For most people who come to my office after receiving a summons or ticket for DWI or Driving While Intoxicated one of the first things I try to explain to them is that they will have two cases for me to handle. Out of almost every DWI two different cases will arise, one criminal case and one civil case to deal with the ramifications of the DWI on the driver’s license.
THE CRIMINAL CASE is the standard criminal/traffic case that arises with the actual DWI and any other traffic violations that the person may have been charged with. This case is the type that most individuals think about when trying to deal with a DWI. It involves discovery of the police reports, getting a plea deal from the prosecutor and in some cases going to trial on the criminal guilt or lack thereof of the person receiving the ticket.
THE CIVIL CASE involves the civil aspect of a DWI, which mainly deals with the consequences to a person’s driver’s license. This can include requesting an Administrative Hearing or filing a “Petition for Review” on the license suspension. The route that the civil case will take is normally determined by whether an individual decided to give a chemical sample either by breath or by blood to the arresting officer or if that person decided to refuse such sample, such as refusing to give a breath test. Giving a breath test will normally result in the need to file an administrative hearing request and refusing to give a breath test will result in the need to file a petition for review.
The administrative hearing request is based on a suspension or revocation. Under Missouri DWI laws, if an individual’s blood alcohol content is determined through a chemical test; blood, breath or urine, to be over the legal limit of .08, then the Department of Revenue (the overseeing agency of driver licenses) will issue an automatic suspension/revocation of that person’s license. This automatic suspension/revocation can only be postponed by appealing through the administrative hearing process. After the hearing an individual may still face suspension/revocation based on the facts, but this will at least ensure that their rights are protected properly.
During the administrative hearing, a qualified and experienced DWI attorney should review the actions of the arresting officer to determine if the Department of Revenue has enough proper information to issue the suspension/revocation and bring any failures to the attention of the judge overseeing the hearing. Most importantly though, this appeal must be filed with the Department of Revenue within 15 days of receiving a DWI citation. Thus, it important to consult with an attorney soon after being arrested for DWI.
A petition for review is similar in the fact that it brings before a judge the actions of the officer making the arrest for DWI to determine if all proper protocols and laws were followed before allowing the Department of Revenue to revoke the accused’s license for a year.
Under Missouri DWI law, a driver that refuses to submit to an alcohol or drug test requested by an arresting law enforcement officer will be subject to a revocation of their license for a year. Again, this revocation, like the administrative suspension/revocation for blowing over the limit, can be appealed within the first 15 days and the driver may receive an order from the court temporarily staying the revocation so the driver may continue to drive according to state laws until completion of the case. Again, after the petition is heard by the court, a driver may still face the revocation, but can do so knowing that all steps were taken to protect his or her license.
While most people worry more about the criminal charges they are facing after being arrested for a DWI, it is also important to be informed about the civil matters surround a driver’s license. As previously mentioned, it is also vitally important to contact a lawyer within the 15 day limit, or even the best Missouri DWI attorney will have his or her hands tied in helping with protecting the driver’s rights.