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Stamford Criminal Defense Law Blog

Penalties for Connecticut’s repeat DUI offenders

If you live in Connecticut, are facing a driving under the influence charge and already have such a conviction on your record, the harshness of your penalties typically increases alongside the number of convictions you have in your past. Joseph J. Colarusso recognizes the substantial impact multiple DUI convictions can have on your life, and he has helped many clients facing similar circumstances defend themselves and pursue solutions that meet their needs.

According to the Connecticut General Assembly, the penalties associated with a second Connecticut DUI conviction are considerable. You face fines that range somewhere between $1,000 and $4,000, and you also can also anticipate having to serve up to two years behind bars. At minimum, you must serve 120 days in jail and then go on probation and perform at least 120 hours of community service. You will also lose your license for a period, after which you must have an ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle and keep it there for three years. You may also face additional limitations regarding where and when you can drive for the first year after you get your license back.

Do repeat offenders face automatic jail time in Connecticut?

Connecticut state law provides for an increase in sentencing severity to dissuade recidivism. Persistent offenders, to use the language of the penal code, might face jail more often than individuals convicted of their first offense. For example, if you had a criminal record that included significant jail time or a death sentence, or if you had been previously convicted of certain crimes, you would conceivably be at risk for a more stringent penalty in a pending case.

Contrary to popular belief, any previous criminal record you might have would not automatically mean you would go to jail if you were accused of a crime. A number of things would influence that outcome, not the least of which is the verdict or lack thereof. There are a number of steps you might take during the investigation, negotiation and litigation process to reduce the consequences of your accusation — potentially avoiding penalties altogether should the prosecutor drop your case or the court dismiss the charges. 

Clearing your Connecticut criminal record

A Connecticut criminal record has the potential to haunt you, potentially affecting everything from where you can work to whether you can secure a loan or rent an apartment. Depending on the circumstances of your case and whether you already have a criminal record, among other contingencies, you may be able to pursue something called a criminal record erasure, which essentially shields your criminal record from public viewing. At the Law Offices of Joseph J. Colarusso, we understand how much a criminal record can negatively impact your life, and we have helped many people facing similar circumstances find solutions that meet their needs.

According to the Papillon Foundation, an erasure of criminal records, or an expungement, may be possible if you were arrested for a particular crime, but never formally charged. You may also be able to pursue a record erasure if you had charged filed against you, but the charges did not stick, or if a judge or jury deemed you innocent of the charges filed against you.

What is constructive possession?

If you are a Connecticut resident facing drug charges, your freedom may be at stake. Depending on what type of drugs law enforcement officers accuse you of possessing when they arrested you, plus the amount thereof and your alleged intent for possessing them, you could face a substantial prison sentence and/or fine if the prosecutor convicts you of the alleged crimes.

Naturally the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you possessed the drugs in order to convict you thereof. This is not difficult to do if the officers found the drugs on your person. If, however, they found them in your home or car where other people had access, the prosecutor’s job becomes considerably more difficult.

Can you lose financial aid because of a drug conviction?

If you are the proud parent of a Connecticut graduate who has plans to head off to college in the fall, you may be spending the summer preparing your son or daughter for life on his or her own. Many first-time college students experiment a bit after getting a taste of newfound freedom, but when those experimentations involve illegal drugs, it can mean the end of his or her ability to receive financial aid.

Yes, your college student can, per U.S. News & World Report, lose his or her access to financial aid if he or she receives a drug conviction. However, whether he or she ultimately will lose access to federal assistance depends on when authorities placed your child under arrest. If your child is arrested during a time when he or she is actively receiving and using federal aid, such as in the middle of fall semester, you can anticipate a loss of financial aid access for a set period of time. If, however, authorities place your child under arrest during a time he or she is not accepting aid, such as over summer break, a subsequent conviction typically will not affect financial aid eligibility.

What to say or not say if you are arrested

Almost everyone knows about the constitutional right to remain silent when arrested, so many Connecticut residents will decide not to stay anything to the police until they have contacted legal counsel. However, some people may not exercise this right, or they might become flustered when a police officer pulls them over. It is crucial to keep in mind what to say and what not to say to a police officer to avoid potential problems.

