Part 1: The Refusal
*Author’s Note: This blog is written to address first time DWI offenders. If you have a prior alcohol-related law enforcement contact, the repercussions against your license may vary.
As a DWI attorney, the most common question I get from friends, family members, and total strangers at social functions is, “If I get pulled over, should I blow?” My first answer is always this: Neither. You need to request to speak to an attorney. If you make that request at any point prior to making your decision, the arresting officer will (or, at least, is supposed to) give you twenty minutes to contact your lawyer. A skilled DWI attorney can use that twenty minutes to discuss the events leading up to the situation you were in, and give you some sort of an idea as to what decision you should make. You have a right to an attorney; use it!
Having said that, it astonishes me how many people fail to make that request. Should you ever find yourself in the situation, here is what you need to know:
First of all, an officer will read you what is called Missouri’s “Implied Consent Law” prior to asking whether or not you will submit to a breath test. Here is exactly what the officer will say to you:
“You are under arrest and I have reasonable grounds to believe you were driving a motor vehicle while you were in an intoxicated or drugged condition. To determine the alcohol or drug content of your blood, I am requesting you submit to a chemical test of your breath. If you refuse to take the test, your driver license will immediately be revoked for one year. Evidence of your refusal to take the test may be used against you in prosecution in a court of law. Having been informed of the reasons for requesting the test, will you take the test?”
Seems a little coercive, doesn’t it? And good luck finding an officer who will tell you the consequences against your license if you do blow and it comes back above the legal limit. The same officer who just dictated Missouri’s Implied Consent will all of a sudden clam up and say, “I can’t give you legal advice. Are you going to blow or not?”
I digress. At this point, you know this: If I don’t blow, my license will be revoked for one year. However, that’s not necessarily true. First of all, you can (and should) challenge the license revocation. Unfortunately, you have a very limited window to file an appeal. The revocation itself will go into effect 15 days after you are given a “Form 4323,” which is usually given to you before you leave the police station. You have 30 days to formally file a Petition for Review of the revocation, but I strongly encourage anyone who has been arrested for DWI to meet with an attorney within days of the arrest to allow your attorney to both advise you and act quickly. Oftentimes, your court date will be long after the 30 days have expired. Unfortunately, once that deadline passes, there is nothing you can do to challenge the revocation. If your attorney successfully challenges the license revocation, you get your license back! If not, however, all you have to do is not drive for a year, right?
Unfortunately, wrong – it doesn’t just end there. In order to get your license reinstated, you’ll need to jump through a variety of hoops – and they all cost money. The easiest (and cheapest) is paying a $45 reinstatement fee to the Department of Revenue. The other requirements are not so simple.
You’ll have to complete the Substance Abuse Traffic Offender Program (SATOP). SATOP is divided in to two parts: an initial assessment screening that places you in to a particular program level and then the actual program itself. The assessment screening typically costs around $375. The programs themselves vary in pricing, and are as follows:
- The Offender Education Program: $130
- The Weekend Intervention Program: $458.28
- Clinical Intervention Program: $1,046.91
- Youth Clinical Intervention Program: $510.20
You’ll also have to obtain SR-22 insurance for two years. SR-22 insurance can be expensive and can also drive your insurance rates up. Fortunately, should you face these consequences, an experienced DWI attorney can help you navigate the terrain in an attempt to save you as much money as possible.
Furthermore, your driving record will also reflect your refusal. A driving record search is the most common background check that an employer runs on a prospective employee. Unfortunately, I have had scores of individuals call me trying to “clear” their name due to a prospective employer denying them employment based on a DWI they received in the past.
Although this blog is directed towards first-time DWI offenders, I should not that if you have had a prior alcohol-related offense, you must also install and maintain an Ignition Interlock Device on your car for six months. Not only is this an inconvenience, but guess what? It costs money, too!
In sum, refusing a chemical test of your breath or blood doesn’t carry with it the sole consequence of having your license revoked. If there’s one thing you learned from this blog, I hope its this: if you are ever faced with the choice to blow or not to blow, call an experienced attorney first. At the very least, we can give you some guidance as to what your best options are. Even if you are under arrest, its not the end of the road: Don’t simply roll over and take the punishment. Call the DWI attorneys at Hollingshead & Dudley today!