs. Additionally, as most of the top Connecticut DUI / DWI lawyers know, the illegal BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) level for anyone under 21 years old driving in Connecticut is .02 under the Connecticut penal code—as opposed to the BAC limit of .08 for adults.
Another significant change in these new Connecticut DUI laws is that compliance with Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families (“DCF”) will now be a mandatory condition of probation if you plead guilty or are found guilty of DUI with a Minor in the Car in Connecticut. With this new requirement, you will be required to undergo an interview and evaluation with DCF and cooperate with any programming, treatment, or plan that DCF recommends as a condition of your probation. They have sole discretion to determine these conditions, subject of course to a little bit of negotiation from your Connecticut DCF lawyer. As the top Connecticut DCF lawyers and attorneys will tell you, having DCF in your life can be intrusive, burdensome, and stressful. So if you are accused of DUI with a Minor in the Car, make sure you discuss the DCF implications with your lawyer before pleading guilty or going to trial.
The team of DUI / DWI lawyers at Mark Sherman Law has more than 25 years of collective experience fighting DUI arrests in Darien, Stamford, Greenwich, and New Canaan. We work to stay on top of Connecticut’s ever-changing DUI laws and will strive to get you the best possible result. And if you or your teenager is arrested for DUI / DWI with a Minor in the Car in Greenwich, Stamford, Darien, New Canaan or anywhere else in Connecticut, be sure to get in touch with a Connecticut DUI attorney at Mark Sherman Law who can walk you through your defense strategies and work with you and your family to try and get your case dismissed as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. Call us anytime, 24/7, at (203) 358-4700.