Estimates show that each year more than 1.1 million people in the U.S. are arrested for a DUI/DWI. With strict DWI laws in Missouri, it’s not uncommon for law-abiding citizens to find themselves arrested for a DWI and end up on the wrong side of the law. This article provides some important information that you need to know should you or a loved one have a few drinks before getting pulled over for driving while intoxicated (DWI).
Play it Safe, Don’t Drink and Drive
First, play it safe and don’t drink and drive – call for a ride if you have been drinking! If you slip up and (unfortunately) find yourself pulled over after drinking, following some general guidelines (e.g. using proper etiquette with officers, not responding with guilty answers, etc.) and knowing your rights can make a huge difference in a guilty or not-guilty outcome as outlined in “What to do if you get pulled over in Missouri”. Knowing this information can be very helpful to you later should the police officer be called as a witness against you in a court of law.
The Burden of Proof is Not on You
The “Burden of proof” (evidence) must be provided to a judge or jury by the prosecution; they must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that you are guilty of driving while intoxicated. It is not up to you to prove your innocence, but rather up to the prosecution to provide a case that proves you are guilty of driving while intoxicated. If a jury doesn’t reasonably believe, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you committed a crime, the prosecution has failed to meet the burden of proof and the jury must find the you not guilty.
Blood Alcohol Test
Prosecutors often rely heavily on the results of blood alcohol (B.A.C.) tests although this evidence is not enough to convict someone of a DWI. Agreeing to a breathalyzer test to determine your blood or alcohol level provides evidence to the prosecution. Check out “You Already Consented to a Blood Alcohol Test: Should You Blow?” for some options and implications to consider if you are asked to take a blood alcohol test. By law, you have 20-minutes to determine if you agree or refuse to take the breathalyzer test; during this time you may contact an attorney for advice. However, know that at the end of the 20-minutes, you must agree to either take the test or automatically lose your license for 1-year.
Physical Roadside Field Sobriety Tests
Another piece of evidence the prosecution will use against you is the results of a physical roadside field sobriety test. Such tests are not mandatory and are a way for police and prosecutors to build a case against you. These tests consist of a series of physically awkward or difficult exercises performed to determine if your coordination, reaction time, and ability to pay attention have been impaired by alcohol. Such tests have no grading performance and no standard instructions given by the officer. Unless you are skilled at performing heel-to-toe walks, balancing on one leg for 30 seconds alongside a road, reciting the alphabet forwards and backward, or focusing your eyes on a moving object, it is recommended that you politely refuse such tests.
Right to Remain Silent
When responding to an officer, use responses that do not admit guilt. It is better not to respond than to respond in a way that admits you are guilty. By law, you have the right to remain silent, which is not an admission of guilt. Anything you say can be used against you and is likely being recorded by the officer. When asked if you know why you were stopped, your response should be “no, I don’t know.” Don’t say that you have been drinking and don’t say how much you have had to drink. You don’t have to lie, simply exercise your right to remain silent by politely refusing to answer questions about alcohol consumption. An admission of guilt reduces your chances of a successful outcome in court. Don’t incriminate yourself. Do know exercising your right to respond with “silence” cannot be held against you in court.
The consequences that come with a DUI/DWI conviction can affect your life immediately and for many years to come. If your job requires you to operate a vehicle in your line of work, chances are you will immediately lose your job. Keep in mind that although a job may not require the use of a vehicle, employers are reluctant to higher job candidates with DUI/DWI convictions, because they see that as a sign of being irresponsible and untrustworthy. Higher insurance rates are inevitable for drivers with DWI convictions because such drivers are classified as high-risk and more likely to cause injuries and property damage. Travel restrictions apply to countries with laws that do not allow someone to enter their country with a DWI.
We do not condone drunk driving, nor do we condone giving up your legal rights because an officer has accused you of breaking the law. Criminal convictions can have negative long-term effects on your life, therefore it is in your best interest to hire an experienced criminal attorney to poke holes in the prosecution’s case and aggressively fight DWI charges to protect your future.
Call Day or Night for an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have any questions about criminal procedures, DWI convictions or need to retain a criminal defense attorney in Missouri, contact attorney Chris Benjamin at KC Road Lawyers by calling 816-738-5725 or navigating to our contact page for a consultation at the firm’s Belton or Butler Missouri offices.