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Missouri Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) Attorneys
The nightmare of being charged with a DWI can happen to just about anyone. If you drink, there may come a time when you honestly believe you’re perfectly able to drive – but you’re not. This does not make you less than a model citizen. It makes you human.
Whether you’ve been wrongfully charged or made an honest mistake, our St. Louis DWI attorney at Miller & Hine will work hard to find a solution and make sure your arrest does not ruin the rest of your life.
How A DWI Conviction Can Make Your Life Very Difficult
By making a guilty plea, you would go from making a bad decision to a worse decision, one that will cost thousands of dollars and severely impact your life for many years to come. Here’s what may happen if your DWI case goes the wrong way.
- You could lose your license.
- Your insurance rates may increase or be outright canceled.
- You could face heavy fines.
- You could spend time in jail.
How Long Does a DWI Stay on Your Record in Missouri?
A DWI will stay on your criminal record indefinitely in Missouri, no matter what circumstances occur in your arrest. Nevertheless, hiring an experienced DUI attorney can help negotiate to prevent any DUI or DWI penalty from going on your record permanently.
What We Do
The first thing that our DWI attorneys in St. Louis do is talk to the client to find out what happened just prior to getting pulled over. We ask many important questions so that we know what parts of the DWI case that we can attack. We always check to make sure that the stop of the vehicle was done in accordance of the law and was not an unlawful stop.
We then check to make sure that the officer properly conducted the field sobriety tests and that the breathalyzer was properly maintained. If any of these areas are done improperly, we go on attack and try to fight the DWI case.
What to Expect
Many times we are able to work out a deal with the Prosecutor to where you will not take a conviction for the DWI. This means it will stay off of your record and no one will ever have to know. If that is not possible, then we begin preparing for trial to prove your innocence.
The DUI Process in Missouri
Being charged with a DWI in Missouri can be a frightening experience. Currently, it is a crime in all 50 states to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit at or above 0.08%.
If you are found to be driving with a BAC of 0.08% or higher in Missouri, you will be arrested and charged with a DWI. Here is a general breakdown of the DWI process in Missouri:
The DUI Investigation Process
There are three phases to a DWI investigation:
- The Vehicle in Motion Phase
- The Personal Contact Phase
- The Pre-arrest Screening
The Vehicle in Motion Phase
During this initial phase, something has drawn law enforcement officers’ attention to your vehicle as you are driving down the road. It might be a traffic violation or the fact that you are weaving within the lane or something else that makes the officers think that perhaps you are an impaired driver.
The officers then have to make a decision. Do I pull this driver over? Or do I allow them to continue on their way? If the officers pull you over, the next phase of the DWI investigation process begins.
The Personal Contact Phase
During the personal contact phase, the officers approach your vehicle and talk with you, asking for things like your license and registration. At this time they are also using their senses of sight, hearing, and smell to collect evidence that would suggest you are impaired.
The officers might note if you have the odor of alcoholic beverages coming from your person or if you have bloodshot eyes. The officers are also trying to decide if they need to instruct you to exit the vehicle and perform field sobriety tests. If they instruct you to exit the vehicle, that begins phase three of the DWI investigation process.
The Pre-Arrest Screening
During this phase, the law enforcement officers instruct you to perform tasks like the horizontal gaze nystagmus, walk and turn, and the one leg stand sobriety tests. At this point, the officers are looking for articulating evidence that suggests you are impaired so that they can arrest you for a DWI.
Know that you have the right to refuse these field sobriety tests. If an officer asks you to perform these tests, it usually means that he already suspects you of driving under the influence and is collecting evidence against you.
The DWI Arrest
If you are arrested on suspicion of drunk driving and taken back to the police station, the officers will ask you to provide a breath sample to determine your BAC. You have the right to refuse this test. The officers have already arrested you and taken you to jail, and they are only collecting more evidence that you were driving while impaired.
When you are arrested, law enforcement officers will usually take away your driver’s license and give you a NOTICE of SUSPENSION, along with a temporary driver’s license that is valid for 15 days. You will then have a very limited time to request to request a DMV hearing to challenge the license suspension.
This administrative license hearing is separate from the DWI criminal court proceedings you will need to go through. The suspension may be dismissed if the DMV decides there is no basis upon which to suspend your license.
The good news is that many first-time offenders or alleged offenders are eligible to have their driving privileges restored soon after their arrest. During this administrative hearing, you can represent yourself or have an experienced DWI lawyer from our law firm represent you for the best possible outcome.
The DWI Court Process
When you are released from jail, you should be given a citation containing the location and the date of your initial court appearance. Between your release and the date of your initial court appearance, you need to hire an experienced St. Louis DWI attorney.
It is highly advisable for you to hire a lawyer, even at this early stage. You may need legal representation at every stage of the DWI process to obtain the best possible outcome. If you do not hire an attorney, make sure that you are at your court date, or you will be tried in your absence, and a warrant will be issued for your arrest.
At this initial court appearance, referred to as the arraignment, you will be read the formal charges against you and asked whether or not you plead guilty or not guilty. If you plan to challenge a DWI, you must plead not guilty, and the case will be rescheduled so that your attorney has an opportunity to review the discovery.
Discovery is the sum of all the evidence that the prosecution has against you. That may include, but is not limited to:
- Copies of the formal charges
- Witness statements
- Audio and video recordings
- Calibration records for the breathalyzer device used to test your BAC, if applicable
Throughout the process, your defense attorney will attempt to resolve the case by engaging in settlement discussions with the prosecutor in an attempt to reach what’s called a plea bargain. Through the plea-bargaining process, you may end up with a lesser sentence than you initially faced.
If these negotiations are unsuccessful, however, the case will proceed to trial, and your defense attorney may want to file pretrial motions. Pretrial motions are special requests to have the case dismissed. For example, if your attorney believes the evidence against you was illegally obtained, they can ask that it be suppressed or excluded from court.
As a rule, we never attempt to plead out a case until we have exhausted all other alternatives, and are sure that accepting a plea is in our client’s best interest.
A DWI case cannot be resolved by plea agreement if the prosecutor does not want or cannot negotiate, or if there are certain criminal and collateral consequences. In these instances, the case will have to go to trial. The skilled St. Louis DWI attorneys at Miller & Hine always prepare each case, from the very beginning, for the possibility that it will need to be argued before a judge or jury and won with the most favorable outcome.
How We Can Help
When you are looking for a DWI attorney in St. Louis, keep in mind that you need counsel to successfully defend your rights. However, you also need an attorney who understands the personal stress this situation causes. When it comes to defending these allegations against you, we can provide you with peace of mind in knowing you are making the right decisions to move on with your life.
The St. Louis DWI lawyers at Miller & Hine have a goal to keep your record clean, so you don’t lose your freedom or your license. Please call us at (314) 413-2053 for a free consultation, and together we will discuss the details of the incident and what we can do to help you.