Connecticut DUI/DWI Lawyer
Connecticut is notorious for being tough on drunk driving. The crime of Operating a Motor Vehicle While Intoxicated Under C.G.S. § 14-227a—or Driving Under the Influence – DUI / DWI – is perhaps one of the most frequently charged crimes in Connecticut. Ask any top Stamford DUI / DWI lawyer in the area…between the many DUI sobriety checkpoints in Fairfield County, or the roaming DUI patrols on holidays and weekends, police are charging hundreds of Connecticut drivers with this crime. As a result, these drivers are losing their licenses and facing stiff fines and penalties in local criminal courthouses.
Connecticut DWI / DUI arrests are complicated in that they need to be aggressively litigated in two different venues—(1) the Connecticut Criminal Court to fight the criminal DUI / DWI charge, and (2) the Connecticut DMV to challenge the suspension of your driver’s license. These cases are legal battles with many parts that move quickly. So if you are charged with a DUI / DWI in Stamford, Greenwich, Fairfield, Norwalk, New Canaan, Darien, Wilton, Westport, or Weston, contact an experienced Connecticut DUI criminal lawyer at Mark Sherman Law to assist you in fighting the criminal charges and applicable license suspension.
The DUI / DWI Arrest
As any top Greenwich DUI / DWI attorney or lawyer will tell you, a DUI / DWI arrest usually starts off one of two ways: you are either pulled over by the police, or you are involved in an accident. In either case, the police will lean into your window closely to observe you as you are sitting in your driver’s seat. They will look to see if the key is in the ignition, of if you have a keyless ignition, whether your car is operating and running. They will also lean in to smell you and your breath for any evidence of alcohol consumption. They will then ask for your license and registration. While you are retrieving these documents, the police will carefully observe you to see whether you are shaky, fumbling for these documents, or otherwise appear unsteady and intoxicated. They will listen to your speech for additional clues of intoxication such as slurred words, mumbling or stuttering. At this point, you should speak slowly and, most importantly, respectfully to the police officers. These officers have the discretion to let you go with a warning so it can only help your cause if you are respectful and courteous. However, if they believe you may be intoxicated, they will then ask you to step outside of your car and ask you to perform the standardized “field sobriety tests.”
The Standardized Field Sobriety Test
There are three field tests that Connecticut police uniformly administer during a DUI / DWI roadside stop: the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test (the HGN test), the walk-and-turn test, and the one-legged stand test. Together, these tests are called the “Standardized Field Sobriety Tests.” Other tests are optional and are administered at the discretion of the police officer who is interviewing you, such as a request to recite the alphabet backwards and forwards and other language or movement tests. First and foremost, you should know that you are not required by law to perform any of these field tests. It may be uncomfortable for you to tell the officer that you are refusing these tests. But remember, it is your constitutional right to refuse them. Know, however, that any refusal will raise the police officer’s suspicions, as they will think you are hiding something from them. Additionally, if you are suffering from a medical condition that would prevent you from successfully performing any of these tests (i.e. arthritis, Parkinson’s, back problems, etc.), then you MUST advise the questioning officer so that they can include this information in their reports.
If you fail one or more of the field sobriety tests, then the officer is permitted to find probable cause to arrest you for DUI / DWI. You will then be handcuffed and placed in a police car. Again, it is advisable that you remain calm and courteous during this process, as the police often tack on charges when DUI / DWI suspects become unruly, such as Interference with a Police Officer / Resisting Arrest, and Disorderly Conduct.
You will then be advised of your Miranda arrest rights by the arresting officer. This will be done either at the time of your arrest or when you arrive at the police station. These Miranda rights remind you that you have the right to remain silent, anything you say to the police can be used against you in your criminal case, and that you have the right to an attorney. It is at this point that you should not disclose anything incriminating to the police (i.e., how much you may have had to drink that evening, where you were coming from when you were pulled over, how much you had to eat prior to your arrest, etc.). Once arrested, you should immediately ask to speak with a top Greenwich, Stamford, Westport, New Canaan or Darien DUI / DWI attorney. They will advise you how you should proceed during your DUI processing, especially on the issue of whether you should submit to a breath test.
Mission Impossible – Do You Take the Breath Test?
The best Greenwich and Stamford DUI / DWI lawyers will all agree that you should insist on speaking with an experienced Connecticut DUI / DWI attorney before deciding whether you should take the breath test. (Note that police can also ask you to submit to a urine or blood test; however, in most cases, they will offer a breath test). It is at this point that the arresting officer is obligated to provide you with the “informed consent” advisory. The officer must explain to you that he or she has advised you that (a) if you refuse the test, then your license will be suspended for a minimum of 6 months, and (b) if you take the test and fail, then your license will be suspended for a minimum of 90 days. The officer will also ask you to sign a document confirming he has provided you with this advisory.
