Part of the complexity of defending DWI cases is that they are multi-faceted. That is, while you will almost certainly be facing criminal charges related to your DWI arrest, you must also simultaneously fight to keep your drivers’ license. In Missouri, your criminal case will either be handled by a municipal or county prosecutor in the jurisdiction where you were arrested. If your case is in municipal court, you are technically not charged with a “crime.” Rather, the charge is known as a “municipal ordinance violation.” Don’t be fooled by the name, however. A municipal DWI carries nearly identical consequences to a state criminal charge in that you could be fined, receive probation, or in certain cases, face jail time.
Additionally, Missouri has a DWI enhancement statute that allows DWIs to accumulate throughout your life. Although there are certain opportunities to “expunge” first offense DWIs from your record, you must wait a significant period of time to do so. In the meantime, while you certainly don’t expect it to happen again, if you obtain another DWI charge, you may be charged as a repeat offender and face stiffer penalties which will almost certainly include (at least in the prosecutor’s initial offer) some jail time.
As your criminal case is pending, you must also deal with the Missouri Department of Revenue (known as “DOR”) in an attempt to avoid having the DWI placed on your driving record and losing your license for up to a year. The DOR is Missouri’s equivalent to many states DMV. On a first offense DWI, f you “blew” over .08, you are facing a 90 day loss of your license. On subsequent offenses, you could lose your license for up to a year. If you “refuse to blow,” even on your first offense, you are facing a one year revocation of your license.
Although many attorneys claim that DOR licensing cases “cannot be won,” the truth is that an experienced DWI attorney can usually give you a realistic chance. At Hollingshead & Dudley, our attorneys have collectively saved hundreds of clients’ licenses over the years, including some cases where the client blew almost four times the legal limit. The keys to beating the DOR in a licensing case are knowledge, skill, and above all else, hard work. Winning licensing cases isn’t an easy task, and it is very time consuming. Our attorneys will turn over every stone in an effort to find a winning defense, and we have been on the forefront of some of the most novel and successful licensing defenses in Missouri history.
It is absolutely critical that you understand the important time limitations associated with your licensing case. If you blow, you have 15 days (without exception) from the date you receive notice (typically at the time of arrest) to challenge the case with the DOR. If you miss the deadline, for any reason whatsoever, your right to challenge the case is forever lost, and your driving record will reflect an “administrative alcohol suspension.” Do not try to do this on your own. It is important that the DOR paperwork is filled out correctly, and if you hire our firm, we will handle filling out/sending in the paperwork for you.
If you refuse, you have 30 days from the date you receive notice (also typically at the time of arrest) to challenge the case in court. Although you have 30 days to challenge your licensing revocation if you refuse to blow, if you delay, you will lose your license on the 16th day until such time as you or your attorney files a document with the court challenging the case (up to the 30th day). Again, do not try to do this on your own. The necessary paperwork to challenge a refusal case is infinitely more complicated than if you blew. In essence, your attorney will file a document with the court called a “Petition for Review.” The petition is, effectively, a lawsuit against the DOR demanding a court hearing to determine your rights. This document is complex and must allege very specific things. Sadly, even inexperienced attorneys sometimes mess up this document.
In most cases, if you hire an attorney, the attorney can preserve your right to drive without any restrictions until the attorney fully resolves your licensing case. This is especially true on first offense DWIs. If the attorney wins the case, the DOR will mail your license back to you. If your attorney loses the licensing case, you will begin the suspension or revocation on a specified day (usually a week or two after you receive notice from the court or DOR that you have lost), but your attorney will be able to assist you in obtaining a limited driving privilege which will allow you to drive for most important purposes in life. Because of the strict deadlines in these types of cases, if you have been arrested for DWI, do not delay in contacting our office for a free consultation.
Commercial Drivers’ Licenses (“CDLs”)
If you have a Class A, B, or C Commercial Drivers’ License (“CDL”), your ability to drive a commercial vehicle is in serious jeopardy from the moment you are arrested for DWI. In Missouri, it doesn’t matter if you receive a DWI in your commercial vehicle or in your family sedan. Any DWI carries the same potential consequences for a CDL holder. These cases are particularly complicated because, unlike non-CDL holders, in order to avoid a one year revocation of your CDL, your attorney must 1) win your licensing case and 2) have your criminal or municipal DWI charge reduced to a non-DWI related offense (such as careless and imprudent driving). Unfortunately, many attorneys that claim to “practice” in this area of law are oblivious to these hard facts.
If you take the “standard” first offense recommendation in the St. Louis area of what is known as a “suspended imposition of sentence,” commonly known to attorneys as an “SIS” (i.e. a plea of guilty that isn’t a conviction with two years of supervised or unsupervised probation), you WILL lose your CDL for one year. Likewise, even if your criminal or municipal charge is reduced to careless and imprudent driving, if your attorney loses your drivers’ license case, you will lose your CDL for one year. Thus, it is absolutely imperative you hire an attorney that, not only knows the law, but has also had success in protecting CDLs in the past.
All of our firm’s DWI attorneys have successfully saved many clients’ CDLs in the past, and they will certainly continue to do so in the future. If you are a CDL holder, before you hire an attorney, in addition to the questions above, make sure to ask any prospective attorney if 1) the attorney has successfully defended CDLs in the past, and 2) if the attorney knows the law. While there are undoubtedly many qualified attorneys in St. Louis, if you receive any legal information inconsistent with what we have provided you here, you need to look in a different direction for quality representation. Your stakes are simply too high.
The stakes are even higher if your current DWI is not your first. Under Missouri law, if you are a CDL holder, and you receive a second DWI, you are facing a permanent (yes, permanent) loss of your CDL privileges. In that case, you are literally fighting for your livelihood. If you hire the wrong attorney who doesn’t know the law, the attorney may inadvertently plead you guilty to a DWI (even if the attorney won your licensing case or the plea is an “SIS”) and subject you to a lifetime CDL ban. Sadly, our attorneys have seen countless examples in court where an attorney gives a CDL holder bad advice. Although it isn’t our place to correct another attorney on a client our firm doesn’t represent, we cringe every time we hear it. We’ve also had dozens of CDL holders contact our office after pleading guilty to a DWI (with a suspended imposition of sentence “SIS”) and receiving a permanent CDL denial in the mail from the DOR. While we very much sympathize with these CDL holders, in almost every case, there is simply nothing we can to do correct the mistake. This is one area of law where you oftentimes only get one chance to get it right.
Many of our prospective clients have said, “I can just not drive a commercial vehicle for a year. I have other jobs I can do in the meantime.” Be careful thinking like this. Although a first offense DWI will only result in a one year CDL revocation, many companies have policies prohibiting them from hiring CDL holders with a prior CDL suspension for DWI for a period of at least five years. Many companies won’t hire a CDL holder with a DWI suspension at all. Thus, you may have more to worry about than just the DOR. You may lose the ability to work in the chosen profession you love because a DWI CDL revocation could make you permanently unemployable in your chosen field. From a practical standpoint, this makes sense. In this litigious world, companies are understandably concerned about liability. If a company hired a CDL holder with a prior DWI revocation and the driver kills or seriously injures somebody in an accident, a good plaintiff’s attorney will have a field day with the company, likely costing the company hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars.
Because, as a CDL holder, you have tremendous risk to your CDL and career, do not delay in contacting our office for a free consultation. Like any DWI case, it is important that you contact as us as soon as possible, preferably on the night of your arrest or, at a minimum, the first business day after your arrest.