Traffic laws cover a variety of situations involved with owning and operating a vehicle, from getting and keeping a driver's license to obeying traffic signals. Violating these laws can result in fines, jail time or both.
Types of Violations
Connecticut has traffic statutes covering a variety situations. Violations of vehicle highway use include, but are not limited to, these:
- Speeding, which often involves exceeding a posted speed limit but can also mean traveling at a speed that endangers the life of the occupants of the vehicle
- Traveling unreasonably fast, a speed violation that does not meet the statutory definition of speeding
- Reckless driving, which endangers other people on the road
- Operating a vehicle while under the influence of liquor or drugs
- Failing to grant the right of way when required
Other potential violations include driving without valid registration, driving with an excessively noisy exhaust system and driving with an obstructed windshield.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
Connecticut statutes regarding DUI cover both alcohol and drugs. They include an implied consent provision. This means that by driving in the state, you have consented to testing for either substance.
If you violate these statutes, you are subject to both administrative and criminal penalties. Administrative penalties include license suspension if your blood alcohol content (BAC) exceeds permissible levels or if you refuse BAC testing. For most people, a level of 0.08 percent is "legally drunk," but if you are driving a commercial truck, your limit is 0.04 percent.
Criminal penalties include fines and prison terms. Once you get your driver's license back, you may be restricted to driving vehicles with interlock equipment for at least one year. After a third violation, you may have to drive interlock-equipped vehicles for 15 years or longer. For repeat offenses, you may also be limited to driving only to and from specific locations, such as work or school.
What to Do If You Get a Traffic Ticket
If you get a traffic ticket, you have the option to pay it (plead guilty) or fight it (plead not guilty). You must do one or the other by the answer date on the ticket. If you do neither, the court will notify the Department of Motor Vehicles, which will suspend your driver's license. To get it back, you may need to pay additional fees, including a reinstatement fee, in addition to your original ticket fine.
If you plead not guilty, you may need to go to court. In some cases, you may be able to submit a written request to have your case nolled (charges dropped). If granted, you will not have to go to court.
What Happens in Traffic Court
If you go to court to fight a traffic ticket, you may bring a lawyer if you'd like, but it is not necessary. You cannot get a court-appointed lawyer for traffic cases.
You and the officer who wrote the ticket will have a chance to tell your version of events to the magistrate. If you have witnesses or evidence to support your side, you may present them to the court.
If you lose your case, you will have to pay your original ticket plus court costs and other fees. You do have the option to appeal the magistrates ruling by asking, within five days, for a trial with a Superior Court judge.
Getting Legal Advice
Traffic laws can change often, so it is a good idea to talk with an attorney who can advise you of your rights and options. This advice can be helpful even if you choose to represent yourself in court.