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Connecticut criminal defense attorney for vehicular manslaughterIn Connecticut and throughout the United States, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated by alcohol, illegal drugs, or other substances that impair one’s ability to drive safely. An arrest and conviction for driving under the influence (DUI) can result in a variety of consequences, including fines, jail time, community service, participation in diversionary programs, and/or the requirement to use an alcohol interlock device in one’s vehicle. However, the penalties can become much more severe if a person was killed in a collision that occurred while you were driving under the influence. While this offense is commonly known as “vehicular homicide,” in Connecticut, it is referred to as “manslaughter with a motor vehicle.”

Second-Degree Manslaughter With a Motor Vehicle

According to Connecticut law, you can be charged with manslaughter in the second degree with a motor vehicle if you are operating a vehicle while you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and as a result, you cause the death of another person. Manslaughter charges involve a degree of recklessness or negligence. Basic second-degree manslaughter charges require you to have “recklessly caused the death of another person.” The same principle applies to manslaughter with a motor vehicle charges, but in these cases, the element of driving while intoxicated will also be considered.

Penalties for Second-Degree Manslaughter With a Motor Vehicle

Manslaughter in the second degree with a motor vehicle is a Class C felony. Under Connecticut law, Class C felony convictions can result in 1 to 10 years in prison, up to $10,000 in fines, or a combination of both. Because of the intoxication aspect of these charges, a conviction will also result in a mandatory one-year driver’s license suspension and the requirement that an ignition interlock device be installed on your vehicle for at least two years following the reinstatement of your driving privileges.

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Hartford criminal defense attorney for DUI chargesOver a million Americans are arrested each year for alcohol-impaired driving. Though each state has its own procedures for performing DUI arrests and prosecutions, most arrests follow a similar process. First, a person is pulled over, and the officer may perform a variety of field sobriety tests. Then, the officer may ask a driver to blow into a portable device to get a preliminary reading of their breath-alcohol concentration, and the results of this test will be used to determine whether to make an arrest. Following an arrest, the driver will be transported to the police station, where he or she will be asked to submit to a “more accurate” breath test. However, recent investigations have found that these tests are often not so accurate after all.

Why We Should Question the Tests

The fates of many DUI cases are often sealed with the breath test. Portable breath tests, like the ones used on the roadside by police officers, are usually not admissible in court, but results from the machines that are used at the police station can be used as evidence. If the machine returns a breath-alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more, a person may face a conviction for DUI. Further, many people are pressured into submitting to these tests because penalties exist if testing is refused. In Connecticut, a person who refuses to submit to a chemical test faces a one-year driver’s license suspension with the requirement that an ignition interlock device be installed on any vehicle they drive during the suspension period.

Machines Are Often Found to Be Inaccurate But Are Used Anyways

In an investigation conducted by a small consulting company and reported by the New York Times, the Alcotest 9510 breathalyzer machine has been found to have many errors, even though it is still being used by many states’ police departments, including in Connecticut. The report written by the company stated that the machine was simple and only relied on two sensors that could detect the presence of alcohol. It also stated that the machine largely relied on proper calibration to produce reliable and accurate results and that a calculation error within the machine could round up some results.

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Connecticut DUI defense attorneyIn all 50 states, it is illegal to drive while you are under the influence of alcohol. If you have a blood alcohol content of more than .08 percent, you can be charged with DUI. If you are pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving, you may be asked to complete a chemical test to determine your BAC. This type of roadside breathalyzer test is used during a traffic stop to establish probable cause. After an arrest, you will be taken to the police station, where there is more accurate equipment that can establish a BAC that will hold up in court. In certain cases, however, a breath test may not always be feasible. In these cases, a urine or blood test may be used. Most of the time, a warrant must be issued before an officer can take a blood sample, though the Supreme Court recently upheld a decision which found that a warrant may not be necessary in some cases.

Supreme Court Rules 5-4 in Favor of Warrantless Blood Tests

Warrantless BAC tests have been the subject of two Supreme Court decisions in recent years. It has been established that officers can conduct warrantless BAC tests if the case has exigent circumstances and that an officer can conduct a warrantless breath test as long as there is probable cause to arrest the driver. In the most recent decision, the Supreme Court examined what to do when a driver is unconscious and cannot submit to a breath test. The supreme court ruled 5-4 that in certain specific situations, it is permissible to administer a blood test without a warrant.

Supreme Court Rules Warrantless Blood Tests Are Not a Violation of the Fourth Amendment

The Justices in favor of this ruling stated that it is not unreasonable for a police officer to administer a blood test to determine a driver’s BAC in cases where the driver is unconscious. If the driver is unconscious and unable to submit to a breath test, the only other way to enforce DUI laws is to administer a blood test. The Justices also stated that an unconscious driver is almost always taken to a hospital, where his or her blood would typically be drawn for other purposes anyways. In addition, they stated that if the unconscious person is part of an accident, the officer’s other duties would prevent him or her from going through the steps needed to obtain a warrant in a timely manner.

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Hartford DUI defense attorney marijuana impairmentThe United States has a long and complicated history with cannabis. Back in colonial times, hemp -- which is a non-intoxicating strain of the cannabis plant -- was a very important crop for early settlers. Virginia even passed a law in 1619 requiring every farm in the colony to grow hemp. By 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act was passed and effectively banned the sale and use of marijuana, though the act was replaced by the Controlled Substances Act in the 1970s.

Now that 10 states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana, and 33 states have legalized medical marijuana, the prevalence of marijuana-related DUI is of concern to lawmakers across the country. In the state of Connecticut, medical marijuana is legal, but recreational marijuana is not legal -- yet.

Current Connecticut Marijuana DUI Laws

Like most states, Connecticut’s laws concerning DUI mostly refer to alcohol, but they do mention drugs as well. According to Connecticut law, operating a vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicating drug is illegal. Penalties for a drug DUI can vary, depending on the circumstances of the case. For a basic DUI charge of operating a vehicle while under the influence of marijuana, a conviction can get you up to a six-month jail sentence, $500 to $1,000 in fines, and a 45-day driver’s license suspension, with the requirement that an ignition interlock device be installed in the driver’s vehicle for one year after the conviction.

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crashes, Connecticut personal injury attorneyChristmas has officially come and gone once again. While some families will still be celebrating through the coming weekend, the Connecticut State Police has released data on the types of arrests, citations, and situations requiring police assistance over the holiday. According to the data, DUI arrests went up substantially over last year, and the number of traffic accidents also increased. Total calls for police service jumped by about one-third.

A Look at the Numbers

The State Police provided the information to news outlets this week and included data on calls between 12:01 a.m. on Friday, December 21 and 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, December 26. During that period, state troopers arrested 55 individuals on suspicion of driving under the influence. This number is almost double the arrests that were made during last year’s holiday enforcement efforts. In 2017, State Police officers made 28 DUI arrests between December 22 and December 26.

This year’s numbers include an extra day, which could help explain the increase in traffic accidents. This year, troopers responded to 550 crashes, including 60 that involved at least one injury and three fatal accidents. Last year, 521 accidents were investigated, 58 of which involved injuries and one death. It is too soon to tell how many of the accidents this year were related to drunk driving.

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