Here’s the problem that our clients routinely have shared with us on this issue: at this point during the Connecticut DUI / DWI arrest process, you have been pulled over (or been involved in a car accident), have been extensively questioned by police on the side of a public road or highway, you have been compelled to perform awkward field sobriety tests, you have been arrested, handcuffed, placed in a police car, and you have been photographed, fingerprinted and processed in a bare bones police booking room. And yet it is at this point in time that you are expected to understand DUI / DWI and DMV law well enough to make the difficult decision of whether you should submit to a breath test.
It is a mission impossible.
That’s why you need to call a top Stamford DUI / DWI lawyer to help you make this decision. And if it is late at night and the law office is not picking up, ask the police to make another call so you can call a law firm that has a 24/7 answering service. And ask the police loudly and politely to speak with a top Connecticut DUI / DWI lawyer so your request can be picked up by police surveillance cameras that are usually recording these arrests in police booking rooms.
Being Released from Jail After a DUI Arrest – The 24-Hour Suspension
After you either submit to a breath test or refuse the test, the arresting officers will set a bond and a court date for you. Once you are released by the police department, then you are provided with a notice of the charges against you and, in every Connecticut DUI / DWI on-scene arrest, your license is suspended for 24-hours (for drivers who are 16 and 17, it is a 48-hour suspension). This temporary suspension is imposed to presumably give you a chance to “sober up” and forbid you from driving until all of the alleged alcohol in your system is out of your system. Note that this 24-hour suspension is strictly enforced in DWI / DUI arrests in Stamford, Norwalk, Greenwich, New Canaan, Westport, and Darien. Thus, if you are caught driving during this 24-hour suspension period, you will be arrested again for a new charge and face a 30-day mandatory jail sentence.
The Connecticut DMV Per Se Suspension Hearing
If you have a Connecticut driver’s license, then within a week of your Connecticut DUI / DWI arrest, you will receive a letter from the DMV notifying you of the length of your suspension, the date and time of your suspension, and offering you the chance to appeal your suspension. The length of suspension depends on several factors including your DUI / DWI arrest and conviction history, the level of your breath or urine test readings, whether you refused the test, and your age. The DMV usually gives you a 2 week grace period before your suspension begins to allow you to figure out alternative methods of transportation; however, you are given a very short time period to notify the DMV of your intention to appeal the suspension so it is critical you hire a top Stamford DUI / DWI attorney to begin the appeal process for you.
The Stamford DUI / DWI lawyers at Mark Sherman Law have appealed hundreds of DUI / DWI suspensions. We have been successful in overturning DMV suspensions on both technical and constitutional grounds. We are educated in the DMV regulations that govern the arresting officer’s conduct and protocols during a DUI / DWI arrest and if mistakes are made, then we argue that they should justify the restoration of your driving privileges. We encourage you to call us as soon as you receive this letter from DMV to discuss your chances of success at these DMV Per Se hearings in Bridgeport, Waterbury, Wethersfield, and Old Saybrook.
Connecticut Work & School Permit Applications
During any suspension of your driver’s license for a Connecticut DUI / DWI, you may be eligible for a work or school driver’s permit, which allows you to drive only to and from work, college or graduate school. For a link to the work permit application, click here. For a link to the higher education permit application, click here
Criminal & DMV Penalties for a Connecticut DUI / DWI
There are a number of penalties you face when pleading guilty to a Connecticut DUI / DWI. First, there is the administrative per se DMV suspension of your driver’s license for failing or refusing to take a breath, urine or blood test. Then there are the penalties in criminal court. A first time DWI / DUI conviction is punishable by up to 30 days in jail (2 days which are mandatory unless the Court allows you to perform 100 hours of community service), a $500 fine, and probation. Additionally, and perhaps even more frustrating is that a conviction for DUI / DWI triggers another driver’s license suspension. For a first time offense, this suspension is usually for a minimum of 45 days at which point you are eligible to install an Ignition Interlock Device into your car. Once installed and approved by the DMV, you will be permitted to drive.
Fighting Connecticut DUI / DWI Charges
The DUI / DWI attorneys at Mark Sherman Law offer a unique and aggressive approach to fighting DUI / DWI charges. Any top Greenwich or Stamford DUI / DWI lawyer will confirm that with so many moving parts, your DUI / DWI case needs to be challenged in both the criminal court, DMV and, in some cases, even with your insurance carrier. Mark Sherman Law’s “two-attorney” review process provides you with a thorough analysis of your police reports. Two DUI / DWI lawyers from the firm will analyze your police reports, look for errors, omissions and constitutional defects, and determine whether the arresting officers failed to comply with the Connecticut criminal statutes and the often technical DMV regulations. We will then present you with your various options and defense strategies.
