Don't panic! Getting arrested for DWI can be scary, but it is not as bad as it seems. A first-time DWI in Missouri can be inconvenient and maybe expensive, but it will be a misdemeanor unless another person is physically injured. Misdemeanor charges can be resolved without ruining your life.
There May Be Little to No Consequences
If you hire an experienced DWI attorney, it is possible to have your case dismissed or amended to a lesser charge. A good lawyer will examine the state's evidence to make sure they can substantiate a DWI charge. If law enforcement has made significant mistakes, your lawyer can talk to the prosecutor and convince them to reduce or dismiss the charges. Worst case scenario, you will end up with a ticket for one of the companion charges like speeding or careless and imprudent driving.
There are two separate sets of consequences when you are arrested for DWI in Missouri. The court where you were arrested will pursue criminal charges, and the Department of Revenue will suspend or revoke your license.
The specific action the DOR takes depends on whether you failed a breath test or refused to take one. In a very broad sense, if you refused to take the test, the DOR will try to revoke your license for one year. If you blew over .08, you will face a 90-day suspension, the last 60 of which you will likely be able to drive with stipulations. See here for a more detailed discussion.
An attorney can fight the Department of Revenue to keep your license, but you must act quickly. Depending on the type of case, you need to file paperwork within 15 or 30 days to request a hearing. If the attorney wins the hearing, you keep your license. Additionally, in refusal cases where the DOR is trying to revoke your license for a year, an attorney can sometimes negotiate to have the revocation dismissed in exchange for a guilty plea on the criminal case.
The bottom line is if you hire a skilled DWI attorney, you are unlikely to face an extended license suspension for a first-time DWI in Missouri. Every case is different, and each court has its own way of handling DWIs, but most of the time, you will spend either no or negligible time without your license.
When you are arrested for DWI, the court in the jurisdiction where you were arrested will pursue criminal charges. For a first-time DWI in Missouri, this is not as bad as it sounds. An experienced criminal defense lawyer will be able to help you avoid any severe repercussions like jail. In many cases, they can arrange for a suspended imposition of sentence. This SIS can actually keep the DWI from appearing on your criminal record (but it can still be used as a prior if you get another DWI).
The court will attach stipulations to any agreement your attorney works out. You will need to complete an alcohol assessment and likely attend the Substance Awareness Traffic Offender Program. You will probably be placed in the lowest level, a 10-hour course for first-time offenders. You will also need to do some community service at a non-profit of your choice.
There may be additional stipulations. You might need to attend a MADD class, pay police recoupment, obtain special car insurance, or pay fines. Your lawyer can walk you through these. In fact, a lawyer who regularly defends DWIs will know how to move you through the process quickly and in a way that minimizes cost and hassle.
The Bottom Line
Getting a first-time DWI in Missouri is not an ideal situation, but it is one that can be managed. Hiring an experienced, skilled attorney is the key to a good outcome. A DWI attorney can examine the evidence against you, fight for your license, and help alleviate the criminal consequences. Click here for some necessary steps to take. Most importantly, if you have a pending DWI charge in the St. Louis area, call Ruth Beerup at 636-940-1111 to see if she can help you.