During the initial contact with a police officer, Findlaw advises that you do not give permission to an officer to search your vehicle. The moment you tell an officer, “Yes, you can search my car,” that official now has latitude to look inside and use your possessions as evidence in a criminal case. If the officer does not have a warrant, reasonable suspicion or probable cause, your vehicle cannot be searched unless you provide consent.

How does financial abuse factor into domestic abuse?

One of the more shadowy aspects of domestic violence is that many Connecticut victims, though subject to physical or emotional abuse, feel they cannot break away from their tormentor because an abusive spouse or partner is controlling the purse strings. The Huffington Post recently reported that financial abuse is a feature in 99 percent of abusive relationships, an astonishing figure that means almost every domestic abuse victim will suffer financial torment as well.

Financial oppression can take many forms. Some involve the abuser taking control over the victim’s money. The victim may be left with no way to spend the money, or may spend the money but the victim’s expenses are highly scrutinized by the abuser. The oppressor in the relationship may demand to see all the victim’s receipts. At times the victimizer opts to shut off the cash flow so completely that the victim and even the victim's children cannot buy food or medicine unless they submit to the oppressor’s demands.

How “plain view” can lead to a vehicle search

Being stopped and searched on a Connecticut road is something many motorists would prefer to avoid. As Findlaw points out, police officers are barred from vehicle searches unless those searches meet specific legal requirements. However, while some search requirements, such as a search warrant, are well known, many motorists may not be aware that something in their vehicle may be giving a police officer a different rationale for a search.

Police officers can search a vehicle under a few specific conditions. Bearing a search warrant is one of the most well known requirements. Also, an officer who has arrested the vehicle’s driver may search the vehicle as well if the search relates to the arrest. Additionally, an officer can conduct a search if the officer has probable cause to think that criminal evidence is present in the vehicle. In some cases, an officer might believe a concealed weapon is in the vehicle that could be used against the officer.  Finally, the driver can give the officer consent to check out his or her vehicle.

What is the Youthful Offender Program?

A parent of a Connecticut juvenile is notified that their child has been charged with a crime. This can be a terrifying scenario for any parent. What does being criminally charged mean for their child? Will their young one end up going to prison, and will that child suffer a damaged reputation? In such a scenario, it is important to understand that Connecticut offers avenues for some juveniles to avoid worst case punishments and even avert having a criminal conviction on their records.

According to the Connecticut Office of Governmental Accountability website, Connecticut has a program in place called the Youthful Offender Program (YO). This program offers a way for individuals under the age of eighteen to receive much lighter or deferred punishment and avoid the type of prosecution they would receive if they were charged as adults. If someone is sixteen or seventeen years of age and is considered eligible for the program, a court may hand down any of a number of judgments, depending on the case. Some conditions, such as possessing a prior conviction of a felony on an adult docket, can disqualify a juvenile from entering the YO.

What can happen when you drive under the influence?

You have enjoyed a nice evening out with friends in Connecticut and you consumed a couple of drinks. While you know you are not completely sober, you also are confident in your ability to get yourself home safely. If the temptation to drive after you have been drinking is looming in your head, you may be interested to learn more about the consequences of this seemingly harmless behavior. 

While choosing to drive under the influence may not seem like a big deal at the time, your split-second decision instantly puts your life at risk. It also endangers your passengers and any other motorists who are driving near you. In serious cases, you could be involved in a violent car accident that leaves you and others with life-threatening injuries. According to State Farm, some of the other consequences you may face include the following:

  • You may be required to serve time in jail in addition to legal fines for breaking the law. 
  • Your license may be suspended, sometimes up to a year. If you are a repeat offender, it could be revoked entirely until further notice. 
  • You may have trouble finding employment with convictions on your record, especially when the job requires you to operate a company-owned vehicle.
  • You may not receive financial assistance for injuries sustained in an accident if you were driving drunk at the time.
  • Your insurance rates may go up to compensate for the added risk your behavior has created.
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