What happens if I get pulled over and I’ve been drinking?

Most people know that if they are pulled over in the state of Missouri and have a blood-alcohol content (BAC) level of .08 or higher, you will be charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI).

There are many important factors to keep in mind if you have been pulled over and have been drinking. When you are pulled over by a police officer, the officer will use many different techniques to attempt to determine if you are impaired by alcohol. First, the officer will ask you guilt seeking questions. These questions usually are seeking admissions from you regarding your prior alcohol consumption and will be used by the officer to establish a basis to conduct more tests or to arrest you. You have the right to remain silent and you should not answer these questions. Remember, the Constitution provides citizens many protections including the right to be free from self-incrimination.

Once the police officer establishes reasonable suspicion that you have been operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, the officer will likely have you perform one or more field sobriety tests, such as standing on one foot or walking a straight line, stopping, and walking back. You may have medical conditions that impair your ability to perform these tests even under ideal conditions. The side of the road often has trash, rocks, potholes and other debris that can hamper anyone’s ability to perform these tests. You may decline to perform these tests explaining you believe these tests are subjective.

If you do perform these tests and perform poorly, you may be placed under arrest for suspicion of committing DWI and be asked to submit to a breathalyzer test. Prior to doing so, you have a 20 minute time period to contact an attorney. If you refuse to submit to the breathalyzer test, your driving privileges may be revoked for one year unless you petition the court within 30 days from the date of your alleged refusal and successfully challenge the alleged refusal and arrest.

If you submit to the breathalyzer test and your BAC level is .08 or higher, you will be charged with DWI and your driving privileges be suspended unless you request an administrative hearing within 15 days of your arrest. If you are under 21 and you will be charged with DWI if your BAC is .02 or higher. You may also be charged if the officer believes there is enough evidence to prove your driving was impaired by alcohol even if your BAC level is not more than .08. You may also be charged with DWI if you operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of a controlled substance or drugs regardless of your BAC level.

The severity of your punishment will depend on many factors, such as prior DWI history, but a first offense under Missouri law has a maximum punishment of up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $500, suspension of your driving privileges for 90 days if you provide a breath sample, and revocation of your driving privileges for one year if you refuse to take the breathalyzer test.

A second offense under Missouri law has a maximum punishment of up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, revocation of your driving privileges up to one year if convicted (or five years if convicted of the second offense within five years of the previous offense), and installation of an ignition interlock device (which prevents the car from starting unless the driver’s BAC is below a certain limit). A third offense under Missouri law has a minimum of 30 days in jail, a range of punishment from two to four years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000, revocation of your driving privileges for 10 years along with other adverse consequences.

Being charged with DWI is a serious offense that has long-term consequences. An arrest for DWI or any criminal offense is a stressful time in a person’s life. Selecting the right defense attorney could determine the long-term damage to your reputation and whether you are sentenced to severe punishments, such as jail time, substantial fines, and a criminal record. At the time of your arrest, you have the right to an attorney. You should take advantage of this right and contact the office of David M. Lowe, Attorney at Law who will help you understand your rights and the legal consequences of these offenses. The attorneys at the law firm of David M. Lowe have the knowledge and extensive trial experience to get you the results you deserve. You may contact them for your free initial consultation at 573-774-3122.