If you’ve recently been arrested and charged with a DUI, your head is likely swimming with questions, concerns, and what-ifs. A drunk driving charge needs to be taken seriously, but there are a number of myths and misconceptions surrounding the laws. It’s essential that you understand some key concepts and how they can affect your charges.
Here at Johnson Law Firm, we’re committed to giving straightforward legal counsel to all our clients so they can better understand their options. We proudly serve clients in both Missouri and Kansas, and we can help you, too. Call us today for a consultation if you’re in St. Joseph, Missouri, or the surrounding areas of Platte City or Savannah.
A DUI charge — also called a DWI (driving while intoxicated) — can carry with it a number of penalties including fines, jail time, license suspension, or the requirement to install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) on your car. In general, the severity of the penalties increases with the number of past DUIs you’ve been convicted of. An experienced criminal defense lawyer will help you construct a legal defense specific to your circumstances. In many cases, there are ways to minimize sentencing or fines. You can increase your odds of a more favorable outcome by learning some of the common myths and misunderstandings about DUI charges.
#1: A DUI charge isn’t worth fighting: A DUI charge is almost always worth fighting, but many prosecutors simply count on a defendant accepting the charges and penalties as levied without trying to contend them. Even if you know you were intoxicated at the time of the arrest, there are still a number of strategies that can be used in your defense. Some common errors that occur during a DUI stop are an incorrectly administered field sobriety test, medications that affected the results of your BAC test, or you were given incorrect instructions on how to perform a field sobriety test.
#2: The charge is so common it isn’t serious: DUIs are unfortunately more common than they should be, but that doesn’t mean you need to simply accept the charges. Whether it turns out to be a misdemeanor or a felony, a DUI charge can stay on your criminal record for up to 10 years and have lasting effects. In addition to the possible fines and jail time, those convicted of a DUI often lose their license which can severely restrict their ability to find or keep a job.
#3: You must submit to a field sobriety test: This one is both true and false. Both Kansas and Missouri have what are called implied consent laws, which means that by operating a motor vehicle, you implicitly consent to a breathalyzer, blood, or urine chemical test. You can refuse to take one of these tests, but there’s an automatic penalty of a one-year license suspension (known as a chemical revocation). However, many patrol cars only have what’s known as a portable breath tester (PBT) in them, and refusing to take this test does not violate the state’s implied consent laws.
#4: You have to be actually driving to be arrested for a DUI: Wrong! You can be arrested for a DUI even if you’re sitting in a parked car and found to be in “actual physical control” of your vehicle. This can be difficult — but not impossible — to prove in court if the prosecution can show that you could have easily started operating the car. For example, even if the car is in park but you’re sitting in the driver’s seat with the keys in the ignition, you could still be charged with a DUI.
#5: When stopped, I’m obligated to answer all the officer’s questions: This is false. Anything you say to an officer after you’ve been pulled over for a DUI can be used against you in court, so it’s best not to answer any questions about alcohol consumption. However, you should remain polite and respectful the entire time because it’s likely that you’re being filmed by a body camera worn by the officer. You should also provide your license, registration, and insurance when requested, and if the officer asks you to step out of the car, you should comply promptly.
The best way to fight your DUI charge is to work with an attorney who specializes in criminal defense and knows the ins and outs of the court system in both Kansas and Missouri. Johnson Law Firm can help you mount the best possible defense to minimize potential penalties, or at best, get your charge thrown out completely. However, your chances will improve if you know ahead of time the common missteps and how to avoid them. Whatever your situation, Johnson Law Firm will fight for you every step of the way. Call our offices in St. Joseph, Missouri, today to set up an appointment.