Your Kansas City DUI Case: The Basics
Another classy night at Manifesto and you need to get some sleep before work tomorrow. Unfortunately, the police officer behind you has other plans for your evening. Many of even the most law-abiding citizens have been through the painful experience of a DUI checkpoint or traffic stop, and possibly even arrested, so here is a guide to your Kansas City DUI case.
Sir, have you been drinking tonight?
If a Kansas City police officer pulls you over under the suspicion of DUI, the officer will likely begin administering a Field Sobriety Test. The officer will observe you for signs of alcohol use and ask you to perform simple tasks to test your coordination. If you fail this test, you will likely be asked to blow into a breathalyzer. If the test results indicate that your Blood Alcohol Content, or "BAC," is 0.08% or above, or if you refuse to submit to the test, the officer can arrest you on the spot.
Drivers under the age of 21 can receive a DUI for having any detectable alcohol in their bloodstream. Additionally, underage individuals in Missouri will lose their driving privileges for purchasing, attempting to purchase or being in possession of alcoholic beverages, even if those acts are totally unrelated to driving.
Please Blow Into This Device
The moment you receive your Missouri driver's license you give "implied consent" to any future police officers who may ask you to take a breath, blood or urine chemical test. If you refuse the test your license will automatically be revoked for one year.
Although the punishment for refusal is lighter than a DUI conviction, refusal will not prevent a DUI prosecution. For example, the prosecutor could argue that you refused to submit to the test because you knew you were heavily intoxicated. If you are convicted after refusing, you will likely suffer a larger fine and a longer license suspension period.
After arrest, your next likely stop will be the "drunk tank" at the closest police station. Eventually you will get an opportunity to make a phone call, which you should use to call someone who can post bail or otherwise arrange your release.
After your arrest you will receive notice of your first formal court appearance, the arraignment. Your arraignment will most likely be held at either the Kansas City Courthouse or the Albert Riederer Community Justice Complex of the 16th Circuit Court of Jackson County. An arraignment is a formal reading of the charges against you, and your opportunity to enter a plea. The judge will call your case and ask if you have an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney the court may refer you to the Missouri State Public Defender.
A first-time DUI conviction results in a 90-day suspension. After 30 days of the suspension, you may receive a 60-day Restricted Driving Privilege permit. You will be eligible for full reinstatement after 90 days if all reinstatement requirements are met. Subsequent DUI convictions will result in longer suspensions: one to five years for a second DUI, and ten years for a third.
Even though your license has been suspended you could be eligible for "limited driving privileges," sometimes called a hardship license. A hardship license will typically allow you to drive to and from work and school or other specified activities. Follow the instructions on this form (PDF) to apply for a hardship license.
Sometimes the prosecutor will allow you to plead guilty to the reduced charge of reckless driving involving alcohol, commonly referred to as a "wet reckless." A plea bargain of wet reckless could be appropriate if your BAC is borderline illegal, there was no accident and you have no prior DUIs. However if you suffer a subsequent drunk driving conviction, the "wet reckless" is usually considered a prior DUI conviction.
Motion to Suppress Evidence
The most common motion filed in a DWI case is a "Motion to Suppress Evidence," which is used to prevent the state from using any evidence that was acquired or discovered via as a result of a constitutional violation. Issues commonly raised in a Motion to Suppress are whether the police officer had reasonable suspicion to stop your vehicle and whether the officer had probable cause to arrest you. If the evidence against you was gathered in a manner inconsistent with the Fourth Amendment, that evidence will be excluded and your charges could be dismissed.
The penalties for DUI are intentionally steep, and your exact sentence depends on the specific details of your case. For your first DUI offense you will pay up to a $500 fine and face up to a six month jail sentence, though there is no mandatory minimum jail time.
Missouri has a five year "lookback" period for determining whether prior DUIs count. This means that if your first conviction occurred more than five years before your current conviction, the judge will pretend like it never happened. A second DUI conviction within five years will earn you a fine up to $1,000 and up to one year in jail, while a third will result in up to a $5,000 fine and up to four years in jail.
Furthermore, Missouri often requires the installation of an Ignition Interlock Device, or "IID," following a DUI conviction or refusal to submit a chemical test. The IID may be ordered for first-time DUIs with high BAC, but are mandatory for six months after a second (or more) DUI or refusal.
Get back on the road
To reinstate your license at the end of your suspension, you must complete of the Substance Abuse Traffic Offender Program, pay a $45 fee, obtain proof of financial responsibility and maintain an IID, if required. Send proof that you have completed all these steps to the Driver License Bureau at 301 West High St., Room 470, PO Box 200, Jefferson City, MO 65105-0200.
Now that you have an idea of what's ahead, you may want to explore FindLaw's section on DUI law.