The State of Missouri takes the matter of driving while intoxicated very seriously, and a conviction can lead to overarching consequences that directly affect your future. Bringing your strongest defense from the start is the surest path forward, and this translates to working closely with a practiced DWI attorney in Missouri who has a wealth of experience successfully guiding cases like yours toward favorable resolutions.
Like other states, Missouri sets the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at .08 percent, which represents the percentage of alcohol in the blood by volume. For professional drivers and those under the age of 21, however, this limit is reduced.
Driving under the influence Missouri charges – or DUI charges – are used interchangeably with DWI charges, and the following basics apply:
- A first DWI charge is generally a Class B misdemeanor.
- A conviction can lead to fines of up to $1,000 and jail time of up to six months.
Many defendants avoid jail time by taking suspended sentences. With a BAC that ranges from .15 to .2 percent, however, there is a minimum jail requirement of 48 hours, and this is extended to five days for those whose BACs exceed .2 percent. There is also an automatic DWI license suspension component.
Missouri DUI Penalties
The degree to which the accused is over the legal limit and the number of convictions under their belt guide the Missouri DUI penalties they face.
Under Missouri alcohol laws, a DWI conviction is considered a first offense if the driver has no more than one DWI conviction in their lifetime and if their record for the previous five years is free of DWI charges. A first conviction can lead to a six-month jail sentence, fines of up to $1,000, and license suspension of up to 90 days.
For those with no prior convictions, there is a 30-day driving suspension requirement that’s followed by 60 days of restricted driving privileges. This requirement can be converted to 90 days of restricted driving privileges with the installation of an ignition interlock device (IID).
A second DWI offense comes with considerably harsher penalties that include the following:
- A jail sentence of from 10 days to 1 year
- Fines of up to $2,000
- Up to 5 years of license revocation
- An IID requirement of at least six months
When the sentence includes probation, community service is also likely to be ordered.
A third offense rises to the level of a felony, and a conviction carries all the following:
- From 30 days to four years behind bars
- Fines of up to $10,000
- A 10-year license revocation
- An IID requirement of at least six months
- Probation-based community service hours
The higher the defendant’s BAC and the more convictions on their record, the more serious the charge and the associated fines and penalties are likely to be.
DWI License Suspension
Having your driver’s license suspended can directly affect your livelihood and your ability to support your family, which makes the matter of primary importance. Anyone who tests higher than .08 BAC faces an automatic driver’s license suspension of 30 days – along with 60 additional days of restricted driving privileges. However, those who refuse chemical testing, such as the breathalyzer, and who are ultimately convicted of DWI face a full year of license suspension.
If your BAC exceeds the legal limit, you have 15 days to fight the charge by filing an Administrative Review. This is your opportunity to cast doubt on the state’s case, which generally means proving that the police didn’t have probable cause to arrest you in the first place or that the testing results that led to your arrest weren’t accurate.
Defending a DWI in Missouri
Too many drivers are under the mistaken belief that if they are charged with DWI, they are automatically guilty of DWI and that there’s no point in fighting the matter. The truth, however, is much more complex. Your case will hinge on the highly specific circumstances involved, and there are a range of strong defenses that may apply. You have legal rights and vigorously defending these rights from the outset can play a critical role in the outcome of your case.
Lack of Reasonable Suspicion to Stop
In order to pull you over in the first place, an officer needs to have reasonable suspicion, which is a very low legal bar. Reasonable suspicion means that the officer must be able to state a reason that warrants the intrusion, which can include just about anything, such as:
- Drifting slightly over the line marking your lane
- Driving slowly
- Failing to dim your high beams appropriately
Just about any other minor driving infraction will also do the trick. An officer, however, cannot pull you over just because they feel like it.
Lack of Probable Cause to Arrest
While the police don’t need much of a reason to pull you over, they can’t arrest you without probable cause, which packs more legal punch and means that it’s more likely than not that you were driving while intoxicated. For example, if the police report that your appearance and actions gave them probable cause to arrest you for DWI, but their body camera footage tells a different story, it can erode their claim of probable cause.
Field sobriety tests are nowhere near as accurate as the authorities would like you to believe, and factors like the following can skew the results:
- You’re uncoordinated in general or experienced serious anxiety under the stressful circumstances involved.
- The directions you received weren’t clear.
- The officer administering the test lacked training or failed to follow the required protocols.
The chemical tests that are often employed to make DWI arrests are similarly vulnerable to inaccurate results, and concerns related to regular maintenance and machine calibrations are common.
When you face arrest, you have legal rights, and procedural errors by the police can infringe on these rights. To begin, you have the right to remain silent, which the police are required to inform you of and that you are wise to invoke. Further, you have the right to legal representation, and if the police fail to inform you of this right or fail to abide by your request for an attorney, it leaves you with a strong defense.
If you’re facing a DWI Missouri charge, having a seasoned DWI attorney in your corner can mean the difference between an advantageous outcome and one that leads to harsh consequences that negatively affect your future.
Paul O’Rourke is a trusted DWI attorney at The O’Rourke Law Firm – proudly serving O’Fallon, Missouri – with an impressive range of experience favorably resolving challenging cases like yours. A first conviction in Missouri comes with serious fines, penalties, and social stigma, and if the charge is not your first or if a high BAC is involved, the matter is that much more serious. To learn more about what we can do to help you, please don’t put off reaching out and contacting or calling us at 636-323-5010 today.