Springfield DWI Lawyer Discusses Impact of New Supreme Court Case

Springfield Criminal Defense Attorney Adam Woody was interviewed this week by the local ABC affiliate, KSPR33, regarding an important Supreme Court case, Birchfield v. North Dakota, which was handed down on June 23.  To read the article, which includes several quotes from Adam on the case, click here.  Essentially what the case does is it paves the way for states to enact criminal laws making refusing a breath test following a DWI arrest illegal.  Birchfield included three consolidated cases from the states of North Dakota and Minnesota, both of which have criminal laws against refusing breath tests.  The defendants in those cases argued that criminal laws against refusing breath and blood tests are Unconstitutional given the fact that people have Fourth Amendment rights to refuse the tests.  The Supreme Court held that it is okay for states to have criminal penalties against refusing a breath test following a DWI arrest, but states cannot criminalize the refusal of blood tests.  The Court determined that a breath test after a DWI arrest is what is called a “search incident to arrest”, which is an exception to the warrant requirement.  Typically for any search, police must get a warrant.  However, there are a few exceptions to that warrant requirement and search incident to an arrest is one of those exceptions.  However, because blood tests implicate more invasive procedures, people can legally refuse blood tests.

With this ruling, undoubtedly Missouri and every other state will soon follow in criminalizing the refusal of breath tests.  Those criminal laws may well reduce refusals, but the relation between those laws and the reduction of DWI cases overall seems tenuous at best.  It seems we have moved on from our desire to reduce drunk driving and are now more focused on punishing those people as much as possible, who are often young drivers who have never been in trouble before.  As for the results of these laws on the overall reduction of DWI’s, only time will tell.

Filing A Civil Claim In A DUI Case

Filing A Civil Claim In A DUI Case

If someone is injured as a result of a DUI-related accident, they may be able to seek compensation for any incurred damages in civil court with the help of a DC car accident lawyer. This kind of case will occur outside of any criminal proceedings involved in the incident, and any awards on behalf of the plaintiff may be in addition to any criminal sentencing. There tend to be two different schools of legal standard for accident compensation; states determine which category they fall under on a case by case basis:

● No-Fault States
If the victim of a DUI driver is in a state with no-fault laws, the amount of money they can recover for injuries is predetermined. There are exceptions in most of these states with accidents involving damages and injuries exceeding the mandated amount for a civil settlement. In these states, a DUI driver is not automatically subjected to civil liability. If the victim’s losses are limited to property damage as well as minor injuries, they may only be able to file a claim with their prospective insurance company. States with these laws all have variations and exceptions when it comes DUI civil suits.

● Pure Negligence States
If the victim of a DUI accident resides or was injured in a pure negligence state, they may be able to file a civil suit against the drunk driver for compensation to cover the total amount of injuries and damages incurred. In a pure negligence state, a victim will likely only have to prove that the accident was the fault of the DUI driver based on a preponderance of the evidence.
Wrongful Death Suit
If a driver or passenger is involved in a drunk driving accident and he or she passes away, their family may be able to bring a civil lawsuit against the driver for wrongful death. Generally, the plaintiff must be able to prove the drunk driver was completely liable for the accident. Evidence utilized will often consist of a police report, accident witnesses, expert opinions, and any other evidence to help prove your case. A wrongful death suit will not bring back a loved one, but it may be able to help family members deal with the financial difficulties that result from such a loss.
Find Help
DUI cases can be very complex, especially if they yield a civil case in addition to any criminal proceeding. It may be in your best interest to enlist the help of an experienced, qualified attorney should you become involved in a DUI related accident.
Thanks to our friends and co-contributors at Cohen & Cohen, P.C. for their added insight into the civil implications of a DUI charge.

Posted in DWI

Springfield, Missouri DWI and DUI Terms and Definitions

Reasonable Suspicion

Reasonable suspicion is a general criminal law concept that also applies to driving under the influence. It requires that officers have an objectively reasonable basis for suspecting criminal activity before detaining someone. It’s a standard that’s lower than probable cause (discussed below). Before pulling someone over, an officer needs only a reasonable suspicion that the motorist has violated the law. An officer can pull you over, for example, after witnessing you swerve across the road, drift in and out of a lane, or commit some other traffic violation.

