Missouri Court Of Appeals Upholds Revocation And Suspension Of DWI Offender's License From The Same Incident

As an experienced St. Louis criminal defense lawyer, my advice is generally not to take a breath test, or “refuse to blow”. When a DWI offender is pulled over in Missouri they are faced with a choice: to blow or not to blow. Many times this decision is made based on the consequences. If you blow over the legal limit you are likely to face a suspension of your driver’s license for 90 days. If you refuse to blow then you face a revocation of your driver’s license for 1 year (which can be challenged, oftentimes successfully). Typically and DUI offender faces either the 90 day suspension or the 1 year revocation but not both. The Missouri Court of Appeals in the Eastern District ruled that a person under arrest in Missouri for DWI can have their license revoked for refusing to submit to a breath test and also suspended for operating a motor vehicle with blood alcohol content in excess of .08 if the police officer obtains a search warrant after the driver refuses to take the breath test. See Covert v. Director of Revenue, issued on June 21, 2011.

Specifically, the Respondent, Carolyn Covert, was pulled over in Franklin County Missouri for speeding as she passed a semi-truck. The arresting officer noticed a strong odor of alcohol on her breath. She performed poorly on the field sobriety tests and was arrested for Franklin County DWI. She was advised of the Missouri Implied Consent and she refused to take the breath test. She was issued a notice of revocation pursuant to Section 577.041. After she refused to take the test the officer obtained a search warrant to draw her blood. Her results were over the legal limit of .08 and she faced an additional suspension of her driving privileges under Missouri Revised Statutes Sections 302.505 and 302.525. Carolyn Covert filed for an administrative hearing and filed a petition for review to protect her license from being suspended or revoked. She lost the administrative hearing for having a blood alcohol content above .08 and filed for a trial de novo. Her cases were consolidated and the trial court upheld her revocation for refusing to submit to the breath test and ruled her license could not be suspended for having a blood alcohol concentration above .08. The trial court found that since she refused the breath test the results from the blood draw were inadmissible for purposes of the the suspension hearing. The Director of Revenue appealed. The Court of Appeals ruled that the trial court misinterpreted the meaning of Sections 577.037 and 577.041 and ruled that the chemical test was properly administered since it was properly administered under Section 577.041 its results were admissible in a civil proceeding to suspend the driver’s license.

The ruling of the Court can have a great impact on people in this particular situation. If the DWI offender loses both the Administrative Hearing and Petition for Review their driving history will show a suspension and revocation. Both will show up permanently on the person’s driving record for all future employers and car insurance companies to see. The appearance for both the suspension and revocation will make it appear as if a person has two different alcohol related incidents.

Our St. Louis criminal defense attorneys represent many DWI defendants who have refused to take a breath test and the police have obtained a search warrant to draw blood. It is important to have an attorney who is knowledgeable and experienced in these matters so that your rights are protected. You need a St. Louis drunk driving attorney who will take the necessary steps to keep you from losing your license in these types of cases.

Contact the St. Louis defense firm of Sansone & Lauber today for a free, no obligation consultation.