Common Misconceptions about a DWI Charge
Interviewer: I didn’t realize that was Latin. What are the top misconceptions clients have when they come to you after they have been charged for DWI?
Many People Feel That a Loss of Driving Privileges Will Impact Their Lives; In Connecticut, Judges Are No Longer Easily Swayed by ‘Tales of Woe’
Jack O’Donnell: I usually hear a common tale of woe, such as why they drove and what the loss of license will do to them and their family. Most clients assume that those stories are going to make any difference to prosecutors or judges or the Department of Motor Vehicles if they have a hearing to suspend or reinstate their license.
Those stories are true and although they might be sympathetic, they make no difference. Everybody’s got a tale to tell as to how it’s going to impact their lives and their family’s lives and the system says you should’ve thought of that before you drove.
Can You Expect to Receive ‘Mercy from the Court’ in Connecticut?
Interviewer: In Connecticut, is there any “mercy of the court” you can throw yourself upon or is that a myth?
Jack O’Donnell: No. At some point when you start accumulating more than one DWI offense, there are some ways that we can maneuver some of the ramifications, such that the punishment isn’t as severe as it could’ve otherwise been for a second offense or a third offense.
There are minimum penalties, mandatory minimum penalties, but we can sometimes work it so that you’re not treated as a third offender, you’re only treated as a second offender. Alternatively, if you’re caught twice within a month’s time, we can get you treated as a double first offender. However, if it’s your first time, we are advising, “Take the alcohol education program, or we’ll see you at trial.”
Interviewer: What’s the highest blood alcohol level you’ve ever encountered?
Jack O’Donnell: High 3’s, .38, .39. I mean, they’re difficult people to deal with because they were so inebriated that they have no recall of the incident. So when you say that their car was stopped at a red light and they were asleep, they say, “No, I wasn’t.” Well, yes, you were. Yes, you were.
Interviewer: Are there any other misconceptions people have about how their case is going to proceed?
The Definition of Operating a Vehicle Is a Factor in Whether Or Not You Will Be Charged with DWI
Jack O’Donnell: Well, they think if they weren’t actually driving the car, for example, if it wasn’t engaged and proceeding up the roadway, that it’s not DWI. However, that’s not the case.
In Connecticut, ’Operating’ Can Be Defined As Having Keys in the Ignition and a Your Riding Lawn Mower Can Be Classified as a Motorized Vehicle
Operation can be keys in the ignition, even in the off position, parked in your own driveway, there’s lots of ways that you can still be prosecuted. For example, even if you were on your riding mower. The definition of motorized vehicles has been expanded.
Interviewer: Have you encountered cases where someone was sleeping in the backseat and they were still charged?
Jack O’Donnell: I’ve had similar types of circumstances but the police reports never quite read that way. It’s where they’re in the passenger seat but the officers will say a witness saw them get out, after hitting the pole and fall asleep in the passenger side.
But typically, if you’re just in the backseat and the keys aren’t in the ignition, you’re not going to be charged with DWI.
Motorcycles and Mopeds Are Motorized Vehicles and are Drivers Are Subject to a DWI Charge
Interviewer: And you said they’ve expanded the classification to include other vehicles–have you seen DWI infractions involving a motorcycle or other kind of vehicles?
Jack O’Donnell: Motorcycles, of course. I haven’t had a case that involved my earlier example of a riding lawnmower case yet. However, I have had a case with a moped. Back in the day, those weren’t considered vehicles for the purpose of DWI but now they are.
Commercial Drivers and DWIs in the State of Connecticut
Interviewer: For commercial drivers’ license holders, what is the legal limit for their blood alcohol level?
Jack O’Donnell: I’m pretty sure it’s the same, but the consequences are much more severe regarding their commercial license, such as a longer period of suspension.
Interviewer: Is it possible they might be dropped by their commercial insurance carrier? And possibly lose their job?
Jack O’Donnell: Both are possibilities. The statute indicates that, “In addition to other penalties, disqualified from operating commercial motor vehicle for one year. If you refuse to take a test, the suspension will be a duration of one year.”
So yes, the penalties are more severe for a commercial driver’s license holder.