Introduction

We’re launching a new series of blog articles that focus on the different types of cases we specialize in at Combs Law Group.  The hope is to drive more context around why we are the right choice for you if/when you have a run-in with the law. These articles hope to provide you with some insights into a particular area of criminal defense law and when possible we will discuss some of our recent case files.  These are meant to deliver you a more in-depth look at your particular charges and what you can expect as you move forward with your criminal defense. We hope to cover a variety of crimes from serious felonies to simple traffic tickets. Let us know if you have any suggestions on topics as we continue to share our viewpoints and knowledge about criminal defense law. 

We are going to start with one of the most common criminal charges we handle with our clients – DWIs.  

DWI Laws Missouri

With the exception of speeding tickets, DWI (driving while intoxicated) arrests are some of the most common cases any St. Louis criminal defense attorney handles. Every year hundreds of thousands of people drive while intoxicated, and every year thousands of people get caught and charged with either DWI or DUI.  The first DWI laws were passed over a hundred years ago, but up until the early 1980s drinking and driving was still considered a “minor” offense. But over the past 30 years, the DWI laws across the country and in Missouri have become much more stringent, and as a society, we view DWI’s much more seriously. Most of this has been driven by groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, who have worked diligently to reduce the number of DWI related deaths over the years. In 2018 Missouri enacted several new DWI laws that cracked down on DWI offenders even more.  Unfortunately, as these laws have been put in place many people have been caught in the crosshairs. You don’t have to look hard to find someone who has been arrested for drinking and driving. If it’s not you, it’s probably a family member or a friend.  

Unfortunately getting a DWI is real and when you get one you have to face both criminal action and administrative action by the state. The criminal side deals with the state laws you broke, while the administrative side deals with your license.  Let’s take a look at the implications on both sides of the DWI defense.

The Administrative Process

Driving is a privilege in Missouri and the state has the right to take that privilege away if rack up enough points on your license.  Getting a DWI conviction is a sure fast way to see that happen. Under the law the state has the right to take away your driver’s license under the following conditions:

  • A first-time conviction results in a 90-day suspension and you might be eligible for a restricted drivers’ license.
  • A second-time conviction results in a one-year suspension and if that second conviction is within 5 years of the previous one then you could receive a five-year license ban.
  • If you are convicted of DWI three or more times you will receive a ten-year ban.

When you are arrested for DWI the arresting officer is obligated to do the following:

  1. Sends an Alcohol Influence Report form (AIR) to the DOR
  2. Sends  a Missouri Uniform Complaint and Summons, or warrant, if applicable to the DOR
  3. A Notice of Suspension/Revocation of Driving Privilege (Form 2385) and a request for a temporary 15-Day Driving Permit (this will only be issued if your driver’s license is taken).
  4. Your Missouri Driver License, if secured.

When the DOR receives this information they will send you the “Notice of Suspension/Revocation of Driving Privilege (Form 2385)You have fifteen days from that notice to request a hearing.  This is crucial and you should act quickly so that you don’t pass up the opportunity to get a hearing.  Getting an attorney involved at this stage could mean the difference of you taking the bus for the next three months or having the use of your car.

Suspension vs Revocation

Under Missouri law, if you are a first-time offender you are probably eligible for the ninety-day suspension, while those with a suspension or revocation within the past five years will face a one-year revocation.  The big difference between the revocation and suspension is that you may be eligible for a restricted driving privilege under a suspension. That’s typically not available to those under a revocation.  

To Blow or Not Blow?

The ongoing debate to blow or not to blow has been around since the police started using breathalyzers.  Criminal defense lawyers have differing opinions as to whether you should blow or not blow. The fact is that it really depends on your circumstances.  The law is pretty clear – if you refuse to blow you will lose your license automatically for one year. All the same procedural rules apply, so if you do decide to refuse you will be given fifteen days to file a request for a hearing.  It’s true that if you don’t blow the state then doesn’t have a strong case on the criminal side. However, it can be difficult to overturn a one-year revocation because of refusal.

The Criminal Process

When you’re arrested for a DWI you’re typically taken to jail and held until you sober up which is usually eight to ten hours. Upon your release you will be given copies of your tickets and told to show up in court on the date on the tickets.  Depending on the municipality of arrest that date is likely three to five months away. Naturally, you think well I don’t have to worry about it right now. Wrong! As we’ve just stated you have to act quickly right after your arrest to protect your license.  Even though the criminal proceedings can take months (sometimes years), you should get an attorney right away. 

The criminal process for a DWI is highly dependent on your criminal and driving history.  First time DWI offenders are usually facing a misdemeanor B if convicted which can result in six months in jail and a $500 fine.  Most DWI cases don’t go to trial however, and end up with a plea deal where they keep the DWI conviction of their record with an SIS, or sentence in suspension.  This requires that the defendant go on probation for a specific period of time and if they complete it successfully the conviction is dropped.  

Second, third, a multiple offender DWI cases are more complex.  The state in recent years has clamped down hard on DWI offenders, especially repeat offenders.  It’s not uncommon for defendants with three or more DWI arrests or convictions to be facing prison time for a DWI.  Even if those previous DWI’s were over five years ago, the state laws now consider those into the equation when evaluating a defendant.  

When you bring a DWI case to Combs Law Group we fight the battle on both fronts.  We work to protect your license by representing you in your administrative hearing, and we can file petitions with the court for your restricted driving privileges.  On the criminal side, our defensive strategy is dependent upon your specific case circumstances. If you are multiple offenders our goal is to make sure you avoid jail or prison time and any felony convictions on your record.  If you’re a first time offender we work to make sure that you get the best probation terms possible. 

We’ve defended hundreds of DWI cases all around the St. Louis area in many if not all the municipalities.  Knowing the people and the processes that govern those municipal courts is what makes us the best choice for those who are facing a DWI in any of the St. Louis County municipal courts.  We can get you the outcomes possible so just give us a call today.

About Chris Combs

A St. Louis native and graduate of Saint Louis University Law School, Chris Combs has been recognized as one of St. Louis' top criminal defense and personal injury attorneys. He is passionate about getting positive results for all his clients and values personal communication above all.

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