JCS Law is a leading St. Louis DWI and criminal defense firm. St. Louis attorney John Schleiffarth has been repeatedly recognized in the field of DWI and criminal defense in Missouri, including:
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Having practiced DWI and Criminal Defense in St. Louis County, St. Charles County, Franklin County, Jefferson County, and the greater St. Louis area for years now, DWI defense attorney John Schleiffarth has put together the following list of Frequently Asked Questions about DWI’s in St. Louis and throughout Missouri.
DO I NEED TO HIRE A LAWYER TO HELP WITH MY ST. LOUIS OR EASTERN MISSOURI DWI CHARGE?
A DWI in Missouri is a very serious charge. Even a first offense DWI conviction can carry jail time and serious life consequences. Jail time, fines, loss of license and employment problems are all potential consequences you could face. Whether you case is in St. Louis County, St. Charles County, Franklin County, Jefferson County or elsewhere in Missouri, speaking with a DWI defense lawyer about your options is highly recommended.
Many St. Louis DWI attorneys (including our firm) offer free initial case reviews. You should at the very least speak with a lawyer to review the defenses you have available in your case, and also review the potential penalties you could face before you move forward. Even if you decide not to hire a St. Louis DWI lawyer, it is still empowering to know your options in court.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE POTENTIAL DEFENSES TO A ST. LOUIS DWI CHARGE?
When a DWI client walks into our office, one of the first things we ask is what happened. We want to know the facts behind the initial stop by the police, any search that was done, any tests taken, and any conversations between our client and the police. We also want to examine any paperwork the police gave to our client. With this information, we begin to analyze the defenses that may be available to the DWI charge. A few examples of potential DWI defenses include:
(1) The Initial Stop or Search. One of the first things we look for is whether the initial stop by the police violated in any way our client’s constitutional right to be free of unlawful search or seizure. In the case of a traffic stop, did the officer have reasonable suspicion that you had committed a traffic or criminal offense? Was there insufficient reason to stop you?
If not, the stop may have violated your Fourth Amendment rights. The police are not allowed to pull you over just because they have a hunch that you look suspicious. They have to be able to point to specific facts supporting their suspicion that you have committed a traffic or criminal offense. If they can’t, then anything that happened once they stopped you cannot be submitted into evidence (including, for example, any field sobriety test results or breathalyzer results).
(2) Breathalyzer Machine. Was there a problem with the administration or calibration of the breathalyzer machine? If the breathalyzer was not properly calibrated before or after your test, the result could be invalid.
(3) Blood or Urine Tests. Driving under the influence of marijuana or other drugs is an increasing focus of St Louis County police and Missouri State Highway Patrol. An increasing number of cases involve urine tests, which present unique issues to be examined by defense counsel. Were the urine or blood tests properly collected? Were they contaminated in any way? Was there any other food or medication that could have influenced the result? The same applies to blood tests. Blood tests must be taken by a certified technician. The police must have a warrant to draw your blood without your consent. Blood tests are subject to contamination. Unrefrigerated tubes of blood can ferment and spoil. Both types of tests raise numerous defenses that can be discussed as they apply to your specific case. We have successfully excluded BAC tests from evidence in many cases.
(4) Field Sobriety Tests. Was the officer properly trained in field sobriety testing? Did the officer demonstrate and administer all of the tests correctly? Did the officer properly administer the eye test? If the officer made a mistake in explaining or demonstrating the tests, the results could be thrown out.
(5) Video, Reports and other Evidence. Once we obtain a copy of the video of the stop, does it clearly show the field sobriety tests? Was there some reason that the field sobriety tests were not recorded?
If field sobriety tests were performed, but not corroborated by video evidence, this may be another potential area of defense. Video evidence is often the key to establishing a strong defense in a DWI case. We have many cases that have been dismissed due in part to our use of the video evidence.
CAN I LOOK UP MY ST LOUIS OR MISSOURI DWI CASE ONLINE?
