Laws regarding drinking and driving have become increasingly strict and are vigorously enforced in Connecticut. While this trend is understandable, it means that a growing number of people are facing driving under the influence charges. What you may not realize is the long-term impact such a conviction can have on your future – even if it is a first offense. According to Mark Sherman, a Greenwich DWI attorney, one of the first lines of defense is to know your rights.
Like most states, Connecticut laws recognize the doctrine of implied consent when it comes to testing drivers for alcohol consumption. When you apply for your driver’s license, you are tacitly giving your consent to take a blood alcohol test when requested if you are driving and are pulled over by law enforcement. Refusal to take the test will result in an immediate suspension of driving privileges. This does not mean, however, that you cannot request that your attorney be called and be present during the administration of the test. If you make this request and the law enforcement officer refuses to allow the attorney to come join you, then the results of the test may be deemed inadmissible because of a violation of your rights.
Connecticut also has statutes regarding the administration of blood alcohol tests designed to safeguard your rights and ensure the accuracy of the data collected. This is one of the things your Greenwich DWI attorney will examine. In addition to having the right to have an attorney present when the tests are administered, there are time constraints requiring when the tests must be administered. For example, if you are pulled over or stopped for some reason, the first test must be administered within two hours of the stop, with a second test occurring at least ten minutes later. The officers must use approved equipment which has been maintained and tested for accuracy according to the required protocol.
Search and Seizure
If an officer pulls you over because he believes you are driving erratically, then he has the right to administer a sobriety test and to search the open areas of your vehicle. But does this include your trunk, glove box or other locked areas? Not at all. A search of locked areas cannot be conducted without either your consent or with a search warrant signed by a judge. While an officer may attempt to encourage you to give permission for such a search or claim that your refusal is an indication of something to hide, you still have a right to refuse and doing so cannot be held against you. In fact, a good Stamford DUI lawyer will encourage you to not allow yourself to become intimidated. Driving erratically is not probable cause to search your trunk, period.
How Much is Too Much?
The blood alcohol content which constitutes grounds for a DWI has changed over the years, and in Connecticut that amount also varies with your age. If you are over 21, then a BAC of .08% is grounds for a DWI. However, if you are under 21, then a BAC of .02% is sufficient. In fact, you can still be charged with driving while impaired with little or no alcohol in your system. If you have only had one drink and test below the limits but are driving erratically, or if you have taken a prescription medication that can make you sleepy or impair your driving, then you can still be charged and face all of the consequences accorded someone with a BAC over the legal limits.
Mitigating the Consequences
Connecticut statutes contain strict sentencing DWI guidelines and these increase in severity depending upon how many times you have been convicted of driving while intoxicated over the past 10 years. Because of this, it is critical to not just take your medicine for a first offense without consulting a Greenwich DUI lawyer as quickly as possible. There are diversion programs available for qualified first time offenders which can keep your record clean, as well as mitigating situations which can assist you if this is not your first offense.
If you’ve been charged with driving under the influence, don’t try to go it alone. Protect your rights with the help of a Greenwich DWI attorney.
About Mark Sherman
Mark Sherman, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Fordham University School of Law, has been a member in good standing of the Connecticut, New York and Florida state bars since 1998. He practices from offices located in Stamford, Connecticut and New York, New York. An experienced, highly respected Stamford DUI attorney, Mr. Sherman has been recognized for the past three years as a “Super Lawyer” in Connecticut and New England.