Frequently Asked Questions on DWI Laws

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First, be polite and courteous to the officer. Upon request, provide your driver's license and proof of insurance. Let the officer complete his investigation of the traffic violation and issue you either a warning or a ticket. Once the traffic violation has been concluded you should leave the scene. If the officer attempts to further detain you, just ask "Officer, am I free to leave?" If the officer refuses to let you leave, you should consider yourself under arrest and exercise your constitutional rights to remain silent and seek the advice of an attorney.

You have the right to say no. You don't need a reason for saying no. This is America and citizens are to be free of searches and seizures absent a lawful warrant or applicable exception to the warrant requirement. Anticipate further questioning and pressure from the officer in order to get your consent. The officer is doing his job and he understands if he doesn't get your consent he will most likely be denied the search. Remember to keep asking the officer if you are free to leave and, if not, assume you are already under arrest and have a right to remain silent and seek the advice of an attorney. Any consent you give to a search of your person, car or home will significantly reduce your legal defenses to any evidence found.

You are not required to perform any field sobriety tests. However, if you refuse to take the tests the officer can use your refusal as probable cause for arresting you for operating a motor vehicle while in an intoxicated or drugged condition. You may then be transported to the police station and requested to submit to a breathalyzer test to determine your blood alcohol content. If your BAC is below 0.08%, you are to be released without charges unless the officer believes he has other grounds for establishing your intoxication.

First, at your request, the officer must allow you 20 minutes to attempt to contact an attorney for advice on whether to submit to a breathalyzer test. Understand that a refusal, if upheld, will result in the loss of your driver's license for one year. Evidence of the refusal may also be admissible in any proceeding as evidence of intoxication. Furthermore, despite your refusal, the officer may also request and obtain a warrant to authorize a blood draw to determine your blood alcohol content. Factors to consider in deciding if you should take the test include whether you believe your BAC is significantly over the legal limit, whether you have prior DWI convictions, whether you hold a commercial driver's license and whether there was an accident.

A person commits the crime of "driving while intoxicated" if he operates a motor vehicle while in an intoxicated condition. Therefore, it must always be shown that the driver drove or operated the vehicle. However, "operation" of a motor vehicle can be proven where an individual turns on a vehicle, or otherwise engages the machinery of the vehicle. A person may be deemed to be operating the vehicle where the engine is running and the driver is asleep in the car pulled over on the side of the road, or when steering a moving vehicle downhill out of gas with the engine off.

The term motor vehicle is not defined within the Missouri DWI statutes. However, Missouri case law indicates that any motorized vehicle may be deemed a motor vehicle subjecting the driver to Missouri DWI enforcement actions, including golf carts, ATVs, and mini-bikes. There are also separate boating while intoxicated cases where a motor is not even required.

You do not have to be on a "highway" in order to be charged with a DWI. Despite language in the Missouri implied consent law indicating the driver must have been operating the motor vehicle "upon public highways of the state", private roads, private property, parking lots, etc., are all included as possible locations for a DWI arrest.

There a several areas in which an attorney may successfully defend a client facing a DWI charge. First, the traffic stop must be legal. An officer cannot stop a car without having a reasonable and articulable basis to believe that a law has been violated or that an unusual operation of the vehicle has occurred. Field sobriety tests must be conducted in strict accordance with NHTSA regulations in order to be valid. Furthermore, it has been established that valid results may not be obtained on persons with certain injuries or medical conditions or who are overweight or older than 65. There are no studies that validate the reliability of non-standardized tests, like the alphabet or counting tests. Currently, most officers have video cameras in their patrol cars. Video of the stop and field sobriety testing is often critical in establishing the driver's sobriety. Also, one breath test does cannot indicate whether the blood alcohol level is rising or falling. The law requires that the driver is intoxicated at the time of vehicle operation. But breath tests are not administered until long after the driver has been removed from the scene. Once removed from the scene, errors are often made in the completion of breath tests and blood tests. Officers must follow established guidelines in obtaining blood alcohol results and properly complete all required documentation relating to the tests. Correct observation periods must be applied, proper blood draw techniques must be used, and up to date certification of breathalyzer equipment must be disclosed.

