Adam Woody Law

Missouri in the Middle When it Comes to DUI Strictness

blue united states map with borders around each state

 

Many consequences could come out of being accused of drunk driving. Multiple factors impact what specific things a person who has had DUI charges brought against them could face if a conviction is ultimately reached in their case. This is because each state has its own particular laws regarding drunk driving, including what actions can be taken against those charged with DUI and those convicted of DUI.

Among the ways states vary when it comes to DUI law is in the strictness of the laws they have. A recent set of state rankings put Missouri solidly in the middle when it comes to overall DUI strictness. In these rankings, done by WalletHub, Missouri was in a three-way tie for the No. 25 spot. The states that Missouri tied with were New Hampshire and South Carolina.

While the rankings found Missouri to be middle-of-the-road overall when it comes to how strict its DUI laws are, there was one general class of DUI-related things that the report rated Missouri to be very strict on. This was DUI prevention.

DUI prevention was one of the two main categories of metrics that were used for determining the overall rankings. The other was criminal penalties. Metrics which fell into the prevention category included a state’s laws and practices on things like: alcohol abuse assessment/treatment, ignition interlock devices, enforcement tactics and license suspension.

When it came to the prevention category, Missouri ranked 7th in the nation in strictness. In comparison, it ranked 39th in the criminal penalties category.

As a note, what sort of DUI prevention measures they could be subject to after being charged with or convicted of a drunk driving crime can have very big impacts on a person, just as the potential criminal fines and jail sentences they could face can.

Experienced Missouri DUI lawyers can assist individuals accused of drunk driving in the state with taking the unique aspects of Missouri DUI law (including its laws related to drunk driving prevention) into account in their defense efforts.

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What to do If You Are Pulled Over for Suspected DWI in Missouri

What you do and don’t do after a DWI stop can affect the outcome of your case. Your actions or those of the police may enable your DWI defense attorney to obtain a dismissal of the charge or another positive outcome.

After You Are Stopped By The Police

If you have been drinking and are pulled over, keep the following in mind during your interaction with the police officer:

  • Be respectful and cooperative — Hostility or rudeness will only invite increased scrutiny by the officer. Be polite and responsive to the officer’s questions.
  • Remember that you are probably on camera — Many DWI stops in Missouri are recorded by squad car videos. This video can provide evidence that supports the officer’s decision to arrest you. Be mindful of this fact and behave appropriately.
  • You have the right to remain silent — Provide the officer with your driver’s license and insurance card. But don’t answer any questions regarding your consumption of alcohol or admit that you have been at a bar. At this point, the officer is looking for information that will allow him or her to continue the investigation to find evidence against you. The less information you provide, the more difficult the officer’s task is.
  • Field sobriety tests — In asking you to perform these tests, the officer is looking for evidence that you are impaired. Respectfully decline to perform field sobriety tests. If he or she presses you to perform these tests, restate your refusal in polite language.
  • Do not submit to a portable breath test — The results from this hand-held device can provide probable cause for the police to arrest you. Refusing to take a portable breath test does not violate Missouri’s implied consent law.
  • Get legal help as soon as possible — If you refuse to perform field sobriety tests or take a portable breath test, you may be transported to a police station and asked to take an official breath test. At that point, should you take the breath test? That is a complicated issue that depends on the specific circumstances of your case. You should obtain advice from an experienced DWI defense attorney.
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Here’s What Happens When Your Uber Driver Gets a DUI

front view of a car driving fast at night

When Katie Gallion’s Uber driver started swerving across the road’s rumble strips only 15 minutes into her ride near Durham, North Carolina, on June 3, she decided to give him a pass. At 10 p.m., it was dark outside and raining hard, she told BuzzFeed News. She didn’t know he’d polished off four beers before starting to drive for Uber that night.

When the car crossed over a grass median, coming precariously close to the oncoming traffic lane, Gallion began considering her options. “I was getting really scared and contemplating that maybe I should nicely ask him to pull over,” the 33-year-old pharmacist said.