First Time Offenders – The Alcohol Education Program (the “AEP”)
For first time DUI / DWI offenders in Stamford, Greenwich, Darien, New Canaan and other Connecticut cities and towns, an ideal resolution for first time DUI / DWI offenders is persuading the Court to grant your application into the Alcohol Education Program (the “AEP”). The AEP is a drunk driving education class sponsored and facilitated by the State of Connecticut. It takes place over the course of 10 or 15 consecutive weeks. The Court orders how many classes you are required to attend. Be careful though…there is usually zero tolerance for missing these classes or showing up late so as an alternative, the Mark Sherman Law DUI / DWI attorneys have had success in petitioning the Court to allow our clients with busy, out-of-town work schedules to complete their classes over one weekend. For more information on completing your AEP hours out-of-state, please give one of our DUI / DWI attorneys a call.
Most importantly, getting your AEP application granted is a privilege, not an entitlement. It is not automatic and it is not always easy, especially if your alcohol or drug readings are high, or if you refused the breath test. An AEP hearing is held before a Superior Court judge who will grant or deny your admission into the AEP. At the hearing, your Connecticut DUI / DWI lawyer will argue for admission and the state’s attorney (or prosecutor) will take a position as well. A top Stamford DWI / DUI lawyer will try to convince the prosecutor to not object at this application hearing—significantly increasing your chances of getting the AEP. Our approach is to be as prepared as possible for this AEP hearing—and we will work closely with you and your family to capture and present you, both personally and professionally, to the Superior Court judge. If you are granted the AEP, then your DWI / DUI will be dismissed in a year’s time and all the criminal records of your arrest will be destroyed and erased. If the Court denies your application, then you will either have to take the case to trial or plead out to a misdemeanor or felony charge.
Repeat Offender DUIs / DWIs – Second Time and Third Time Offenders & Home Confinement
Connecticut criminal law imposes enhanced penalties on drivers who have prior DUI / DWI convictions. Both second time and third time convictions for DUI / DWI result in mandatory minimum jail sentences—120 days for a second time conviction, and 1 year for a third time conviction. The fines increase as well. While Connecticut’s home confinement program offers an alternative to incarceration, eligibility for this program is tricky. If you are interested in the Connecticut Department of Corrections home confinement program in connection with your DUI / DWI case, then you should call the Mark Sherman Law DUI / DWI lawyers as soon as possible to discuss how to optimize your chances of getting into this program.
Insurance Consequences & Your Carrier’s Investigation
Finally, there are various automobile insurance consequences that go hand-in-hand with a DUI / DWI arrest or conviction. Obviously, the suspension of your driver’s license is reported to the DMV and is flagged on your driving record. Insurance companies will frequently review these DMV driving history records when renewing policies, so if there’s an opportunity to get your driver’s license suspension overturned, then it is worth a phone call to a top Fairfield County DUI / DWI attorney.
Also, when there is an accident at a DUI / DWI arrest crime scene, investigators working for your insurance company and the insurance company of the other vehicles involved will call you within 24 to 48 hours to get a recorded statement. Their job is to find out what happened, determine whose at fault, and figure out if they should cover the property and personal injury damages. Remember any statement you make to them can be used against you in your criminal case, especially if it is recorded. However, if you refuse to provide your auto insurance carrier with any information, they could deny coverage altogether and you will be personally responsible for all the damages. Therefore, it is critical that you consult with any of the best Stamford DUI / DWI attorneys to advise you on how to balance (1) protecting yourself from making incriminating statements, with (2) cooperating with your carrier adequately enough to trigger coverage for any damages caused by the accident.
Contact a DWI / DUI Attorney at Mark Sherman Law Today
As you can see from the information above, Connecticut DUIs / DWIs are complicated and involve many considerations and tough decisions. Below are some additional links that we believe will help guide you through some of your questions and concerns; however, the best method for understanding your Connecticut DUI / DWI case is to consult a top Greenwich – Stamford DUI / DWI lawyer.
So if you have recently been arrested for a DUI / DWI in Stamford, Greenwich, Norwalk, New Canaan, Wilton, Westport, Fairfield, Darien, or Westchester County, call one of the skilled DUI / DWI trial attorneys at Mark Sherman Law today. We are focused on one objective: results. Our “two-attorney” review process and reasonable rates distinguish us from our competition. We will aggressively work with you to resolve your case as quickly as possible. Call us today at (203) 358-4700.
We are proud to announce the 2019 Mark Sherman Juvenile Justice Scholarship. A student will receive $1,000 with the best essay that describes a rehabilitative program for the purpose of reducing the rate of juvenile recidivism by creating and promoting opportunities for youth in their community.
For more details on how to apply, please visit our scholarship page.