Experts may be used to testify on behalf of a person accused of DWI. While the use of an expert undoubtedly increases the cost of the defense, the expert's testimony may prove invaluable in rebutting a breathalyzer result and assisting the jury in understanding the effect of a particular blood alcohol content.

Evidence of previous or other crimes, including prior DWIs or BACs, are admissible at trial if the accused driver testifies at trial. As such, the determination as to whether the client will testify at trial must be carefully considered if prior convictions exist. Of course, it is the prosecutor that has the burden of proving an individual's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and a defendant is never required to testify in his own defense.

Not all jurisdictions have a DWI court. At this time DWI court is limited to repeat offenders. If there is such a court or docket available in your case, then any benefits of entering DWI court may be explored on a case by case basis. The DWI court program combines judicial supervision, drug testing, continuous alcohol monitoring, substance abuse traffic offender program compliance, and treatment. A DWI court may assess you with any and all necessary costs for your participation in the program. Benefits of DWI court may include a more favorable outcome for any prior probation violation case, the ability to get a limited driving privilege, and eligibility for a suspended imposition of sentence.

The court may require that any person who is found guilty of or pleads guilty to a first intoxication-related traffic offense not operate a motor vehicle unless the vehicle is equipped with a functioning, certified ignition interlock device for a period of not less than six months from the date of reinstatement of the person's driver's license. The court is compelled to order the ignition interlock device for any person who is found guilty of or pleads guilty to a second or subsequent intoxication-related traffic offense.

The Department of Mental Health, Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse certifies agencies to provide services to individuals who have had an alcohol or drug-related traffic offense. The Substance Abuse Traffic Offender Program (SATOP) serves more than 30,000 DWI offenders annually who are referred as a result of an administrative suspension or revocation of their driver licenses, court order, condition of probation, or plea bargain (statutes). SATOP is, by law, a required element in driver license reinstatement by the Department of Revenue.
All SATOP consumers enter the system via an Offender Management Unit. Consumers receive an assessment screening where a review of their driver record, breath alcohol concentration (BAC) at the time of their arrest, computer-interpreted assessment, and an interview with a Qualified Substance Abuse Professional is conducted. Based upon the information gathered during the assessment screening, a referral is made to one of several types of SATOP service levels.

Missouri SR22 refers to a form issued by an insurance company for purpose of meeting a requirement to reinstate a suspended or revoked driver license. The SR22 filing provides a guarantee to the Missouri Motor Vehicle & Driver's Licensing Department that: the insurance company has issued at least minimum liability coverage required by the State to the person filing the Missouri SR22 form; and the insurance company will notify the Missouri Secretary of State if there is a lapse in coverage provided. Anyone who has a Missouri driver's license either suspended or revoked will need to file the SR22 Form in order for the license to be reinstated. Driver's license suspensions and revocations can occur of a number of reasons, including: Administrative Suspensions; Accumulating More Points on Driver's License Allowed by Law; Drunk Driving Violations; Uninsured Drivers Involved in Accidents; and, Unpaid Fines or Parking Violations.

The attorneys at Holder Susan Slusher, LLC, have a combined sixty years of experience in handling DWI and other alcohol related cases. In addition to the experience obtained from regularly defending clients on DWI charges, our attorneys attend and participate in continuing educational seminars designed specifically to address the most up to date methods and procedures for use in defending DWI cases. If necessary, the attorneys at Holder Susan Slusher, LLC, also have the trial experience to put your case before a judge or a jury. If you, or someone you know, have been accused of DWI or other alcohol related traffic offense, contact our firm at 573-499-1700 to set up your free consultation. Let us work for you.

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