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Here you will find some good information about DWI cases, but for real in-depth insight and service, please visit DidYouBlow.com DWI Lawyer Defense Center™

DWI's are one of the most common crimes committed in the US, but they usually aren't committed by criminals. Ordinary, respectable citizens often find themselves being charged with this incredibly serious offense.

If you have been charged with a DWI, your first instinct may be to call your family law attorney, or the general practice attorney that has helped you and your family with business or other civil matters over the years. Before you do, you should know that although DWIs are common, they are one of the most complex areas of law to practice in, and an attorney who does not handle them regularly may not know all the intricacies involved in effective DWI defense.



THREE THINGS YOU MUST DO RIGHT NOW IF YOU'VE BEEN CHARGED WITH DWI

  • Request an In-Person Hearing With the DOR--In Missouri, you only have 15 days to request a hearing to appeal the loss of your license. If you miss this 15 day window, you will lose your license. Depending upon the circumstances, this license loss can last 90 days, one year, or longer!
  • Write down a detailed account of what happened the night of your arrest --Having a detailed account of everything that transpired leading up to your stop and during your interaction with the police officers can be immeasurably helpful in your defense. Write it down now, while the details are still clear in your memory.
  • Contact an Experienced DWI Attorney --there are many things you may not know about DWI law in Missouri that only an experienced DWI attorney can help you with.


THE TWO PRONGS OF A DWI CASE

DWIs are unique in that, unlike most crimes, they involve two separate cases: a civil suit with the DOR; and a criminal suit in the city or county in which you are being charged.

The Criminal Case: This is the aspect of the DWI that you are probably more familiar with. When you are faced with criminal charges against you, you have certain constitutional rights: the right to due process, a protection against unnecessary searches and seizures, the right to a fair trial in front of a jury of your peers, etc. In addition to this, the state has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of every element of the crime you are being charged with. Frequently, in criminal DWI cases, an attorney will enter on your behalf, and the prosecuting attorney will then make a recommendation to your attorney. This recommendation is similar to an offer for a "plea bargain," and for first-time DWIs often (although not always) includes probation, community service, fines, Substance abuse classes, among other things short of jail time in exchange for a guilty plea. This saves you the hassle and expense of going to trial, but isn't always in your best interest. It is important that you find an attorney who you trust to always be frank with you regarding your chances and your best interest in your DWI case. Sugar-coating isn't helpful, and likewise, suggesting that you accept a recommendation when the evidence against you is weak isn't doing you any favors, either.

The Civil Suit: This aspect of the DWI deals with the suspension or revocation of your license. Driving is considered a privilege, not a right. Because of this, the constitutional rights that you have in your criminal case are severely limited in your civil suit. In addition, although the burden is still on the state, in your civil suit, it is a different burden. They only need to prove that the officer had reasonable grounds to believe that you were intoxicated by a preponderance of the evidence (this is a much easier burden to meet than "beyond a reasonable doubt"). The law states that, when you get a driver's license in Missouri, you are automatically giving your implied consent for a law enforcement officer to take a breath, blood, or urine sample upon reasonable grounds for your arrest for DWI. Because of this, the process and potential outcome is different depending upon whether you submitted to the test or not:

  • If you submitted a breath, blood, or urine sample: If you submitted to one of these tests and the results showed that you were over the legal limit, the law states that your license will be automatically suspended after fifteen days. The length of your suspension will depend upon whether or not you have had a DWI in the past. If it is your first and you were over the age of 21 at the time of the stop, it is a ninety day suspension. But, if you have had DWIs in the past, the suspension could be much longer, and could even result in a 10 year revocation. Although these are extremely difficult cases to win, you do have a right to a hearing. An experienced DWI attorney may be able to help you avoid license suspension, but you must contact an attorney immediately. If you do not request a hearing within 15 days of your arrest, you will lose the opportunity, and your license will be automatically suspended.

  • If you refused to provide a breath, blood, or urine sample: When you refuse to submit to testing, the process is more complex. Your attorney must file a Petition for Review with the Circuit Court within 30 days of your arrest. In these cases, the court will grant you a Stay Order, allowing you to continue driving while the case is pending. In the meantime, your attorney will either attempt to request a recommendation from the prosecuting attorney, or may decide to try the case based on the evidence or lack thereof. If this is your first DWI and you lose the case, your license will be suspended for one year. The suspension will be longer if this is not your first DWI.

Abuse and Lose: The law differs for people who are under 21 at the time of the stop. A first time charge can result in a 90 day suspension, and a subsequent charge could result in a 1 year suspension, for any of the following charges:
  • Any alcohol related traffic offense
  • Any offense involving the possession or use of alcohol while operating a motor vehicle.
  • Any offense involving the possession or use of drugs
  • Any offense involving the alteration, modification, or misrepresentation of a driver license
  • A second offense involving the possession or use of alcohol by someone under 18 years of age
In addition to this, people over the age of 21 can have their license revoked for one year for possession or use of drugs while driving.