If the charges against you were filed in state court, you can find your case on Missouri’s case.net. Most Municipal Cases such as in the City of Town and Country, the City of Creve Coeur, and the City of Maryland Heights are not available to look up online. For a state case, just type in your information and the website should pull up the court docket in your case. This will let you know the status of your case, whether a warrant has been issued and any other relevant facts about your case. There can be some legalese. If you have any questions, you can always call one of our St. Louis DWI attorneys at (314) 561-9690.
SHOULD I JUST GO TO COURT ON MY OWN AND PLEAD NO CONTEST?
The “no contest” plea is often misunderstood. In almost every case, if you plead no contest to your DWI charge, the judge will find you guilty almost immediately thereafter. A “no contest” plea means you are admitting to all of the facts alleged in the complaint. What’s more, you give up your right to a trial and your right to put on witnesses in your defense. A “no contest” plea is sometimes called an “Alford Plea”. You may hear both terms used.
In the case of a DWI, the complaint might allege that you had glassy eyes, that you had a strong odor of alcohol, that you were slurring your words, that you failed the field sobriety tests, or that you blew over the legal limit. If you plead “no contest,” then you are admitting that all of these facts are true. The judge will in almost every case have no choice but to find you guilty. It has the same effect as a guilty plea in terms of punishment.
WHAT IS THE MAXIMUM SENTENCE FOR AN DWI CONVICTION IN MISSOURI?
The maximum penalties for an DWI conviction vary depending on whether you are a first time offender or have prior DWI convictions on your record.
If you are a first time DWI offender and you are found guilty of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), it is usually charged as a second degree misdemeanor. That means that it would carry a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail and a $500 fine. Other penalties could include license suspension or revocation, probation, community service requirements, ignition interlock, and higher insurance rates. It may also impact your employment and educational opportunities. I DWI conviction will ban you from traveling to Canada and could impact other overseas travel.
If you are found guilty of a second DWI, the penalties increase. Missouri law requires that if you are convicted of a second DWI offense, you must serve a mandatory 10 days in jail, with a maximum sentence of one year in county jail. Most county jails don’t allow inmates to go outside. It is hard time to serve.
IF I HIRE YOUR LAWYER FROM JCS LAW, WHAT WILL YOUR ATTORNEYS DO TO HELP DEFEND AGAINST MY DWI CHARGES?
First, remember that we do offer a free initial consultation. At that initial meeting, we will discuss the details of your St. Louis or Missouri DWI case and begin to identify potential legal issues based on your memory. If you decide to hire us, the case will likely proceed like this:
(1) ARRAIGNMENT: YOUR FIRST COURT APPEARANCE
After you are arrested, the court is required by law to formally tell you the charges the prosecutor is bringing against you. This is also the time in which you must plead “guilty” or “not guilty.” Ideally, you will have obtained a St. Louis DWI attorney prior to your arraignment so that he or she can either appear on your behalf (they can often waive your appearance so you don’t have to take off work) or go with you to the court.
If you hire St. Louis DWI attorney John Schleiffarth for your St. Louis County DWI, he would likely enter a not guilty plea on your behalf in front of one of the St. Louis County Court judges. Before this first appearance, if you hire our DWI firm, we would also likely have already started working on your Missouri Administrative License Suspension. In other words, we would either seek an appeal of the suspension, a stay of revocation, or relief through acting to protect your driving privileges.
(2) DISCOVERY: WE FIND OUT WHAT EVIDENCE THE PROSECUTOR HAS IN YOUR CASE.
Your case will now enter the discovery phase. Attorney John Schleiffarth will likely then ask the prosecutor for all of the evidence his or her office has against you. The St. Louis or municipal (if transferred from a municipal court) prosecutor’s office is required to give us everything they have–including any evidence showing that you were not impaired.
