Conn. Court Upholds Repeat DUI Using Out-of-State Offense

August 23, 2005

The state Appellate Court has upheld the license suspension of a Connecticut man identified as a repeat drunken driver after a driving under the infleunce of alcohol (DUI) conviction in Vermont.

The appeals court rejected the arguments of Todd Spear, who claimed it was double jeopardy for the state Department of Motor Vehicles to revoke his license for three years after a Connecticut DUI conviction in 2003. Spear was already scheduled to lose the license for one year after a drunken-driving conviction in Vermont a few months earlier.

Spear can appeal to the state Supreme Court. The ruling was praised by activists in Connecticut.

“This reinforces the fact that driving is a privilege and not a right, and that you can’t just go drive drunk anywhere you want and expect not to face consequences,” said Steve Berry, president of the Greater Hartford and Litchfield County chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

“I think the court made an outstanding decision and we support it wholeheartedly.”

Spear was facing a one-year suspension of his Connecticut license after a conviction in Vermont in August 2003 on a DUI charge. He was arrested a month later in Connecticut on another DUI charge, for which he was convicted in November 2003, according to court records.

After the Connecticut conviction, the DMV classified him as a repeat offender and took away his license for three years instead of one.

The state Superior Court in New Britain upheld the DMV’s decision, and Spear appealed.

That court maintained that the DMV’s practice is legal and serves the purpose of trying to protect public safety.

Spear’s attorney, Robert C. Pinciaro, could not be reached for comment.

Vermont and Connecticut are among 45 states that participate in a nationwide agreement to trade information about convictions for serious offenses such as DUI, reckless driving and manslaughter with a motor vehicle.

Under that agreement, each state DMV office can treat out-of-state offenses as if they occurred within the driver’s home state.

“The courts have really backed us up on DUI suspensions in recent years,” said John Yacavone, the DMV’s chief of legal services. “When it comes to drunken-driving issues, our courts have been as tough as courts elsewhere in the country, or often tougher.”

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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