Vermont DUI laws

Vermont DUI laws

by Corie Lynn Rosen, December 2009

Vermont is famous for vacations of all sorts, but have too much fun too carelessly in the Green Mountain State and you will find yourself in worlds of trouble. Like most other states, a driving under the influence, or DUI, charge in Vermont triggers both an administrative proceeding and a criminal prosecution. The administrative proceeding, conducted by the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles, may result in a complete suspension of a DUI offenders' driver's license. A person charged with DUI in Vermont should request an administrative hearing from the Vermont DMV as soon as possible, since failure to do so in a timely manner may result in harsher penalties.

The state of Vermont uses the theory of implied consent to test DUI arrestees for blood alcohol content. Anyone who drives in the state is considered to have agreed to blood alcohol testing and the tests are carried out through blood, breath, or urine sampling. In fact, in the case of a driver who has a previous DUI conviction on his or her record, a refusal to submit to blood alcohol content testing may result in separate prosecution under another of Vermont's criminal laws.

For those who do not have a prior DUI conviction, but find themselves arrested under suspicion of driving under the influence, a refusal to test may be introduced in court and in some cases, may even trigger sanctions. Of course, the decision to submit to or refuse testing is one that must be made by the arrestee at a time when he or she is under extremely stressful circumstances. It is important to understand the potentially severe consequences of both refusal and submission in weighing the many factors that relate to blood alcohol testing.

The criminal proceeding in Vermont is a serious one and prosecutors have the option of bringing the DUI case under two distinct theories. The first of these is the theory of per se liability. Under the per se theory, a person suspected of DUI can be found guilty if his or her blood alcohol level exceeds the limit dictated by law. Under current Vermont law, the legal limit for adults over age 21 is .08 percent. The .08 percent level may be created under different circumstances at different times, and the legal limit can be met or exceeded even where the person tested exhibits no outward signs of intoxication.

Because the state has the option of convicting under per se liability, in some case no evidence beyond proof from testing will be needed at trial. However, because of variations in blood alcohol level over time, testing is not always reliable and DUI court cases often use both possible theories.

The second of the two possible theories is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Evidence presented to support a conviction under this theory is what most people think of when they imagine a "DUI arrest." Driving pattern, overall general appearance, speech pattern, stench of alcohol, appearance of the car, and perhaps most importantly, performance on field sobriety tests, may be introduced at the trial in order to prove or disprove that the driver in question was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the arrest. In order to be convicted under this theory in criminal court, the prosecution must prove that the defendant was unable to drive his or her car in the safe, reasonable manner that an ordinary person in similar circumstances would use.