Probable Cause

Probable cause is another standard that applies to all kinds of criminal cases: It’s the measure by which judges evaluate arrests. There’s probable cause for an arrest if the facts support an objective belief that the suspect has committed a crime. So, after pulling you over, but before arresting you for DUI, a police officer must have probable cause to believe that you were too impaired to drive.

Field Sobriety Tests

Police officers use a set of preliminary tests known as field sobriety tests (FSTs) to determine if a DUI suspect is intoxicated. These physical tests—as distinguished from chemical breath and blood testing—assess the driver’s physical dexterity and ability to follow directions. The most common FSTs are:

  • standing on one leg
  • walking and turning
  • counting backwards
  • reciting the alphabet
  • placing finger-to-nose, and
  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), a test in which the suspect follows the officer’s moving finger.

Chemical Test

If field sobriety tests don’t eliminate the likelihood of intoxication, police officers generally administer chemical testing: either a breath test performed with a device known as a breathalyzer or blood sampling. A third, less favored chemical test involves urine analysis (discussed below). All three tests are administered to determine the suspect’s blood alcohol content (BAC).

BAC

BAC refers to the proportion of alcohol found in a driver’s blood. BAC—measured as weight per unit of volume—is reported as a percentage of one percent of the driver’s blood. For example, a BAC of.20%, means that 20/100 (or 1/5) of one percent of the driver’s blood is comprised of alcohol. Typically, the level at which a driver is deemed too intoxicated to drive is.08%.

In all states, it’s illegal to drive with a BAC of .08% or more—called DUI per se—regardless of whether you’re ability to drive safely was actually impaired.

DUI, DWI, and OWI

The law prohibiting drunk driving is known in most states by the acronym DUI (for driving under the influence). But many states, including Missouri, use other acronyms, including:

  • DUIL (driving under the influence of liquor)
  • DWI (driving while intoxicated)
  • OMVI (operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated)
  • OWI (operating while intoxicated), and
  • OUI (operating under the influence).

Regardless of the acronym, the meaning is generally the same: driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Drunk Driving

Don’t make the mistake of confusing a DWI with “drunk driving.” If you’re arrested for a DWI, the state prosecutor doesn’t need to prove you were “drunk.” Generally, all the state has to show is that you drank enough booze or took enough drugs so that your ability to control the motor vehicle was impaired.

In fact, the prosecution typically doesn’t even need to show that you were actually impaired—for instance, even if you were driving very safely, you’ve committed a DUI by operating a vehicle with a BAC of, say, .10% (see above).

Implied Consent

Every state has implied consent laws that generally require a driver to submit to a chemical test when law enforcement is investigating a potential DUI. Drivers can usually choose between a blood or breath test for BAC (and a blood or urine test if drugs are suspected). Some states still use urine tests in alcohol cases, though these are being phased out due to lack of reliability.

IIDs

An ignition interlock device (IID) is similar to a breathalyzer (a device used to measure blood alcohol content). An IID is connected to a vehicle dashboard or another location inside the vehicle; it requires that the driver breathe into the device before starting the vehicle. If the ignition interlock device detects BAC that’s above the programmed limit, then the engine of the vehicle won’t start.

“Look Back” or “Washout” Period

The “look back” (or “washout”) period is the length of time—usually five to ten years—that a prior DUI conviction stays on an offender’s record for purposes of future punishment. For example, if a driver receives two DUI convictions within four years, the earlier conviction factors into the punishment for the later offense. The court will view the case before it as a second DUI, and impose the statutorily increased penalties. (Penalties tend to increase with each subsequent conviction within the look back period.)

SR-22

An SR-22 is a document that verifies that someone has automobile insurance. (The “SR” stands for “safety responsibility.”) An insurance company typically prepares the SR-22 and files it with the department of motor vehicles (DMV). The SR-22 is not an insurance policy; it is evidence that the driver has a policy.

 

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