But she waited, and after turning onto a two-lane country road, the driver veered off the road and into a ditch, where the ride continued. “I was a crying mess, thinking, Oh my god, what if he doesn’t let me out of the car?” Gallion said. “Then I yelled, ‘What is going on? Let me out!’”

Finally, the driver pulled into the parking lot of a closed minimart and let Gallion out of the car. “I’m a good driver,” Gallion said he told her in a halfhearted attempt to convince her to continue the ride. Then he offered to call her another Uber.

Gallion called a friend instead, and together they called Wake County police. “I really could have died,” Gallion said. “I don’t know what would’ve happened … if I didn’t get out of the car.”

Gallion’s Uber driver was arrested for driving while impaired at 11:09 p.m. — about an hour after her ride began. According to Wake County Superior Court records, he had a blood alcohol level of 0.15 — nearly four times the .04 legal limit for commercial drivers. The driver, who had no prior arrest record, was also charged with failure to heed a light or siren.

Reached for comment, Gallion’s Uber driver told BuzzFeed News he had accepted one other fare on the night of the incident. He said his memory of Gallion’s ride is unclear. “I remember knowing that she was uncomfortable and it was raining,” he said.


Gallion reported the incident to Uber at around 1 a.m., after reaching her friend’s house. About 12 hours later, the company responded with a boilerplate email and a refund of $69.24 for her ride. In a follow-up phone call, a company representative told Gallion it was “working diligently” to investigate the incident but could not discuss it in detail because of its privacy policy. She asked if he had been deactivated. Uber declined to tell her, citing a company mandate “to respect the privacy of all users.”

“Uber has a zero tolerance policy for the use of drugs and alcohol, and upon learning of these allegations, we immediately removed the driver’s access to the platform,” an Uber spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. Uber said this driver in particular had no prior safety complaints and was “highly rated.


BuzzFeed News reported in March that screenshots of Uber’s internal customer support platform showed the company’s instructions for how representatives should handle incidents involving alcohol and drug use. “If rider does not wish to escalate with LE (law enforcement) or media, follow strike system, issue warning, and resolve without escalating.” Under resolution suggestions, the screenshot showed that for the “1st strike,” customer service representatives were instructed to issue a “final warning,” and to permanently ban drivers at strike two.

Emails provided to BuzzFeed News show that Uber first reached out to Gallion’s driver by email at 1 p.m. the following day, about 12 hours after she reported him to the company for drunk driving. Unable to reach him over the phone (he was in jail), a company representative asked the driver when he was available discuss a “concerning report” by phone. When he checked his Uber app, he saw he had already lost access to the platform.

The next day, June 5, Uber conducted a brief interview during which Gallion’s driver was asked to review the details of the allegations against him. The driver told BuzzFeed News that he confirmed to Uber that he had indeed been arrested for driving under the influence. The following day he received an email notification from Uber saying he’d been deactivated and his “partnership” with the company ended. “They handled it quickly,” the driver said.

This isn’t the first time an Uber driver has been arrested for driving under the influence. That said, Uber notes that ride-hailing can be a wise alternative to driving after drinking. According to a study the company conducted with the nonprofit group Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Uber’s entry into a number of markets correlated with subsequent declines in DUI arrests.

Uber says it depends on riders to rate drivers and provide feedback, which its safety team reviews. “Uber may also deactivate a driver who receives several unconfirmed complaints of drug or alcohol use,” the ride-hail giant’s deactivation policy reads. The company told BuzzFeed it has a team of former law enforcement professionals on staff to help with police investigations. When BuzzFeed News asked if it has a system for learning about drivers’ law enforcement incidents instead of just relying on riders’ alerts, Uber said in some states background checks are “periodically” updated. Uber did not respond when asked if North Carolina is included among those states.

