You met some friends after work at Brennan's Shebeen for a pint of Guinness. One pint turned into a few and the next thing you knew you were singing old sea shanties. You probably should have waited a bit before driving home, but you assured everyone you were "totally fine." You had just started driving down Fairfield Avenue when the lights went on behind you. You were being pulled over for Operating/Driving Under the Influence (OUI). What do you do now? What happens next? Here is some basic information to help you with your OUI in Bridgeport.
The Legal Limit
According to Connecticut law, a person commits the offense of operating while under the influence when he operates a motor vehicle either while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs or while having an elevated (over 0.08%) blood alcohol content.
Violation of this law can result in both administrative penalties with the Department of Motor Vehicles and criminal penalties with the courts.
The Traffic Stop and Arrest
You may have been pulled over by an officer from the Bridgeport Police Department, or perhaps the Connecticut State Police, but the drill is usually the same. The officer will generally ask whether you have been drinking and if you will submit to Field Sobriety Testing. These tests give the officer an opportunity to observe you and your balance, attention level, etc. You are not required to submit to these tests and it is permissible to politely refuse them.
Whether you take these tests or not, however, if the officer has probable cause, he will likely arrest you anyway. Once arrested, you will typically be asked to submit to a chemical test of your breath, blood or urine. By driving in Connecticut you have agreed via implied consent to submit to such testing. Under Connecticut law, however, you do have the right to telephone an attorney prior to taking such a test.
What happens to my license?
If you fail or refuse the test, the officer will generally then take your license away and send a report to the Department of Motor Vehicles within 3 business days. The DMV will typically then suspend your license and will advise you of your right to a hearing on the matter. If you want to request a hearing, act quickly, you only have 7 days from the date the suspension notice was mailed. You may call 860-263-5204 to arrange your hearing, which will be scheduled within 30 days.
The hearing is limited to the following issues: 1) Did the police officer have probable cause to arrest you? 2) Were you placed under arrest? 3) Did you refuse or fail the chemical test (which was administered within 2 hours of the time you were driving)? 4) Were you operating a motor vehicle?
If the answer to any of the above questions is no, your license will most likely be reinstated. Otherwise, the length of your suspension will depend on how old you are, whether you refused or failed the test, how much alcohol was in your system, and whether you have been convicted previously. Here is a chart from the DMV as to the various suspension periods. (Note that there are additional penalties from the DMV if you are ultimately convicted of an OUI in the criminal courts).
If your license is suspended, under certain circumstances you may be eligible for a Special Operator's Permit, which will allow you to drive to and from work or school. Refer here for information on qualifications and the application process.
What about the criminal process?
After an OUI in Bridgeport, you have to deal not only with the administrative aspects of license suspension as outlined above, but also the criminal process and penalties.
The first stage in your criminal process after arrest is generally booking and bail. This is when you and the charges against you are officially entered into the system and you make a promise (either through money or a signed document) that you will return to court.
You might plead guilty or your case may proceed to trial. Prior to trial, you or your attorney may file a motion to suppress which is a way of asking the court to exclude certain evidence that was improperly obtained.
If you are found not guilty, your case is over. If you plead or are found guilty, you will next move on to sentencing (legal punishment). Criminal penalties can vary depending on the specifics of your case, but even for a basic first time conviction, can include a fine of between $500 and $1000, imprisonment up to 6 months and suspension of your driver's license.
Getting An Attorney
Being charged with an OUI can be an emotionally charged experience, and being convicted of the offense can have far reaching consequences. For this reason, having an experienced lawyer to defend your case can sometimes be a good idea. Check out this FindLaw section for more information about Using a DUI Lawyer.
Contact a qualified attorney.