Being arrested for DWI can be scary. Many people getting their first DWI fear that they have made a crippling mistake that will ruin their life. That is not the case. There will be inconveniences and hassles, but your first DWI is a problem with a solution.
Time is not on your side. The Department of Revenue is going to suspend or revoke your license, and you have a limited amount of time (15 or 30 days) to try to stop them. This suspension will happen whether you failed a breath or blood test or refused to take one.
The arresting officer will have given you a piece of paper you can fill out to try to stop the suspension. Hiring a lawyer to complete the form and represent you at the hearing is a good idea. These hearings are hard to win, but an experienced attorney can sometimes find errors in the case. A win can be very valuable in negotiations with the prosecutor during the criminal portion of the case, in addition to allowing you to keep your license.
The length of a DWI license suspension is complicated, so it is best to talk with an attorney for more information. In general, the DOR will revoke your license for a year if you refuse to test and suspend it for 90 days if you fail a test. An experienced DWI attorney, however, will know how to keep you driving. There are a couple of ways to accomplish this, and a DWI lawyer can help you figure out which works best for you. Remember, you will not be suspended if you hire a lawyer and they win your hearing.
Every court and prosecutor has their own policies and procedures, but it is possible to describe a broad outline of what you can expect for your first DWI. Complicating factors like an injury accident can change this outcome.
Best case scenario, your attorney can find that the police officers made serious enough mistakes in your arrest that the prosecutor drops the case. You do not need a trial for this to happen. If your attorney can convince the prosecutor the DWI is not provable, they will drop the criminal charges. Sometimes they will ask for a guilty plea on a lesser charge like careless and imprudent driving. This is still a great outcome, with a few points on your license and a fine. If the evidence proving your DWI is solid, your attorney should still be able to negotiate a plea agreement with conditions.
A defense attorney should be able to secure a Suspended Imposition of Sentence (SIS) for your first DWI. The SIS allows the court to impose a period of probation and conditions without imposing a conviction. As long as you complete the probation, your record will be “clean.” However, if you get another DWI, the first will be considered a prior.
An attorney who handles a lot DWIs can make your probation easier. They can walk you through steps to make the probation limited or unsupervised. This can save you considerable time, money, and hassle. The term of probation will likely be two years.
You will need to complete a Substance Awareness Traffic Offenders Program (SATOP) assessment. This assessment costs $375 as of May 2023. You will likely be placed in the 10-hour Offender Education Program ($200), an educational course designed to prevent repeat DWI offenses.
The court will probably make you pay for the time the police spent on your DWI. This payment is known as recoupment. The cost can be anywhere from a little under $100 to around $500.
Most courts will require you to complete the Mothers Against Drunk Driving Victim Impact Panel. This class costs around $50 and can be completed in one day. You can probably find an online version. MADD intends for the course to show the impact that drunk driving can have.
Community service is usually required by the court as part of a DWI plea agreement. This community service can be performed at any non-profit, such as a church, animal shelter, charity thrift store, or government program. The amount varies wildly, anywhere from 20 hours to 100.
Another condition that can be required in some instances is a choice between either 30 days wearing an alcohol monitoring bracelet, 30 days of ignition interlock on your vehicle, or two days in jail. A lawyer can tell you if your case meets the requirements for this outcome.
Please keep in mind that every jurisdiction is different. The above is meant as a brief outline of the most common outcomes. You should talk to an experienced lawyer to understand the specifics of your case.
Hire a Lawyer!
DWI law is complicated. You need a skilled attorney by your side. It is exceedingly difficult for a defendant without a lawyer to convince a prosecutor to dismiss or reduce DWI charges. On top of that, dealing with the Department of Revenue without an attorney is unlikely to produce a favorable outcome. Call Ruth Beerup at 636-940-1111 if you are facing a first-time DWI in Missouri.
Ruth has been practicing DWI defense in the St. Louis/St. Charles area for over 26 years. She has achieved many outstanding results because she is an outstanding negotiator who systematically and aggressively examines the evidence in each case to find flaws.