How can I still lose my license if I’m found not-guilty of DUI or DWI in Missouri?

 

Written by: Christopher Yotz

            As I’ve said in other posts, there are two cases running at the same time when a person is charged with Driving While Intoxicated in Missouri. They are the criminal case charging you with the crime of DUI or DWI and an administrative case solely regarding suspension of your license. In the criminal case the US Constitution applies and in the administrative case not so much. Also, there are different elements that must be proven and different levels of proof in the two cases.

            In the criminal case all the elements of DUI or DWI must be proven and the investigation and prosecution from start to finish must comply with the constitutional limits on criminal prosecutions. If you were to be pulled over in for a traffic stop and arrested for DUI or DWI in violation of your constitutional rights then the prosecutor may not be able to win the criminal case. A possible issue could be the reason for the officer to stop you prior to the investigation for a DUI-DWI arrest. If the officer makes an illegal traffic stop that leads to a DUI-DWI arrest then a DUI-DWI lawyer can contest the criminal charge based on this issue and may be able to get the case dismissed. This is due to an invalid seizure of your person leading to evidence that could be considered unconstitutionally obtained. Also, your guilt must be proven to a neutral judge or jury to the level of beyond a reasonable doubt.

            The administrative license case is a civil matter rather than a criminal case and therefore there are not the same constitutional restrictions, fewer elements that must be proven and the case only has to be proven to the level of preponderance of the evidence. The only two elements in an administrative license suspension for DUI-DWI is 1) whether there was a reasonable basis (same as probable cause) for the DUI-DWI arrest and 2) whether the person tested over .08% BAC (unless you are under age or hold a CDL). The basis for the traffic stop is not an element necessary to be proven in the administrative case. And, the constitution will not prevent illegally obtained evidence to be used in the administrative case in the same way as the criminal case. Based on the example above, if an officer makes an illegal traffic stop leading to probable cause for a DUI-DWI arrest the criminal case could be thrown out based on the invalid traffic stop but the administrative suspension could go forward.

            The level of proof necessary in the two cases can cause a difference in outcome as well. The preponderance level of proof used in the administrative case just requires that the evidence shows the person arrested was more likely to have been intoxicated as not. This means 51% more likely than not. However, in the criminal case the prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person was Driving While Intoxicated. Beyond a reasonable doubt is much more than just 51% as likely. Based on this you can probably see how a case could fit in between the two levels of proof such that it doesn’t quite make it to the level of beyond a reasonable doubt but still be more likely than not.

            As you can see, it is possible to lose your license after a DUI-DWI arrest even if you are not found guilty of the criminal charge of DUI-DWI. This does not happen very often but it occurs often enough. The situation is difficult enough to understand that I thought this post would be worthwhile. I will also try and post information on how the administrative system is very different than the court system soon.

Possible issues with your license if you are charged with a DWI in Missouri.

Written by: Christopher Yotz

            If you are charged with a DWI in Missouri for the first time you may not realize how complicated the issues may be with your license. There are two ways you can potentially lose your license. It may be administratively suspended or it could be suspended for points or for both.

            Your license may be at risk for a reason separate from the criminal charge for Driving While Intoxicated even if the criminal charge is never filed or it is dismissed. After you are arrested the officer will request that you submit to a chemical test of either your breath or blood. You can either agree or refuse. (I will discuss what I think about testing or refusing in another post). Either situation could lead to an administrative suspension. The length of the administrative suspension will vary depending upon whether you choose to submit to the test.

            If you agree to the test and test over .08% BAC then the officer will send a form to the Missouri Department of Revenue and ask that your license be suspended for testing over the limit. Such a suspension for a first offense will be for 90 days. Prior to the new law taking effect you would be eligible for a limited driving privilege after 30 days and after filing SR-22 insurance. Under the new law such a wait will be shorter if you agree to install an Ignition Interlock Device on your vehicle.

            If you refuse to take the test (simply not taking the test for whatever reason can be claimed a refusal) the officer will still send a form to the State of Missouri asking that your license be suspended. This suspension will be for 1 year. You may be eligible for a limited driving privilege after 90 days. Under the new laws this could be shorter.

            You can contest either of the above suspensions. If you submitted to the test then you have 15 days to file for an administrative hearing to contest this suspension. If the officer claims you refused to submit to the test then you have 30 days to file a civil action in the county court to contest the suspension.

            In either case, the officer should give you a form stating that you have a 15 day permit to drive (assuming you are otherwise eligible to drive). If the administrative hearing is requested or civil action filed then this temporary driving privilege may be extended.

