When the blue and red police lights began to swirl around Mark Sanford and the pickup truck he totaled one day in October 2004, the 35-year-old Griswold man surely knew what was coming: a field sobriety test and the risk of automatically losing his license under the state’s tough drunken-driving laws. It’s a drill Sanford knew well, because he had been through it at least four times in the previous 10 years. As a repeat offender, Sanford could have faced a two-year license suspension. But in the eyes of the Department of Motor Vehicles, he was a newcomer. That’s because through four previous arrests and four administrative hearings, Sanford had never lost his license, winning at the hearings every time because of technical errors or questions about police procedures.
Sanford is among hundreds of Connecticut motorists who have been arrested multiple times on drunken-driving charges without losing their licenses in DMV hearings, reports the Hartford Courant. Over the past dozen years, 49 drivers have prevailed through three different hearings. Five had made it through four different hearings without losing their licenses. An East Hampton driver has survived the process five times. Under a 1990 law, motorists whose blood-alcohol level is 0.08 or higher face at least a three-month license suspension, usually beginning 30 days after their arrest. But The Courant reported this month that administrative missteps and errors by police have allowed thousands of drunken drivers to keep their licenses. A deeper analysis of state records now reveals more than 800 motorists who have kept their licenses after two or more drunken-driving arrests.