In a recent criminal law matter, a Superior Court of Connecticut entertained a defendant’s motion to dismiss a Part B information submitted by the State that sought to increase the penalty for his present DUI conviction based on a previous one.
In 2008, the defendant was convicted under New Hampshire’s statute criminalizing driving with an elevated alcohol content. The defendant requested that the conviction be reduced from a Class B Misdemeanor to a Violation, and the court granted this motion in January 2009. On June 27, 2009, the defendant was convicted in Connecticut of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence (OMVUI). Because the defendant had a prior conviction for a similar offense, the State submitted a Part B information seeking enhanced penalties. The defendant moved to dismiss the information.
General Statutes § 14-227a penalizes operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence. A person is guilty of this crime if they operate a motor vehicle “(1) while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug or both, or (2) while such person has an elevated blood alcohol content.” New Hampshire’s law is markedly similar: a person cannot drive or attempt to drive “(a) while such person is under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any controlled drug … (b) while such person has an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.” NHRSA § 265-A:2.
Connecticut’s statutes also provide for enhanced penalties for multiple convictions of OMVUI. As required by § 14-227a(g), the essential elements of the two crimes must be substantially the same. In this case, the Superior Court found that the essential elements of the Connecticut and New Hampshire statutes were indeed substantially the same. It stated that the defendant placed an improper emphasis on the distinction between the terms “misdemeanor” and “violation,” noting that what matters is the “function and purpose” of the statutes. Because the Connecticut legislature intended to deter people from driving under the influence, it did not matter what label was applied. Therefore, the defendant’s motion to dismiss was denied.
When faced with a charge of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (a.k.a. driving under the influence), an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.
Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.