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Your DWI in Court

The consequences for DWI and traffic violations can be severe, especially for repeat offenders. Having an informed lawyer present your case can provide you with a better defense against harsh penalties.

Knowledgeable Missouri DWI Attorney Protects Drivers’ Rights

DWI LAWYER DEFENDING ST. LOUIS-AREA CLIENTS AGAINST CRIMINAL PROSECUTION

Drunk driving charges are the most commonly filed criminal traffic cases in Missouri. More than 11,000 motorists are charged each year - or about one motorist every 40 minutes. The average cost of a drunk-driving conviction is more than $10,000, including fines, court costs, supervision fees, lost wages and drastically increased insurance premiums. 

Unfortunately, many defendants are first-time offenders who often decide to quickly plead guilty and attempt to put the incident behind them. This is a mistake. The consequences of a conviction can last for years, and the increased probability of future traffic stops with a DWI on your driving record means you will be vulnerable to significantly increased penalties in the event you are arrested for a repeat offense. 

Consulting an experienced drunk driving defense attorney in St. Louis as soon as possible is the best thing you can do to protect your rights.

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DWI Defense in St. Louis

Those arrested for allegedly driving drunk actually face two cases:

  • Criminal law: If convicted, the court will send a notice to the Department of Motor Vehicles, points will be assessed to your driving record, and your driving privileges may be suspended or revoked as a result. 
  • Administrative law: However, a criminal conviction is not necessary. For those whose blood-alcohol level (BAC) is over the legal limit, or for those who refuse the BAC test, an automatic suspension or revocation of your driver’s license will occur regardless of the outcome of the criminal case - in other words, even if you are not convicted! 

Motorists have just 15 days to properly request an administrative hearing. Those who fail to defend themselves face the automatic revocation of their driving privileges, regardless of the outcome of their case. As for the criminal case, Missouri law recognizes both driving while intoxicated (DWI) and a Blood-Alcohol Content charge, which assumes guilt if your BAC test was above .08, regardless of the other facts and circumstances of your traffic stop and arrest. 

The state hopes you will plead guilty. Simply hiring an experienced St. Louis DWI defense lawyer is a big step that can be enough to improve your bargaining position. The state knows many of these cases are not strong enough to withstand scrutiny of an experienced defense lawyer, let alone a trial. And the number of arrests means the court system cannot begin to offer trials for every defendant who contests the charges. 

The legal steps for a contested DWI charge include:

  • Arrest: The officer identifies probable cause for a traffic stop, alleges probable cause to commence a drunk driving investigation, attempts to get a defendant to perform field sobriety tests, may perform a portable breathalyzer in the field, arrests a driver, has a trained officer perform an official BAC tests, and issues traffic citations. 
  • Arraignment: Because you have only 15 days to contest the administrative charges, a defendant should already have a St. Louis drunk driving defense lawyer by the first court appearance. This is where you assert your right to plead not guilty and force the state to begin building and proving your case. 
  • Pre-Trial hearings: Some pre-trial meetings will include just your defense lawyer and prosecutor. This is where the back-and-forth negotiating begins as your defense lawyer raises issues in an attempt to seek a reduction or dismissal of the charges. Other hearings may be conducted before a judge, particularly if your defense raises legal issues that must be resolved before trial. This can include a wide range of issues, including challenging probable cause for the stop and the training and conduct of officers involved, as well as the legality or results of field sobriety testing and BAC evidence. When your attorney is successful, significant reduction or dismissal of the charges may result. 
  • Plea Negotiations: As the case progresses, and the state of the evidence becomes apparent, both sides will discuss possible pleas. The reality is the state will only take to trial its strongest cases, and does not even have room for all of those on the court’s docket. As a result, the vast majority of cases are resolved during this stage.
  • Trial: In a small number of cases, where your defense attorney feels a client has not been offered the best possible outcome in negotiations, your case may go to trial. At trial, each police officer will be primary witnesses and each will be cross-examined by your attorney. Each piece of evidence and each stage of the case will be closely scrutinized. The state has the burden of proof and must prove your case beyond a reasonable doubt. 

There are many steps in the process and many ways an experienced drunk driving defense lawyer in St. Louis can win a reduction or dismissal of the charges. Any reduction that does not convict a defendant of an alcohol-related traffic offense is a big win. Keeping an alcohol-related charge off your record will ensure you are not subject to significantly increased penalties in the even of a future arrest, will prevent a defendant from suffering employment-related consequences, including the inability to obtain commercial insurance or drive for work, either now or in the future, and save thousands of dollars on increased insurance premiums and other financial consequences of a DWI conviction. 

If you have been charged with drunk driving in St. Louis, time is of the essence. Providing proper notice to secure an administrative hearing to protect your driving rights is essential, regardless of the outcome of the criminal case. Your first step should be to reach out to an experienced St. Louis defense lawyer as soon as possible. 

If you need an experienced St. Louis defense attorney, call Bert Fulk Attorney at Law today at 314-804-1853 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

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The information contained within this website is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. Merely contacting an attorney does not immediately create an attorney/client relationship.

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