            After all of the above, you could also have your privilege to drive suspended if you are convicted for Driving While Intoxicated in Missouri. If you are convicted the Missouri Department of Revenue will assess 8 points to your driving privilege for a first offense and 12 points if you have been previously convicted.

            There are short time periods involved with a license suspension due to DWI. To be safe you should plan on hiring an attorney less than 15 days after a DWI arrest. If you wait too long you could lose the ability to fight the administrative suspension.

            I’ve talked to many people over the years who thought that there was no point in hiring an attorney after being arrested for DWI. They thought it would be too expensive and there was no chance of winning. You should know that there is always a chance. Working with a knowledgeable DWI lawyer will give you a much better chance and more options for resolving the case. The best thing to do is consult a DWI attorney and do it early. Like I’ve said before, you don’t have to hire me but hire the best attorney you can afford.

Charged with driving while suspended in Missouri?

Written by: Christopher Yotz

            If you are charged with driving while suspended or revoked in Missouri it is a very serious offense. You may not know that if you are convicted you will receive a new 1 year revocation of your license. This is a big problem here in the Midwest and especially during a bad economy. People need to drive to get to work and other places in a sprawled out area. Without good public transportation they tend to drive anyway legal or not. Then they continue to get caught, charged and suspended over and over again in a seemingly endless loop.

            What you need to do is determine why you are suspended, fix the underlying problem and then resolve the current problem so that you don’t get caught back in the aforementioned loop. The reasons for the underlying suspension may be due to old tickets that are unpaid, accumulation of points or revocations. An attorney can look over your driving record, determine the reason(s) for suspension or revocation and hopefully help you sort those issues so that you can get your license reinstated. Having your license reinstated can go a long way toward resolving a charge for driving while suspended. However, you will still need an attorney to help with all of this. Just showing up to court with a valid license is not the finish line. There is still work an attorney needs to do with the new charges to keep your newly minted license valid.

            The end goal is to come out of this with a valid license. You need to get out of the constant and costly loop of driving illegally.

Reinstatement of your Missouri license after a 5 or 10 year denial due to DWI convictions

Written by: Christopher Yotz

     In Missouri, the Department of Revenue will deny issuance of a license to you for a period of 5 or 10 years if you have been convicted too many times of DWI. In order to get your license back after that period you must file a civil law suit against the Department of Revenue. While it is possible that this suit can be filed and prosecuted on your own I would recommend that you obtain the services of an attorney to do the work for you.

     If you get convicted of DWI for a second time within 5 years of your first conviction then the Department of Revenue will deny your ability to get a license for 5 years. In the past when this denial period ended you could simply get reinstated through the Department. However, after some statutory changes in Missouri you now have to file a civil suit in the county where your last conviction occurred in order to be reinstated.

     If you are convicted a third or subsequent time for DWI then the Department will deny your ability to obtain a license for 10 years. As with a 5 year denial, you have to file suit against the Department in the county where your last conviction occurred in order to obtain a reinstatement of your license.

     In suits to obtain reinstatement of your license after both a 5 and 10 year denial you have to meet certain criteria. You must not have been convicted of drug or alcohol charges during the period of denial (either the past 5 or 10 years). If you did get convicted of such charges during that period then the clock starts over. You must also show that you are no longer a danger to society.

     Also, for the above reinstatements you must be otherwise eligible to obtain a license. Therefore, you must have completed a SATOP class for the conviction that caused the denial of your license. You must also not be serving a period of suspension for moving violations occurring during the denial period. I often see situations where people continued to try and drive during their denial period and get charged for Driving While Revoked along with other charges. This can cause additional license suspensions.

     You must obtain a criminal background check as part of a suit to obtain your license after a 5 or 10 year denial. This is done by submitting finger print cards to the Missouri Highway Patrol. The Highway Patrol then sends the results of this background check to the Department of Revenue and the court for use at the hearing for reinstatement.

     There will be a live court hearing for you, the plaintiff, through your attorney (hopefully) to present evidence to the court showing that you deserve to have your license reinstated. Your attorney will have to present evidence to satisfy the statutory criteria required for you to obtain your reinstatement. Therefore, you will actually have to appear in court and testify.

     Please keep in mind as well that according to the statute you may not be able to obtain the above reinstatement more than once. Therefore, if after getting a reinstatement your license is denied again for DWI convictions then that denial may be for life. I heard the unfortunate story of a person who received a reinstatement of her license after a 10 year denial and went out to celebrate. She drank at that celebration and got pulled over and arrested for DWI. This would result in a new 10 year denial. However, since she could not pursue a suit for reinstatement for a second time then that new 10 year denial is effectively a denial for life.