A ruling by the Connecticut Supreme Court means that you don’t have to actually be driving to be convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) in Connecticut. The Supreme Court’s ruling, which was 5-0 in the case of Michael Cyr, showed that drunk drivers do not have to be driving their cars to be charged with operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Michael Cyr had been arrested in Manchester in February 2005 after he was found in a parking lot near a bar. Cyr had started his vehicle remotely and then sat in the driver’s seat intoxicated. However, he never put the key in the ignition and did not drive anywhere.
The Appellate Court had thrown out Cyr’s conviction, but Supreme Court Justices have ordered to court to reinstate it and send the case back to Manchester Superior Court for sentencing.
Cyr, a 50-year-old Andover resident, faces a jail sentence of up to one year followed by a three year probation period. This DUI offense would make it Cyr’s third DUI conviction, as he had prior convictions in 1997 and 1998.
According to Chief Justice Chase Rogers, “In starting the engine of his vehicle remotely then getting behind the steering wheel, the defendant clearly undertook the first act in a sequence of steps necessary to set in motion the motive power of a vehicle.”
The phrase, “motive power,” comes from a 1939 Connecticut court decision, which defined what constitutes “operating” a motor vehicle.
Cyr’s case is one in many that have raised questions concerning the definition of operating a motor vehicle under Connecticut’s drunk driving laws.
Superior Court Judge E. Curtissa Cofield has been suspended for 240 days from the bench, following her DUI arrest in October.
Connecticut’s Judicial Review decided to suspend Cofield for 240 days instead of issuing a one-year suspension or recommending that she be removed by the Connecticut Supreme Court. Before this decision was made, legislators had considered action to remove her from the bench.
Cofield was arrested in Glastonbury for driving drunk. The night of her arrest, she had sideswiped a state police car, which was occupied by a trooper and parked in a construction zone.
When Cofield was taken to Glastonbury police headquarters, she became uncooperative and started using racist language against police officers. Cofield especially targeted state police Sgt. Dwight Washington, who is black. The event was videotaped by police. Even though her blood-alcohol level was twice the legal limit in Connecticut, she lied about drinking.
Cofield became the first black female judge in Connecticut in 1991. She is now 60 years-old. Many of Cofield’s supporters attended the council’s hearing.
Rep. Michael Lawlor, D-East Haven, said the initial reaction of legislators was that the suspension was sufficiently severe. However, he did say that he doesn’t think Cofield should be assigned to criminal cases in the future. “Her ability to appear as impartial in a criminal case has been destroyed,” said Lawlor.
Some people are upset by the 240 day suspension, as they feel that the punishment is not harsh enough. A staff member with the Connecticut Post wrote, “Her continued presence as a judge will undermine the integrity of the judicial system and invite comparisons of the penalties that face judges who break the law and the penalties that face other defendants.”