Conn. Report Says Technicalities Let Drunken Drivers Escape

December 21, 2005

More than 5,000 drunken driving cases over the last four years escaped enforcement action by the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles mostly because of technicalities, a new report shows.

Those technicalities included missing arrest reports, late blood and urine test results and incorrect information including wrong offender names.

While the cases still made their way through the criminal court system, they were dropped from the DMV’s separate administrative system that requires action, such as suspending licenses, to be taken against motorists within the first 30 days of a drunken driving offense.

The DMV’s system is part of an effort to keep problematic drivers off the roads while they await their court cases.

DMV Commissioner Ralph Carpenter ordered a review of the DMV’s system, known as the Administrative Per Se program, earlier this year as part of an overall review of the agency’s operations. The results were announced this week.

Both Carpenter and Gov. M. Jodi Rell said they’ve asked the state auditors to conduct an independent audit of the program as well.

“We will not stand idly by while drunk driving cases fall through administrative cracks,” Rell said in a written statement.

DMV is making changes in light of the review, such as contacting police departments that send incomplete reports. The agency also plans to create a training team to help departments and state police better understand how to fill out certain paperwork and ensure that DUI cases are successfully processed.

Carpenter also plans to meet with officials of the state forensic laboratory to find ways to speed up blood and urine results so cases can be processed in 30 days.

“Our review has found a number of troublesome areas and we are taking steps now to address them,” Carpenter said in a written statement. “Many are technical in nature and will require DMV to work more closely with police departments.”

Over the last four years, DMV dropped a total of 5,549 drunken driving cases because they were not able to be processed. That includes 1,242 in 2004; 1,365 in 2003; 1,375 in 2002; and 1,567 in 2001.

The Administrative Per Se program was created in the late 1990s to take immediate action against drunken drivers. The DMV processed, on average, about 12,000 cases each year over the past four years.

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