Everything you need to know about drunk driving accidents, insurance claims, and personal injury claims
Do you always agree to have just one more drink before driving home?
Perhaps you should consider the following facts:
- Roughly 100 people are killed in Connecticut every year in crashes involving alcohol-impaired drivers.
- Of all the fatal accidents in Connecticut, about 38 percent involve at least one alcohol-impaired driver.
- On average, 7,500 people in Connecticut are arrested for driving under the influence every year.
In this article, we’ll answer some of the most common questions about driving under the influence in Connecticut and hopefully convince you to call a rideshare vehicle the next time you agree to have just one more drink.
What’s considered driving under the influence in Connecticut?
The term “driving under the influence (DUI)” refers to the act of operating a motor vehicle while affected by alcohol or drugs (including marijuana and prescription medication).
There are two types of DUI charges in Connecticut:
- Administrative per se DUIs
- Impairment DUIs
You can be charged with an administrative per se DUI if the results of your breath or blood test show any of the following:
- A blood-alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher for adults (21 and over)
- A BAC of .04% or higher for commercial vehicle drivers
- A BAC of .02 or higher for minors (under 21)
You can be charged with an impairment DUI if you are appreciably affected by alcohol or drugs while operating a motor vehicle, even if you consumed less than the legal limit.
How does a court decide if a driver is appreciably affected by alcohol or drugs?
The Connecticut Supreme Court looked at this exact question in Infeld v. Sullivan and explained that:
“Driving while under the influence of alcohol means... that a driver had become so affected in his mental, physical or nervous processes that he lacked to an appreciable degree the ability to function properly in relation to the operation of his vehicle.”
Evidence that may be used to support a decision that a person is appreciably affected by alcohol or drugs may include the following:
- Erratic driving
- Poor performance on a field sobriety test
- Slurred speech
- Odd behavior
- An admission of being impaired
- The results of a blood or breath test
|The effects of blood alcohol concentration (BAC)|
|BAC||Typical effects||Predictable effects on driving|
|.02||Some loss of judgment, relaxation, slight body warmth, altered mood||A decline in visual functions (rapid tracking of a moving target) and a decline in the ability to perform 2 tasks at the same time|
|.05||Exaggerated movement, some loss of small-muscle control (e.g., focusing your eyes), impaired judgment, lowered alertness, the release of inhibition||Reduced coordination, reduced ability to track moving objects, difficulty steering, reduced response to emergency driving situation|
|.08||Muscle coordination becomes poor (e.g., balance, speech, vision, reaction time, and hearing), harder to detect danger; judgment, self-control, reasoning, and memory are impaired||Concentration, short-term memory loss, speed control, reduced information processing capability (e.g., signal detection, visual search), impaired perception|
|.10||Clear deterioration of reaction time and control, slurred speech, poor coordination, and slowed thinking||Reduced ability to maintain lane position and brake appropriately|
|.15||Far less muscle control than normal, vomiting may occur (unless this level is reached slowly or a person has developed a tolerance for alcohol), major loss of balance||Substantial impairment in vehicle control, attention to driving task, and in necessary visual and auditory information processing|
|Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration|
Connecticut’s implied consent laws
Anyone who drives on Connecticut’s roads implicitly consents to the testing of their blood, breath, and urine. If the driver is a minor, the driver’s parents or guardians are considered to have given consent.
Before administering a blood, breath, or urine test, the administering officer must:
- Inform the driver of their constitutional rights,
- Give the driver a chance to call a lawyer,
- Inform the driver that their license will be suspended if they refuse to take the test or if the test results indicate an illegal BAC, and
- Inform the driver that evidence of a refusal may be used against them in a criminal prosecution.
If you refuse to submit to a blood, breath, or urine test in Connecticut, you face the following penalties:
|Refusal to test||1st offense||2nd offense||3rd offense|
|License suspension||One year||Two years||Three years|
Penalties for driving under the influence in Connecticut
If you’re arrested for driving under the influence, you can expect the following things to happen:
- You’ll be detained by the police and read your rights.
- Your vehicle will be towed at your expense.
- You’ll be transported to the police station in a police cruiser.
- If the test registers a BAC of .08 or higher, you’ll be held on the presumption that you were driving under the influence.
- You’ll be kept in a police lock-up until you are bailed out.
The penalties for a DUI conviction in Connecticut depend largely on whether you have any prior offenses.
|Penalty||1st offense||2nd offense||3rd offense|
|Jail||Up to 6 months||120 days - 2 years||1-3 years|
|License suspension||45 days||45 days||Permanent|
|Ignition interlock||1 year||3 years||N/A|
A first DUI conviction in Connecticut is typically considered a misdemeanor. Subsequent offenses are considered felonies. However, certain aggravating factors may lead to a felony charge instead of a misdemeanor charge, including:
- A particularly high BAC
- Operating a vehicle with a BAC of 0.08 or above with a minor child in the automobile
- Operating a school bus while intoxicated
- Driving within a school zone while intoxicated
- Causing a serious injury or fatality
Connecticut’s dram shop laws
Dram shop laws (sometimes called “social host liability laws”) hold establishments that sell alcohol (restaurants, bars, theaters, etc.) responsible for serving intoxicated patrons who later cause an accident.
Connecticut’s dram shop law can be found in Connecticut General Statutes Section 30-102. The law states that an establishment will be liable for damages caused by an intoxicated patron if the following two conditions are met:
- The establishment sold alcohol to a patron who was visibly or perceivably intoxicated when they purchased the alcohol, and
- The person’s intoxication was a cause of the injuries.
The law limits the amount an injured person can recover under the dram shop laws to $250,000.
Although Connecticut’s dram shop laws only apply to establishments that sell alcohol, social hosts (for example, parents hosting a child’s graduation party) can face criminal charges if they “knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence” provide alcohol to anyone who’s under the age of 21. What’s more, such hosts can be held liable for civil damages if the minor injures themselves or someone else as a result of the intoxication.
If you’re injured in a car accident caused by an intoxicated driver, you can file an insurance claim as you would in any other car accident. If the driver is uninsured, you can file a claim using your uninsured motorist coverage, which is a mandatory insurance requirement in Connecticut.
You may need to file a personal injury lawsuit against the intoxicated driver if:
- The insurance company doesn’t offer you enough money to settle your claim, or
- Your damages exceed your uninsured motorist coverage limits or the driver’s policy limits.
Proving that an intoxicated driver caused your accident is usually as simple as obtaining a police report indicating that the driver was intoxicated. If liability is contested, you may need to hire a personal injury attorney to help develop and prove your case.
What steps can you take if you think someone is about to drive home drunk?
When someone decides to drink and drive, they put themselves and others at risk. If you think your friend is going to drink and drive, the Connecticut Department of Transportation suggests taking the following steps:
- Make suggestions to your friends that you drive them home. They can always come back to their car the next day.
- Suggest to your friend that they stay overnight at your home. This may involve some inconvenience for you, but you could be saving your friend's life.
- Try to take their car keys away if they insist on driving. Your friend may resent it, but if they're too impaired to listen to reason, you must take action.
- Call a taxi and have your friend taken home. Pay for the cab yourself. Your friend can't object to a free ride home. (When sober, they'll probably thank you and gladly reimburse you.)
- Plan ahead. Use a "Designated Driver," someone who agrees not to drink on this occasion and to drive those who do drink safely home.
Still have questions about your drunk driving accident? The following resources may help:
- Guide to Connecticut car accidents
- Initial consultations with personal injury lawyers
- The 8 basic steps to every personal injury lawsuit
- Dealing with insurance claims adjusters
- Life after your accident