Potential Consequences of Your DWI Arrest

A DWI can have serious and lasting effects on your criminal record, your driving record, and future employment. Here's a list of some of the potential immediate and future consequences.

  • Jail Time: Even a 1st time DWI without an experienced attorney can result in jail time:
    • 1st DWI: Can result in up to 6 months in jail
    • 2nd DWI: Can result in up to 1 year jail time
    • 3rd DWI: Can result in up to 4 years jail time

  • Driver's License Suspension
    • In a refusal case, your license can be suspended for one year
    • For failed breath test cases:
    •         - 1st DWI: 90 day suspension
              - 2nd DWI: 1 year suspension
              - Subsequent DWIs: up to 10 year revocation

  • Points on Your Driving Record: a conviction results on points being placed on your license, which can cause further license suspension
    • 1st DWI Conviction: 8 points on your driving record
    • Subsequent DWIs: 12 points on your driving record

  • High Court Fines

  • Abuse and Lose Consequences for Minors: The law differs for people who are under 21 at the time of the stop. A first time charge can result in a 90 day suspension, and a subsequent charge could result in a 1 year suspension, for any of the following charges:
    • Any alcohol related traffic offense
    • Any offense involving the possession or use of alcohol while operating a motor vehicle
    • Any offense involving the possession or use of drugs
    • Any offense involving the alteration, modification, or misrepresentation of a driver license
    • A second offense involving the possession or use of alcohol by someone under 18 years of age
  • CDL Holders: CDL license holders in Missouri are held to a lower threshold than other drivers, even when driving a non-commercial vehicle. A blood alcohol level above .04% can result in the loss of your CDL license for at least one year on your first DWI conviction.
  • Potential Long-Term Consequences
  • Criminal Record: A DWI conviction will remain on your criminal record indefinitely.
    • 1st DWI Conviction: Can result in a Class B Misdemeanor
    • 2nd DWI Conviction: Can result in a Class A Misdemeanor
    • 3rd DWI Conviction: Can result in a Class D Felony
    • 4th DWI Conviction: Can result in a Class C Felony
    Driving Record: Whether your license is just suspended administratively or if you also receive points for your DWI conviction, this will be reflected on your driving records for several years, and potentially, indefinitely
    Increased Insurance Rates and/or Difficulty in finding auto insurance providers


How To Avoid Getting a DWI

There is only one way to avoid getting a DWI, and that is DON'T DRIVE if you've been drinking. Even if you've only been drinking a little bit. There are apps for your phone that can help guesstimate your blood alcohol level (including one called "Show Me My Buzz" offered by MoDot), but the only foolproof way of knowing if it's safe for you to drive is to refrain from drinking entirely. People who are charged with DWI frequently remain adamant, long after the fact, that they were "ok" to drive, even though their breathalyzer results reflect a blood alcohol content over .08%. The truth is, it doesn't matter if you think that you're ok to drive. The law states that driving with a BAC over .08% is against the law, so it doesn't matter how you personally felt at the time.

That being said, there are some things you can do to help yourself if you find yourself in a situation where you know you have been drinking and you are being stopped by an officer.

1. You have a right to remain silent. Use it. --Even if you haven't been placed under arrest yet, you do not need to answer questions about where you've been and what you've been drinking. BE POLITE, GIVE THE OFFICER YOUR DRIVER'S LICENSE AND PROOF OF INSURANCE, but don't offer up any more information. EVERYONE says they've just had one or two beers. DO NOT SAY THIS. Just politely tell the officer that you would like to speak to an attorney before answering any questions, and remain silent after that.

2. You do not have to submit to field sobriety tests. Again, be polite, but refuse to submit. Any slight stumble or shaking can be used as evidence against you, even if you're just trembling from nerves. Don't be rude, but let the officer know that you will not submit to testing without speaking with an attorney first.

3. Portable Breath Tests --these are handheld devices used at the scene of the stop to measure your blood alcohol content. These are not the breathalyzer machines that Missouri law requires you to submit to, and their results are not official, but they can be used in building the case for probable cause against you. Do not submit to this test. One way to know if it is the official breathalyzer test or not is that the officer will read you the implied consent warning before asking you to submit to the official breathalyzer test. Whether or not you should submit to that test is discussed below.

4. To blow or not to blow--there is no one right answer to this question. It depends largely on the circumstances of that evening, your personal history, and a myriad of other factors. When the officers read you the implied consent law, they are required to give you 20 minutes to contact an attorney before answering. Utilize this right and contact an experienced DWI attorney immediately.

