There are two main categories of Missouri drivers who choose not to enlist the services of a St. Louis DWI lawyer when they get caught driving while intoxicated. The former category includes drivers whose intoxication level is low, right at the legal limit, and who think they can fight charges on their own. The latter category includes drivers who are so severely intoxicated that they lose any hope of keeping their driving license and choose self-representation to save money.
An experienced St. Louis DWI attorney can help drivers in both categories prepare a strong defense. With a lawyer on their side, drivers who barely exceeded the blood alcohol concentration limit can dismiss charges against them by questioning the accuracy of the tests performed or proving that the law enforcement officers violated their rights by pulling them over illegally or failing to read them their rights, to name just the main options.
Drivers caught with high levels of blood alcohol which cannot contest their level of intoxication may still be able to keep their driving privilege if their attorney proves that they need it to earn their living, care for their family members, or receive medical treatment. Showing regret and responsible behavior can help as well, and many Missouri DWI lawyers advise their clients to seek treatment in a court-approved rehabilitation center.
Leaving that aside, all drivers caught driving while intoxicated have a chance of fighting charges and winning, provided they hire an experienced attorney to advise and represent them. The benefits of working with an attorney become obvious from the very first consultation. On the first meeting, attorneys usually review the potential clients’ cases, telling them where they stand and what their legal options are.
The information the attorney provides will most likely depend on the particularities of each case. However, since the same laws and regulations apply to all cases, most lawyers will explain the following details to their clients.
General Legal Details Every St. Louis DWI Lawyer Explains to a Client
According to Missouri DWI laws, the law enforcement officers have the right to pull over drivers only if they have evidence or solid reasons to suspect intoxication. For example, they can stop drivers who drive too fast, weave, drive too slow, cannot maintain direction, perform sudden unjustified maneuvers, or get into an accident.
The law enforcement officers can use field sobriety tests to assess whether a driver is intoxicated or not. Although the rules for performing these tests are clear, the results are easy to influence, and many St. Louis lawyers succeed to raise doubts regarding the police officer’s’ objectivity or ability to assess the drivers’ performances correctly.
The police officers may also use a Portable Breath Test to assess whether a driver has consumed alcohol. The device measures the blood alcohol concentration by analyzing the air the driver exhales. While the results do not count as evidence in court, levels over 0.08 usually results in the police officers requesting further testing.
Blood alcohol concentration levels of 0.08 in adults and 0.02 in drivers younger than 21 will bring about DWI charges and lead to the arrest of the driver. Drivers refusing blood or breath tests risk further penalties.
What Happens following a DWI Charge?
In Missouri, DWI cases involve two distinct processes, governed by separate authorities:
- Driver license issues falling under the jurisdiction of the Missouri Department of Revenue, and
- Criminal charges and penalties falling under the jurisdiction of the St. Louis criminal courts.
Thus, drivers who choose self-representation have to fulfill the formalities of both authorities. Those who hire a St. Louis DWI lawyer can leave the paperwork to their legal representative. The latter knows exactly what procedures require completion and within what deadlines.
The penalties drivers risk for DWI depend on their blood alcohol concentration and their driving records. They range as follows:
- Class B misdemeanor charges apply to first-time offenders. These risk 30 days of license suspension and 60 days of Restricted Driving Privilege (adults) or 90 days of license suspension (drivers under 21), up to $500 in fines, up to 6 months of jail time, and eight penalty points on their driving record.
- Class A misdemeanor charges apply to drivers with one DWI conviction on their record. The fines can reach $1,000. If five years have passed from the first DWI, the driver risks one year of license revocation. If the 5-year deadline has not passed, the driver risks five years of license denial. Other penalties are one month of community service, between 5 days and one year in the St. Louis County Jail, 12 penalty points on one’s driving record, retaking driving test, and driving with an Ignition Interlock Device on one’s vehicle for one month.
- Class D felony charges apply to drivers with at least two previous penalties. Drivers risk paying up to $5000 in fines, ten years of license revocation, 60 days of community service, up to 4 years of jail time, 12 penalty points on their driving record, and a new driving test when the license revocation period expires.
The charges and penalties can be even more severe in the presence of certain aggravating factors, like several DWI convictions with intervals shorter than ten years between them, operating a commercial vehicle. Other factors include refusing to submit to chemical tests, causing property damage and injuries, being under 21 years of age, and having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15 or above.
Depending on the case circumstances and the available evidence, the court may order the driver at fault to participate in a drinking and driving educational program, meet a probation officer regularly, and obtain the SR-22 insurance policy associated with high-risk driving and more expensive.
Should I Hire a St. Louis DWI Lawyer for My Case?
Experienced attorneys can help drivers facing DWI charges prove their innocence, dismiss various evidence and charges, keep their driving license, and avoid penalties or at least minimize them. The sooner they start working on the case; the more valuable their help will be.
Are you facing DWI charges? Do yourself a favor and contact Hollingshead & Dudley Trial Lawyers now. Schedule a FREE case review to get a feel of what working with an experienced, skilled, and dedicated St. Louis DWI lawyer means.