What Charges Comprise a DWI in Connecticut?
Interviewer: In Connecticut, what charges comprise a DWI? Are these multiple components?
Typically, There Are a Combination of Charges Beginning with a Moving Violation
Jack O’Donnell: Within a DWI, usually there is a moving violation to justify the police stop, such as a failure to maintain proper lane or failure to obey traffic control signal, some kind of driving infraction.
So you’ll see that and then sometimes there’ll be an open container of alcohol in the car, you’ll get that charge as well. Sometimes the officers find a small amount of marijuana in the ashtray. Most likely, there will be a combination of the charges I mentioned. If there’s an accident, they’ll add another charge or two in addition.
Interviewer: I’ve been told there might be a separate charge for having a blood alcohol content of .08 or above as well as an additional charge one for being impaired and unable to drive in a safe manner.
Jack O’Donnell: No, in Connecticut, that’s all one and the same.
Interviewer: So is the person charged with two separate criminal acts or just one?
Jack O’Donnell: Just one. DWI covers it.
Interviewer: Okay, it’s just in some states they have two separate charges: one’s for being impaired and one’s for the blood alcohol level of the person.
In Connecticut, You Are Subject to an Action from the Department of Motor Vehicles; This Is Separate from the Criminal Charge of DWI
Jack O’Donnell: No, what you get is a letter from the DMV telling you your license is going to be suspended. I tell prospective clients it’s a bifurcated process; you’ll have to address the issues in court criminally and then you’ll also have the Department of Motor Vehicles, an administrative procedure to take your license.
One Component of a DWI Charge Is Criminal; One Is Administrative
We can go to the hearing with our clients and contest it and try to save your license or you can just allow them to take the license in due course.
We do have two processes, but it’s not two different criminal charges. One’s administrative and one’s criminal.
When Can You Request a Hearing with the DMV?
Interviewer: Yeah, and once someone’s arrested, how long do they have to request a hearing with the DMV?
You MUST Request This Hearing by a Specified Date
Jack O’Donnell: It’s spelled out in the letter you get. It tells you your license will be suspended on a certain date and that you have the right to a hearing but you have to request the hearing by an earlier date.
If you miss that date, your license will be taken. You’ve lost your opportunity to contest it.
Interviewer: Do you come across many people that wait too long because maybe they’re confused about the license portion?
Can You Prevail at the DMV Hearing? In Order to Suspend Your License, the DMV Has to Prove Certain Factors, Which They Are Successful in Doing
Jack O’Donnell: Yes, and also sometimes it’s misplaced or the notification went to the wrong address, things of that nature. And a lot of people don’t even bother because the administrative proceeding at the DMV is a little bit of a kangaroo court.
The DMV does not have to prove much in order to suspend your license. During the hearing, essentially all they have to show is that you were operating the vehicle, that there’s probable cause to arrest you, that you refused the test or you were over the legal limit is. All of those factors are pretty easy to prove, so ultimately, a lot of people opt to not even to bother with the DMV hearing.
Interviewer: So it’s not easy to procure a good result through that hearing?
The DMV Has Increased Their Knowledge Base about Prosecuting DWI; Less Mistakes Means Less for Your Attorney to Refute
Jack O’Donnell: Well, we used to get great results. However, every time we’d find loopholes to exploit, the legislature would close them and the hearing officers also became more educated and the police officers became more educated, so you see far fewer mistakes to exploit.
Interviewer: So people do not have the wrong idea; you will not get penalized for foregoing that hearing and the opportunity to keep their license?
Jack O’Donnell: A person would not be penalized but there is really no downside to requesting a hearing.
Attorney O’Donnell Separates His Fees; You Are Not Charged if You Choose Not to Attend the DMV Hearing
I bifurcate my fee, as well. I’ll quote X number of dollars to go to the criminal court and X number of dollars to go to the motor vehicle hearing because I know a good number of attorneys will not separate the two charges.
To me, it just doesn’t seem fair to say “My fee’s $2,000 and it includes the hearing. You’re going to the hearing even though it’s a lost cause and you’re putting on a mock trial where the results are a foregone conclusion”.
I’d rather tell them “$1,500 for court and $500 for the DMV hearing if you choose to go.”