What Constitutes DWI in Missouri?

If you are charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) in the State of Missouri, you will need to be represented by a Jefferson County DWI attorney who will examine the details of your DWI arrest and challenge the state’s evidence on your behalf.

With so much at stake, and with penalties that include a possible jail sentence or a loss of your driving privilege, a DWI defendant must be advised and defended by a Missouri lawyer who has substantial experience representing clients who are charged with driving while intoxicated.

In Missouri, what are your legal rights if you are charged with driving while intoxicated? And what are the most effective ways to fight a DWI charge and avoid a conviction? For the answers you may need – now or in the future – about driving while intoxicated in Missouri, keep reading.

How Are DWI Charges Handled in Missouri?

Driving while intoxicated is a serious matter in this state. Every year, several hundred people lose their lives in alcohol-related traffic accidents on Missouri’s streets and highways, and many more are seriously injured. In 2020, over 17,000 drivers in Missouri were charged with DWI.

Before there can be any discussion of defense strategies, you should know what penalties you could face for a DWI conviction in this state. The exact penalties for a conviction will depend on the details of the driving while intoxicated incident and whether you have previous convictions.

If there are no aggravating circumstances, a first-offense DWI charge is a Class B misdemeanor. A conviction requires you to serve a mandatory 48 hours in jail, although that sentence can be extended to six months. You’ll be fined, and your license will be suspended for ninety days.

Second DWI convictions usually entail a one-year driver’s license revocation, but two DWI convictions within five years will trigger a five-year revocation. After a third conviction, your license is revoked for ten years. A fourth DWI conviction may prompt a lengthy prison sentence.

How Do You Contest a DWI Charge?

Affirmative defenses – which claim a defendant should be acquitted despite evidence of driving while intoxicated – are offered in some DWI cases, but what’s more likely, if your case goes to trial, is that your Jefferson County DWI lawyer will challenge the accuracy of a breathalyzer test or the testimony of an arresting officer.

A Missouri DWI attorney will determine which defense may be most appropriate and effective in any specific DWI case. Below are brief descriptions of the affirmative defenses and the more common defenses that a Jefferson County DWI attorney may use in the defense of a DWI client.

Affirmative Defenses to DWI Charges

  1.  Necessity: The necessity defense is the claim that a driver had no alternative but to drive while intoxicated and that a “greater evil” was therefore avoided.
  2.  Duress: The duress defense is very close to the necessity defense. It is the claim that a defendant had to drive while intoxicated to avoid a death or serious injury, such as being forced by someone to drive at gunpoint.
  3.  Entrapment: If a police officer asked someone to drive while intoxicated, and the police then arrested that person for DWI, it’s entrapment. With this defense, a defendant must prove he or she wouldn’t have been driving except for the purported entrapment.
  4.  Involuntary intoxication: This defense claims the defendant did not know that he or she had consumed alcohol. For example, the defendant may claim that someone slipped alcohol into the defendant’s food or beverage without the defendant knowing it.
  5.  Mistake of fact: The mistake of fact defense is the claim that a defendant honestly believed that he or she was not intoxicated while driving.

Common Defenses to DWI Charges

Inaccurate breathalyzer results: Your lawyer may challenge the breathalyzer test results. Was the test conducted properly? Was the police officer who conducted the test trained and credentialed? Was the breathalyzer device properly maintained and calibrated?

  1. Rising blood alcohol level: This is the claim that a defendant’s blood alcohol content level was under the legal limit when the defendant was behind the wheel but was rising and increased after the defendant was stopped but before the defendant was tested.
  2. The police acted improperly: Your DWI attorney may claim that the police did not have reasonable suspicion to stop you or probable cause to make an arrest. With this defense, there must be evidence that the police violated the law or the defendant’s civil rights.
  3. A less common defense sometimes offered in DWI cases is that the defendant was not in fact driving at all. Particularly when the police responded to an accident and did not actually see who was driving, it may be difficult for the police to identify – with certainty – any specific driver.

When Will You Need a DWI Lawyer?

A DWI conviction establishes a criminal record that may make it difficult to find employment or housing or to obtain a loan. The only DWI convictions that may be expunged in Missouri – and only after a ten-year waiting period – are misdemeanor convictions for first DWI offenses that did not involve a commercial vehicle.

Each driving while intoxicated case in Missouri is unique. As mentioned previously, the exact charge that you may face, and the specific penalties for a conviction, will hinge on the particulars of the DWI incident and your own criminal record (if any).

That is why, if you are charged with driving while intoxicated in or near the St. Louis area, you’ll need – immediately – the personalized advice and aggressive representation that a Jefferson County DWI lawyer will provide.

How Can You Select the Right DWI Lawyer?

With more than three decades of combined defense experience, the DWI attorneys at Grafe & Batchelor have prevailed on behalf of clients charged with driving while intoxicated in Washington County, St. Francois County, Jefferson County, and throughout Missouri.

A DWI attorney at Grafe & Batchelor will consider the state’s evidence, develop an appropriate defense strategy, and protect your legal rights while bringing your driving while intoxicated case to its best possible conclusion.

If you are charged with driving while intoxicated in the Jefferson County area or anywhere in Missouri, now or in the future, call the Festus-based law offices of Grafe & Batchelor at once at 636-220-5934, and one of our DWI attorneys will evaluate your case without cost or obligation.