(3) OUR ATTORNEYS BEGIN EVALUATING THE EVIDENCE
Now is when having a St. Louis DWI attorney is really important. For our clients, in this phase, we start digging into the evidence the St. Louis County Prosecutor has provided, as well as talking to witnesses in our own investigation. The police report, the dash cam video, witness statements, results from the breathalyzer or blood test could all have possible weaknesses that we could exploit.
This is where we identify all possible defenses and start really building your case.
(4) PRETRIAL CONFERENCE
The pretrial is chance to meet with the judge and the prosecutor to discuss the status of the case and any pending issues. For example, we might discuss whether all discovery, videos, and other evidence have been handed over. Also, we may discuss pending motions (see below), continue negotiations with the St. Louis County or municipal prosecutor, and address our client’s eligibility for driving privileges.
(5) OUR DWI ATTORNEYS FILE AND ARGUE MOTIONS
Once we identify weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case, we may need to file a motion to suppress or other motion to the judge to argue that the results of the breathalyzer or other sobriety test should be excluded at trial. Whether and how motion practice will be used in your case will depend on the details of your arrest. Motion practice can be quite effective in helping to bring along negotiations with the prosecutor’s office.
(6) NEGOTIATION WITH THE PROSECUTOR’S OFFICE
At this stage, Attorney John Schleiffarth will take our arguments to the prosecutor and explain why their office should dismiss or reduce the charges given the flaws in their case. Depending on the evidence, the prosecutor will sometimes agree to dismiss or reduce the charges. Other times, the prosecutor will refuse to budge and that brings us to our final step.
If the case cannot be resolved by negotiation, it will proceed to trial. In a St. Louis County Municipal Court, you can have your case heard by a judge, and if you lose, appeal the case to the County Court and have it heard again. In a jury trial, the prosecutor must prove you were impaired beyond a reasonable doubt and all 12 jurors must agree on your guilt.
Attorney John Schleiffarth regularly represents clients facing DWI charges in St. Louis County, Missouri. In Missouri, a DWI charge is called a “DWI” – meaning “Driving While Intoxicated”. You can be charged for driving while intoxicated by illegal drugs and even by legal prescription drugs. Missouri calls each of these charges a “DWI”.
MY TICKET SAYS I WAS CHARGED WITH AN “DWI”. IS THAT DIFFERENT THAN A DUI?
DUI and DWI are essentially interchangeable terms, but there is no special reason why they are called DWIs here in Missouri.
MY TICKET SAYS MY CASE IS IN THE ST. LOUIS COUNTY MUNICIPAL COURT. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?
If you have been charged with a DWI by the St. Louis County Police with a DWI in St. Louis, your case will likely be filed in the St. Louis County Municipal Court. The Court is three divisions which are separate from the St. Louis County Courthouse in Clayton. There is a South Division, a North Division an a West Division of the St. Louis County Municipal Court. Each meets at a different location. Nearly every day, St. Louis DWI Attorney John Schleiffarth is in court representing his clients facing DWI and other criminal charges.
The St. Louis County Municipal Court (located in Clayton) is one of the largest and busiest courts in the state of Missouri. For defendants, this means that the process in St. Louis County can be very stressful and overwhelming. For example, there are frequently long lines and often cattle call appearance times. Hiring an attorney to help you navigate this fast-paced and hectic court system is invaluable.
St. Louis DWI Attorney John Schleiffarth has significant experience defending clients facing DWI charges in the St. Louis County Court and the St. Louis County Municipal Courts. He knows the system inside and out and can offer unique insight into your best options for beating or reducing your charges
I WOULD LIKE A FREE CONSULTATION WITH A ST. LOUIS DWI ATTORNEY. WHO SHOULD I CALL?
Fill out our contact form to the right and one of our attorneys will contact you as soon as possible to discuss the details of your case. If you would like to speak with a St. Louis DWI lawyer right away, call 314-561-9690. We are on call 24/7 to answer questions about DWI cases in St. Louis and throughout eastern Missouri.
If you have any questions call: 314-561-9690
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