Push to Toughen Drunk Driving Laws

When an off-duty Connecticut police officer driving down a local street struck and killed a 15-year old boy, police suspected that he had been drinking and wanted to conduct a DUI analysis.

But the officer, from Windsor Locks, Conn., said he had been injured in the accident. He was then taken to the hospital, which prevented police from arresting him and drawing his blood even though they suspected he had been drinking.

Although Connecticut has some of the toughest DUI laws in the nation, a loophole allows anyone in the state suspected of DUI to claim he was injured and to be transported to the hospital, which prevents law enforcement officers from drawing blood and collecting urine samples. It's only after the driver is released that police can do an analysis, but by then, it's often too late. Because the evidence of intoxication is unavailable, this makes it extremely difficult for those injured by drunk drivers when they pursue claims for compensation.

The October 2010 death of the 15-year old and circumstances surrounding the non-testing of the police officer have spurred lawmakers to change the law. In addition to the officer's refusal to be tested while in the hospital, he was not tested immediately after the crash. His father, another local police officer, was among the first responders on the scene.

In February, a state legislator sponsored a bill that would close the loophole and allow blood and urine tests at the hospital for any driver suspected of driving under the influence. The bill gained the immediate support of drunk-driving groups, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association.

The bill is now before the state transportation committee and is expected to come up for a full vote later this year. The officer is facing manslaughter charges as a result of the accident.