On Wednesday, Uber announced it is piloting app features aimed at making rides safer. In several markets across the U.S., drivers will receive daily reports on their braking, acceleration, and navigation. The goal, Uber told BuzzFeed, is to lay the groundwork to eventually create a system that gives the company real-time alerts about erratic drivers.

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Do I Have to Live with a DWI for the Rest of My Life?

Having a “driving while intoxicated” charge on your record could seriously hinder future endeavors. It may be hard to get a good job, an apartment or even a loan. Thankfully, drivers in Missouri often have the opportunity to have this charge expunged from their record. This means it will not show up on background checks. There are certain requirements that must be met, however.

Missouri state law has a specific statute regarding DWI expungement. It falls under the same category as misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies. In order to have the charge expunged, it must be the driver’s first — and only — alcohol-related driving offense. Similarly, you cannot have any alcohol-related driving charges pending. Second, you must have been charged with a misdemeanor, not a felony. The charge must also be at least 10 years old in order to be considered.

If the expungement is granted, the driver essentially gets to start over record-wise. The state essentially eliminates the charge as if it never happened. In some states, drivers must legally answer “Yes” if an application asks if they have ever been charged with a DWI or DUI. But in Missouri, you can truthfully answer “No.”

For someone who made one unwise mistake in their younger driving years, Missouri’s expungement laws are a boon. For drivers who are currently facing a misdemeanor or criminal charges for driving while intoxicated, it may be beneficial to contact a criminal law attorney immediately. They may be able to fight the courts on your behalf.

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Keeping New Year’s Eve DWI Free

a man holding a class of alcohol with car keys in hand. there is a clock turning midnight in the background

New Year’s Eve is the second most likely night for people to receive a DWI charge. Only Thanksgiving sees more DWIs than New Year’s, and the accident rates soar during this time of year, according to official sources. However, it is important to remember that DWIs can happen at any time, and the same rules for keeping New Year’s Eve safe and DWI free apply throughout the year as well.

A DWI conviction can have many life changing consequences including:

  • Having an arrest record
  • Incurring expensive fines
  • Serving jail time
  • Being placed on probation
  • Being required to install an ignition interlock device
  • Being forced to attend mandatory counseling or education classes

A DWI conviction has a serious impact on your life. It is much easier for you to avoid a DWI altogether than to deal with the consequences of such a charge.

What Can I Do To Avoid a DUI Charge?

There are no magic formulas to help you avoid a DWI. Common sense is the best weapon you have in the fight against a DWI charge, but sometimes a bit of knowledge about how the system works can also be beneficial. Here are some tips for avoiding DWI charges:

  • Designated drivers do not get DWIs. It is a simple fact that a designated driver who consumes no alcohol is the best defense against a DWI charge. It is also the best way for you and your friends to stay safe when you are out enjoying the evening. You could also arrange for a cab or other transportation.
  • The less said, the better. It is important not to talk too much to police officers when you are pulled over for any infraction. Police officers are trained to talk to you and get you to say things that can then be used as they build a case against you. While police officers are just doing their jobs, they are not your friends when you are pulled over and you should try to avoid talking to them too much, no matter how polite or nice they seem to be.
  • Call an attorney. If you are charged with DWI, an experienced DWI attorney is your best bet for reduction or dismissal of the charges.

Contact me,  Adam Woody, at The Law Office of Adam Woody if you are arrested or booked on DWI charges. I’m here to fight for you.

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Driving Under the Influence of… Caffeine?

California Man Fights DUI Charge for Driving Under Influence of Caffeine
coffee beans spilled around a coffee cup with the chemistry symbol for caffeine in the cup

 

San Francisco, CA. Dec. 24 – Caffeine may be the “nootropic” brain drug of choice in Silicon Valley, but an hour’s drive north in Solano County, California, the stimulant could get you charged with driving under the influence.

That is according to defense attorney Stacey Barrett, speaking on behalf of her client, Joseph Schwab. After being pulled over on 5 August 2015, Schwab was charged by the Solano County district attorney with misdemeanor driving under the influence of a drug.

