A person commits a DWI in Missouri if such person operates a motor vehicle in the State with a BAC of .08 or greater. A DWI charge in Missouri has civil and criminal components. Civilly, the Department of Revenue will push to revoke your driver’s license. Criminally, the State or County will charge you with a crime (which, depending on the circumstances and history, could be a misdemeanor or felony).
Let’s first talk about the breathalyzer or BAC tests. Missouri has a so-called “implied consent” law when it comes to BAC tests. Simply by virtue of having a license and being on a Missouri road, a driver has implicitly consented to a BAC test. Accordingly, if you are stopped are refuse a BAC test, then the DMV will move to automatically suspend your driver’s license for one year. If, on the other hand, you submit to a test and your BAC is above the legal limit, then your license is usually suspended for 30 days, with the possibility of gaining a temporary, work license for the following 60 days (SR-22 insurance).
It’s impossible to give generalized advice regarding whether to submit to or refuse a BAC test. In fact, the best advice is to not drink and drive. But, should you be charged with a DWI, do know that the law in this area is highly specialized. Police officers must follow with great detail certain constitutional and state requirements. Failure to do so could result in the State’s case being tossed out and any charges being dropped.
Now on to the civil, administrative aspect of a DWI. The last thing you want to do if you are charged with a DWI is to think of it as a simple traffic ticket that an attorney can have recommended down to a simple non-moving violation. This is not the case. Indeed, any criminal charges and adverse action from the Missouri Department of Revenue could follow you around for a long time (if not forever). There are strict time deadlines in place in Missouri for DWI charges. For instance, if you receive a DWI after blowing .08 or above, you have 15 days to request an administrative hearing with the DMV to contest your license revocation. Failure to act within this 15 day period constitutes a waiver of your right to a hearing. It’s paramount that this hearing be requested, as success (or even partial success) in the administrative hearing can greatly enhance your chances of prevailing in the criminal aspect of the DWI.
And what about the criminal aspect of a DWI? As with all criminal charges, the State must prove every element of the charge beyond a reasonable doubt — specifically: that an individual was operating a motor vehicle above the legal limit. This is a high burden to meet for the State. It will generally need to bring in the police officer(s) that made the arrest, and usually expert witnesses to verify the BAC test, to support its claim. Given the daunting nature of these charges, it is imperative to hire competent legal counsel.