Have you ever been caught in a sticky situation regarding a DWI?
According to DrinkingAndDriving.org, “900,000 people are arrested each year for DWIs and a full one-third of those are repeat offenders.” Additionally, in the state of Missouri, 57 per every 10,000 people are arrested yearly. And although Missouri sits in the lower middle region of the pack for DWIs in the U.S., that doesn’t mean DWIs aren’t rampant in the Show-Me state. In fact, on average, the number of Missouri DWIs has increased significantly over the past few years. If you or someone you know has suffered from a DWI in the last year, it’s important that you know the facts behind the crime and are able to move forward with this knowledge.
Following are some helpful tips — a sort of DWI 101, if you will — for your convenience in speeding up the DWI process.
- Seek out help: Lawyers who specialize in criminal law will be beneficial, since they can most appropriately offer their assistance and, like all lawyers, protect your rights. They’ll no doubt make the DWI process much easier on you by building your case and directing you through the necessary steps. Yes, lawyer expenses can be a pain, but in the end you’ll benefit by being enormously better equipped to deal with your case.
- Your License: Points will be assessed on your insurance and the removal of your license (for a certain period of time) may be another term of your sentence. Also, it’s helpful o know that you must call the DMV within 10 days of the arrest to schedule a hearing, or your license can be suspended indefinitely for 30 days. Even after dealing with the DMV, it is very common in DWI cases that a suspension will still be held.
- Blood Alcohol Content: Your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC), no matter how low it was above the legal limit, is still illegal in DWI cases. Whether your BAC was .081% by the time you blew into a Breathalyzer or .15%, any measurement over .08% is still treated as a Class A misdemeanor in the state of Missouri. You are just as likely to be convicted of a DWI if you are barely over the legal limit as to someone who is clearly intoxicated.
- What’s an SIS: A Suspended Imposition of Sentencing (SIS) in Missouri traffic law is where you are placed on probation by the court after your hearing. In an SIS, you can waive your right to a trial by pleading guilty in court to an offense such as a (DWI), but the conviction is never entered onto your criminal record. As long as you complete the terms of your sentence as required by the judge on the grounds of your probation, you will never receive the conviction of the DWI and your case will be closed. If for some reason you violate your probation or do not fulfill your sanctions in the time required, you will be sentenced to a probation revocation hearing. The judge can revoke your SIS, upon another further convicting you of DWI, which will then be recorded and found on your criminal record.
- Fees and Classes: After being convicted of a DWI, you will have to pay fees, fines, and you may have your license revoked for a period of time according to statutory laws. In order to get your license back, most states also require a Driving Improvement Class to be completed before granting you your license.
- SATOP: In the state of Missouri, the Substance Abuse Traffic Offender Program (SATOP) is a mandatory requirement for DWI offenders. This is considered DWI School upon reinstatement of your license. Once you have found a SATOP location that works best for you, a screening will be conducted to measure what service level class based on BAC, age, and occupation will be best suited for you.
- Ignition Interlock System: The ignition interlock system is something that can be mandated upon receiving your sanctioned orders in court. The Ignition Interlock system serves as a Breathalyzer-started motor vehicle device. However, not everyone receives one of these; based on the severity of your DWI, you may or may not be given this as part of your probation. The Ignition Interlock system keeps DWI offenders from making repeat offenses. The way it works is simple: In order to start your car, you must first blow into the Breathalyzer. The Breathalyzer will tell you if you are clear or if you have failed the test. It is based solely on your BAC, which in this case means that if the system detects any kind of alcohol on your breath, you will not be able to start your car. It can be a costly price to have this device installed, but even more costly if you continue to have failed reports upon blowing into the device.
- Once your sanctions are complete, you will either report back to the court or your probation officer to ensure that you have handled all your holdings properly.
DWI charges are never easy — that is why it’s important to be knowledgeable about the topic, so you can make the process easier on yourself before and after your hearing.
Written by Kellie Bertels, an attorney with the firm Bandré, Hunt & Snider, LLC where they are the leading attorneys in Jefferson City MO.