Almost 18 months later, Schwab is preparing to go to trial. The only evidence the DA has provided of his intoxication is a blood test showing the presence of caffeine.

Schwab was driving home from work when he was pulled over by an agent from the California department of alcoholic beverage control, who was driving an unmarked vehicle. The agent said Schwab had cut her off and was driving erratically.

The 36-year-old union glazier was given a breathalyzer test which showed a 0.00% blood alcohol level, his attorney said. He was booked into county jail and had his blood drawn, but the resulting toxicology report came back negative for benzodiazepines, cocaine, opiates, THC, carisoprodol (a muscle relaxant), methamphetamine/MDMA, oxycodone, and zolpidem…

“It’s really stupid,” said Jeffrey Zehnder, a forensic toxicologist who frequently testifies in court cases. Over 41 years, Zehnder said, he had never seen a prosecution for driving under the influence of caffeine…

California vehicle code defines a “drug” as any substance besides alcohol that could affect a person in a manner that would “impair, to an appreciable degree” his ability to drive normally.

Making that case with caffeine would be difficult, Zehnder said, because the prosecutor would have to show that impaired driving was specifically caused by the caffeine and not any other circumstances.

“There are no studies that demonstrate that driving is impaired by caffeine, and they don’t do the studies, because no one cares about caffeine,” he said.

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Springfield DWI and Blood Alcohol Legal Limit

Blood Alcohol Legal Limit

Many people are probably familiar with the phrase ‘blood alcohol’, but what does it really mean, and what are the legal issues pertaining to it? Simply put, blood alcohol is a measure of the amount of alcohol in a person’s system, and therefore the amount of impairment that person is experiencing. Blood alcohol content, commonly referred as BAC, goes up with every alcoholic beverage a person consumes, and it is measured by calculating the weight of ethanol, in grams, per 100 milliliters of blood. For instance, a BAC of .10 would indicate that the individual in question would have one part alcohol per thousand parts blood.

HOW POLICE MEASURE BAC

The blood alcohol legal limit is designed to be a separation point between those deemed too intoxicated to operate a motor vehicle and those under the limit. The actual figure is .08, which typically only takes a few alcoholic drinks to achieve. For example, a 140-lb woman would have a BAC of .10 if she had just three alcoholic drinks. BAC does go down over time as the body filters and processes it, but the rate is so slow that it takes up to six hours for someone barely over the legal limit of .08 to become sober. This is one of the main reasons why law enforcement officials take advantage of breathalyzer technology. It allows them to set a numerical limit and gives them proof that a driver is or is not over the limit. Such evidence is nearly impossible to deny in court.

CONSEQUENCES OF INTOXICATION

First, it should be noted that the legal BAC limit only applies to drivers operating a motor vehicle. It is perfectly legal for passengers to exceed the limit, but the driver must remain sober. If a driver is caught over the legal limit and is found guilty of driving while intoxicated (DWI) in court, which is the common outcome thanks to breathalyzers, there are several potential consequences. Depending on the severity of the offense, DUI/DWI could include up to six months of jail time and fines from $500 to $1000. Someone convicted of DUI/DWI can also expect to have their driver’s license suspended for a significant period of time and up to three years for repeat offenders.

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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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Missouri Supreme Court Throws Out All DWI Breathalyzer Results From 14-month Period

This has been a busy week here at the Law Office of Adam Woody.  Adam was interviewed by KSPR and KOLR10 regarding Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision, which determined that all breathalyzer results in DWI cases cannot be used against the driver in either the criminal case or to suspend their driver’s licenses, if that breathalyzer had been maintained between November 30, 2012 through January 29, 2014.  Although most DWI’s from that time period have already been resolved, there will no doubt be additional litigation to determine the impact this ruling will have on already resolved cases.  Contact us as soon as possible if you or anyone you know may be impacted.