5. Be polite! Have I mentioned this yet? A bad attitude with the officers can and will affect how the prosecutor and judge handle your case.

6. Don't Forget, You're on Camera! Often times people are unaware that the entire DWI stop, from the moment your vehicle is first spotted by police, to the moment you are placed in a cell, can be recorded on video. Frequently, after being placed in the police vehicle and while the officer is searching the defendant's car, the defendant will shout expletives or bang their head against the seat in frustration. Don't forget that all of these things can and will be used against you.

7. Don't think that being overly nice will get you out of this mess --too many times, a polite police officer is able to get full-blown confessions out of people just because they feel the overwhelming urge to be honest under the mistaken impression that honesty is the best policy in these situations. Wrong. Even the nicest officers have a job to do, and everything you say can and will be used against you.


Common Mistakes to Avoid When You've Been Charged with DWI

1. Not taking the matter seriously --With pressure from MADD and other groups, lawmakers have seriously upped the consequences for DWI charges. Being charged with a DWI can have serious and lasting consequences on your life, and should be taken seriously immediately.

2. Not Hiring an Attorney --the law is complex and you need adequate and immediate representation. Failing to hire an attorney or waiting too long to hire one can have disastrous effects, including license loss and jail time. Do not make the mistake of thinking that you can handle this matter yourself.

3. Failing to Appear in Court --missing your court date will result in a warrant being issued for your arrest and the revocation of any bond amount you posted.

4. Driving after your license has been revoked -- Driving While Suspended and Driving While Revoked charges are serious offenses that can result in high fines and jail time. In addition to this, a conviction on one of these charges will result in an immediate additional one year suspension of your license.

5. Not fighting your license suspension --although administrative hearings are difficult to win, they can be won on mere technicalities, such as a mistakes made by the reporting officer.


Choosing An Attorney

1. Experience-DWIs are a very complex area of the law, and a general practice attorney most likely will not have the expertise required to get you the best possible outcome. Attorneys who focus their practice on DWIs have extensive training and experience so that they know each and every little nuance that can make or break a DWI case. Do not make the mistake of hiring the family attorney or an old friend who doesn't devote a majority of their practice to DWI cases.

2. Cost --Don't make the mistake of allowing cost to be the deciding factor. Can you find attorneys that will accept small payments on a tiny fee to represent you? Yes. Will these attorneys devote themselves 100% to getting you the best possible outcome? Unlikely. A quality DWI defense takes time and resources, and an attorney worth hiring isn't going to be willing to do it for nothing.

3. Trust and Respect --When you speak with potential lawyers, follow your gut. Does your attorney treat you with respect and seem to care about what happens with your case? Does he/she take the time to speak with you and answer all of your questions? Do you feel like he/she is someone you can trust? If not, why are you even wasting your time? It's important to have an attorney who is assertive, and sometimes the ability to intimidate others can even be a plus, but do you really want someone who doesn't treat you with respect, or doesn't have time for your questions?

4. Potential Outcomes--When you meet with potential attorneys, what do they tell you to expect moving forward? There are so many different things that can affect the outcome of your case, that you shouldn't rush to hire someone who makes any big promises to you right from the beginning. Hire someone who is willing to explain to you a spectrum of possibilities, and the things they are going to do in order improve the eventual final outcome of your case. Until the attorney has had time to review the police report and fully investigate your case, there is no way that they can know all of the potential possibilities, but they should be willing to speak with you about the process and what you might expect moving forward.



OTHER QUESTIONS YOU MIGHT HAVE

1. What is SATOP? SATOP is the Substance Abuse Traffic Offender Program. If your license is suspended in conjunction with a DWI, you will have to complete SATOP before being fully reinstated. SATOP is also often a condition of probation on your criminal DWI charge. SATOP consists of an evaluation, and then placement in classes based upon the outcome of your evaluation. Costs vary depending upon your placement. Classes are available at numerous locations across the state.

2. What is an SR-22? SR-22 Insurance is a form Insurance companies provide to show proof that your vehicle has liability insurance coverage for a certain specified period of time. You must contact an insurance agent in order to obtain an SR-22, and they will provide that information to the Department of Revenue. SR-22s must be filed before you can obtain restricted driving privileges and/or full reinstatement after a DWI related suspension.

3. What is an SIS? SIS stands for "Suspended Execution of Sentence." When a prosecutor offers you probation with an SIS, it means that successful completion of probation will result in you never receiving a conviction for DWI on your record. If you violate the terms of the probation, you will face a probation revocation hearing.

4. What is Ignition Interlock --Ignition Interlock is a device sometimes required by the court and/or the DOR that prevents your vehicle from starting if there is alcohol in your system. If this device is installed on your vehicle, you will have to blow into it every time you start your vehicle.


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