Driving while intoxicated (DWI) or Driving under the influence (DUI) are among the most serious and frequently filed traffic charges in local court systems nationwide. Under Missouri law, the charge is driving while intoxicated (DWI) and is governed under two separate sections of law.
A conviction can result in a host of consequences, including loss of driving privileges, jail time, fines, court costs, supervision fees, mandatory drug or alcohol treatment, probation, job loss and the inability to hold certain jobs or work in certain professions.
This makes hiring a St. Louis drunk driving defense lawyer as soon as possible the best thing you can do to protect your rights.
In Missouri, accused drunk drivers may face charges of driving while intoxicated (DWI) as well as driving with an excessive blood-alcohol content. Driving with an excessive blood-alcohol content is the “per se” equivalent of DWI - if you have a BAC above the legal limit of .08 you are considered per se guilty of the violation. “Per se” means “by itself,” meaning that fact alone presumes guilt.
However, these charges are different and require different defenses. The state’s burden of proof is also different in each case. The chemical blood, breath or urine test is enough to convict for a BAC charge, while a DWI charge may be proven by a totality of the evidence, even without a valid chemical test.
FIRST DWI / EXCESSIVE BAC OFFENSE
SECOND DWI / EXCESSIVE BAC OFFENSE
Class A Misdemeanor
12 points added to driving record
Required ignition interlock device
Minimum 2 days in jail
10-year driver’s license revocation
THIRD OR FOURTH OFFENSE
Everything listed above plus potential lengthy jail or prison sentence.
It’s important for defendants to understand that they must defend themselves in two cases - the criminal case in court and the administrative case before the Missouri Department of Revenue. Contacting a St. Louis drunk driving defense lawyer as soon as possible after you are charged is critical to a proper defense against all of the charges and potential penalties.
The laws are complex and there are many complicating factors, including your previous criminal record. The law defines enhanced penalties for prior offenders, persistent offenders, aggravated offenders and chronic offenders, as well as those who are charged while under the legal drinking age of 21. In fact, those who are under legal drinking age face a legal limit of just .02 and may face suspension or revocation of their driving rights for being visibly intoxicated under the law, purchasing or attempting to purchase alcohol, or being in possession of intoxicating liquor.
Missouri law is unique in a number of ways. In many states, refusing the breathalyzer denies the state substantial evidence if needed for conviction, even if it results in an automatic license suspension. The separate BAC charge under Missouri law makes it easier for the state to convict for DWI without evidence of a failed chemical test.
Additionally, even if you beat the criminal charge or successfully seek a reduction or dismissal, the administrative case may still result in the loss of your driver’s license. Once an arrest occurs, the state will send a notice of suspension/revocation of driving privileges (Form 2385), which gives a defendant just 15 days to request an administrative hearing. Those who do not request a hearing, face automatic suspension.
An experienced St. Louis drunk driving defense lawyer can work to defend clients in both cases. The reality is the state counts on the vast majority of defendants to simply accept fault. But with the many consequences associated with conviction, including financial costs that often top $10,000 including years of drastically increased insurance premiums, defending yourself is always the best course of action. This is particularly true when you consider the significant increase in penalties for a subsequent conviction.
While no one plans to get charged with drunk driving once, let alone a second or third time, those with a conviction on their record quickly learn that being stopped by police can become a common occurrence. Keeping a conviction off your record is the best thing you can do to protect yourself from the long-term consequences of having a drunk-driving conviction off your record.
Your defense lawyer can challenge your case from many different angles, including probable cause for the traffic stop, performance on field sobriety tests, BAC results, officer training, adequacy of test administration, and other aspects of testing or investigation. Experience in DWI defense will also allow your chosen attorney to work within the system to seek a reduction or dismissal of the charges, or to otherwise minimize the consequences of a conviction.