A recent opinion piece by a candidate for Lieutenant Governor contained worrying information about drunk driving arrests in Missouri. Republican candidate Mike Carter said that DWI arrests account for nearly 10% of all arrests in Missouri each year. The problem with this number is that so many of these arrests are unnecessary and result in permanent stains on the reputations of citizens who have not been shown to have been under the influence of anything.
Thousands of people all across the state are facing incredibly harsh consequences for what is only a misdemeanor offense. Many people incorrectly assume that in order to receive a punishment as severe as license revocation, high levels of proof that a person was actually under the influence would need to be shown. This is sadly, incorrect.
Missouri’s DWI laws call for the Department of Revenue to automatically revoke a person’s driver’s license for one year if that person refuses to submit to a breath test. If the person submits to the breath test then they could lose their license for 90 days. This license revocation is handled separately from the criminal changes they may face in the jurisdiction where the arrest took place.
If a person takes a breath test and blows over a .08 BAC they are subject to an administrative hearing. The administrative law cases surprisingly do not require proof beyond a reasonable doubt showing that the driver was under the influence. Instead, a police officer only needs to testify that they had reasonable suspicion to believe the person was under the influence. Such cases do not take place in front of a judge or jury; instead, they are handled by a hearing officer for the Missouri Department of Revenue who simultaneously acts as both judge and prosecutor.
These hearing officers wield a tremendous amount of power, all without typical burdens of proof or judicial oversight. Such a revocation can impact a person’s ability to find work and attend school and will crop up in background checks for years to come. Such an incident will not soon forgotten either, as a person who has had a license revocation or suspension will have that reflected on their driving record permanently.
Carter is intimately familiar with the unjust process, having been accused of driving while intoxicated in 2009. Carter fought the charge and was found innocent by a jury that only needed nine minutes to deliberate. As an attorney, he understands that not everyone has the ability to successfully fight such charges which is why he’s so vocal in his opposition to the laws today.
While Carter and other advocates of change are not in favor of making life easier for those who make the irresponsible decision to drive drunk, he does hope that the laws can be changed to ensure Constitutional due process rights for the state’s citizens are secured. If you find yourself in need of a Missouri DWI defense lawyer capable of aggressively protecting your interests, contact our St. Louis DWI law firm today at (314) 863-0500.
Source: “Mike Carter Calls on Fellow DWI Recipients Spence and Brunner to Fix Missouri DWI Laws,” by, published at SacBee.com.