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DWI Arrest – What happens if you blow over the limit?

by Lloyd Nolan

Here is an all too common scenario: an otherwise law-abiding citizen is pulled over, subjected to field-sobriety testing, and charged with DWI after testing over .08% blood alcohol content in a breath test. What should you do if you find yourself in this predicament?

My practice is located in St. Louis County, Missouri and all references will be to Missouri Law and procedure. I will address the most common scenario experienced by a first time offender.

Losing your driver’s license is probably the worst part of receiving a DWI, for the first offender. Many people charged with a DWI will wait until their court date before they seek the services of an attorney. This is a very bad idea.

If you are charged with a DWI in Missouri, you have only 15 days from the date of arrest until you lose your license. If you submit to a breath test at .08 percent or more blood alcohol content, you will receive a 15-day driving permit along with instructions and a form to request an administrative hearing. If you do not request your hearing within the 15-day period, you will lose your license with no opportunity for appeal or any further consideration. (Sections 302.505 to 302.525 RSMo.)

Your suspension will become effective 15 days from the date of arrest. If you have had no prior alcohol contacts, the period of suspension will be 30 days, during which you may NOT drive. During the next 60 days, you will be eligible for a limited driving permit to drive to and from work, education, medical or alcohol treatment. You will be required to file an SR-22 (high-risk insurance) before receiving your limited driving permit. Assuming you are otherwise eligible, your license will be reinstated after completion of the full suspension period (a total of 90 days including limited driving), payment a reinstatement fee ($45), and completion of a state-approved Substance Abuse Traffic Offender Program (SATOP). This requires completion of all alcohol education and/or treatment programs required by the SATOP evaluation. The minimum cost of SATOP is now $375.00.

To reinstate your license, you could easily spend $600 – $1000 (or more) in administrative fees, programs, and insurance. This is only the cost to reinstate your license, and does not include the attorney’s fees, or fines and costs involved in defense of the actual DWI charge. To this, you can add at least $1000, since you will be required to maintain SR-22 (high-risk) insurance coverage for two years following your reinstatement.

On the other hand, if you request a hearing and immediately hire an experienced DWI defense attorney, you will be able to challenge the suspension. You will receive a permit to drive (with full privileges) until the time of your hearing. Your attorney can obtain the police report and the calibration records for the breath machine. Your attorney can subpoena the police officer, along with any useful witnesses to testify on your behalf. Driver’s license suspensions are often over-turned and rescinded due to improper police procedures, improper breath machine calibration, maintenance and records. Even in the event that you lose your administrative hearing, your lawyer can file a petition for trial de novo and receive a new hearing before a judge in court, (Another bite at the apple). Best of all, if you win at the administrative level, or in court, you will have no suspension, nothing will appear on your record, and you will not be required to obtain an SR-22.

Remember, consult an experienced DWI defense attorney at your earliest opportunity. If possible, you should consult an attorney before answering any questions, or taking any tests. Although police officers are not required to tell you, Missouri law provides that you shall be granted twenty (20) minutes to contact a lawyer prior to submitting to any blood alcohol testing. 577.041 Missouri Revised Statutes. Be sure to exercise your rights.

Lloyd M. Nolan
Attorney at Law
225 S. Meramec, Suite 512
Clayton, MO 63105
(314) 725-1880