February 22, 2019

The Division of Criminal Justice strongly opposes S.B. No. 842, An Act Concerning Motor Vehicle Offenses, and respectfully recommends the Committee take NO ACTION on this bill. This bill would not only result in a significant cost to the State of Connecticut but it also would undermine public safety.

S.B. No. 842 would allow persons who are arrested for impaired driving to circumvent the requirement to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in motor vehicles.  IIDs keep our roads safer by preventing drivers who have consumed too much alcohol from driving.  Moreover, the bill may cause Connecticut to lose some $22 million in federal highway funds that are allotted for the fiscal year 2019 because it expressly violates federal “anti-masking” laws for commercial driver’s license holders.   

Section 2 of the bill allows defendants arrested for operating under the influence to avoid installing an IID by simply declaring that they do not “own or have a motor vehicle to operate.”  The bill specifies that the license suspension for people who do not install IIDs “shall not exceed two years” for first-time offenders and “shall not exceed four years” for subsequent offenders.  Under our current statute, a person who is ordered to install an IID has an indefinite license suspension period that is expressly conditioned upon placing an IID “on each motor vehicle owned or operated by such person.”  General Statutes section 14-227a(g)(C).   

This bill effectively makes ignition interlock device installation optional for persons who have already demonstrated that they will drive impaired. They can either choose to install an IID or have their license suspended and continue driving while potentially impaired.  Additionally, defendants (especially those with financial means) could simply transfer ownership of their vehicle or lease a car to thwart the IID requirements. IIDS prevent dangerously impaired drivers from causing serious bodily injury or death. To allow defendants who have already driven under the influence the ability to bypass our current IID requirements jeopardizes the safety of all motorists.

This bill is infirm in that there is no mechanism to investigate a person’s bare assertion that he or she no longer owns or operates a motor vehicle. It is essentially an “honor” system for drivers who have already been arrested and/or convicted of the crime of operating under the influence under General Statutes section 14-227a.

In sections 3 and 4 of the bill, commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders would be eligible for the Accelerated Rehabilitation Program and the Alcohol Education Program under General Statutes sections 54-56e and 54-56g, respectively. These pretrial diversionary programs result in a dismissal of a criminal offense if the person meets all of the requirements. If enacted, S.B. No. 842 would directly violate the federal “anti-masking” provisions under 49 C.F.R. § 384.226.  Under 49 C.F.R. § 384.226, “[t]he State must not mask, defer imposition of judgment, or allow an individual to enter into a diversion program that would prevent a CLP or CDL holder's conviction for any violation, in any type of motor vehicle, of a State or local traffic control law (other than parking, vehicle weight, or vehicle defect violations) from appearing on the CDLIS driver record . . . “

Under 49 C.F.R. §§ 384.401- 405, Connecticut’s non-compliance with federal regulations could result in almost $22 million in federal highway funding being withheld from our state after the first year of non-compliance and approximately $43.4 million in  the second year of non-compliance.  Additionally, the federal government can decertify our commercial driver’s license program thereby forcing Connecticut residents to obtain CDLs from other states.  

Section 1 of this bill provides for a ten-year look-back period for multiple license suspensions.  This section is ambiguous, contradicts existing law, and is completely unnecessary.  There is already a clear definition of subsequent license suspension violations under General Statutes section 14-1(84), which provides that a “‘second” violation or “subsequent” violation means an offense committed not more than ten years after the date of the arrest which resulted in the previous conviction . . . .” In contrast, this bill proposes changing the language to encompass “the ten-year period immediately following the day of the person’s previous offense” [and] “during the ten-year period immediately prior to the commission of the present violation.”  Further, the bill appears to actually prohibit prosecution for alcohol-related license suspension or revocation for  those defendants who were  charged with a violation before July 1, 2015, and were merely eligible to have their license restored. Accordingly, those defendants who do not actually get their license restored, are free from subsequent prosecution.

The bill creates a very dangerous situation on our highways and may prevent us from obtaining much needed federal funding.  This bill is harmful to the people of Connecticut and should not be considered. Accordingly, the Division respectfully requests the Committee take NO ACTION on S.B. No. 842. We thank the Committee for affording this opportunity to provide input on this matter and would be happy to provide any additional information the Committee might require or to answer any questions that you might have.