St. Louis DWI Defense with Linnenbringer Law

Helping clients across Missouri with

efficient, smart, and proactive DWI Defense

St. Louis DWI Defense

Experienced and Affordable Driving While Intoxicated Representation

So you've recently been arrested for your first DWI. Despite how you may feel, it’s not the end of the world. It’s unlikely you’ll lose your job because of it, and you’re probably not going to jail. The next few months will be expensive, and they’ll be filled with inconveniences, but with hard work and intelligent planning, you can handle your DWI in the most efficient and effective way possible. That’s where I can help.

Aggressive, sure, how about smart? I believe that there is an unfilled need in DWI representation. As you search for information pertaining to your DWI charge, you may notice that every St. Louis DWI lawyer has a website and that almost every website focuses on the attorney’s aggressiveness and ability to “fight” DWI charges tooth and nail. Generally speaking, there’s no real evidence of this hyper-aggressive and thorough representation, save for the claims made by the lawyer on his or her own website. The truth is, for an overwhelming large number of first-time DWI offenders, there won’t be a trial, you’ll never see a jury, and the “fight” will be limited to your attorney’s attempts to shave down some of the requirements of the fairly-standard plea bargain a first-time DWI defendant is likely to be offered.

That being the case, first-time DWI offenders should focus not only on finding an attorney who is competent and knows the law, but also one that understands that a person’s first DWI is not unlike many obstacles one faces as they plod through life - it’s simply a problem to solve. And when it comes to solving this problem, just like with any other, it’s the faster the better; the cheaper the better; the clearer the instruction better.

St. Louis DWI Lawyer. With the right DWI attorney, you’ll be able to work your way through this problem, step-by-step, with a minimal impact on your life. With the wrong DWI attorney, you’ll get a letter thanking you for choosing him or her, followed by another letter, probably months later, telling you that a deal has been worked out and that you need to show up to court with them on a certain date to enter a plea. That type of representation is unfortunately far too common in St. Louis, and you, as a client paying a fairly substantial amount in lawyer fees, no matter whom you find to represent you, deserve more.

Gerald W. Linnenbringer

Linnenbringer Law Firm

10805 Sunset Office Dr, Ste 300
Sunset Hills, Missouri 63127
PH: 314-238-1219
CELL: 636-236-1488
FAX: 314-238-1250
"I was pretty nervous and unsure of the DWI process, but he put me at ease and laid it out exactly how the process would go."

"Gerald helped with the legal aspects and also advised me on the driving side to assure my privileges remained intact."

"He thoroughly explained the details of my case in non-legal jargon that even I could understand. I truly consider this level of service that I received to be a bargain."

"I would instantly recommend & refer Gerald Linnenbringer to anyone I know in need of a great attorney for a DWI."

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A helpful guide to assist you in navigating this page.



Reviews, Credentials, Rundown
St. Louis DWI Lawyer Reviews
Client Reviews & Testimonials

Hiring me, in my opinion, is a great choice when trying to find a St. Louis DWI lawyer. Don't take my word for it though, check out a few testimonials from some past DWI clients.

Information on Gerald Linnenbringer, St. Louis DWI Attorney
The DWI Attorney

Learn all about me, St. Louis DWI lawyer Gerald W. Linnenbringer. My credentials, educational background, and various other super-interesting tidbits.

Missouri DWI Guide
Unofficial DWI Guide

Perhaps the crown jewel of the site, my Unofficial DWI Guide breaks down a DWI in Missouri, step-by-step, with easy-to-follow language, and even some helpful illustrations.



DWI FAQ, Costs, and Contact
Missouri Driving While Intoxicated Information
Frequently Asked Questions

Few common criminal acts are less understood than the mysterious driving while intoxicated charge. Educate yourself with my Missouri DWI FAQ.

Cost of a St. Louis DWI
Cost of a St. Louis DWI

Taking care of your DWI is going to be expensive. In addition to the extensive time required to handle a DWI, you'll also have attorney fees, fines and costs, and expenses associated with court-ordered programs and probation.

St. Louis DWI Attorney Contact Information
Contact Information

Ready to go? I'm ready too. Shoot me a message or give me a call and we'll set up a time to initiate the process of successfully handling your Missouri DWI charge.


DWI Client Testimonials

Real testimonials from some of my past DWI clients.

"Gerald Linnenbringer had a difficult task of helping me through a DWI. I'm currently a student and was facing possible jail time for my incident. If I were to have shock time on my record it would have had dropped my chances of getting a job dramatically. But Gerald came through in the clutch with his expertise and got the jail time dropped along with probation. I couldn't of asked for a better outcome from my conviction. He not only helped out with my legal problems, he was more then professional and showed the utmost respect and care for his client. In the future I'm going to recommend Gerald to any one I know that needs legal help."

"I really appreciated Gerald's legal advice. He thoroughly explained the particular details of my case in non-legal jargon that even I could understand. I truly consider this level of service that I received to be a bargain. I would recommend the Linnenbringer Law Firm to all of my friends."

"Gerald Linnenbringer did everything he said he would... I was pretty nervous, bummed, and unsure in the DWI process, and he put me at ease and laid it out exactly how the process would go. Definitely would recommend and use him again."

"Gerald is a great Lawyer. He made me very comfortable and kept me well informed. He went over and beyond to help me gather all the information I needed to get my license valid."

"Quickly responds to calls and emails and is very knowledgable! I would instantly recommend & refer Gerald Linnenbringer to anyone I know in need of a great attorney for a DWI."

"Mr. Linnenbringer was recommended by a friend to take care of my speeding ticket. When we first spoke, Mr. Linnenbringer explained the process in full detail. A couple of weeks after that initial conversation, I received notification from the courts that the ticket was reduced to a non-moving violation as I had hoped. It was reassuring to know that the legal matter was resolved exactly in the manner Mr. Linnenbringer explained. Although this may have been simple legal matter from a lawyer's point of view, I appreciated the careful attention it was shown and the professional manner it was handled."

"I was burdened back in March 2012 with a DWI in St. Louis County. I was in the exact spot I swore I would never be in. This was an experience that forever changed my life and literally turned all things upside for me. I found Gerald online when literally googling DWI St. Louis when I reached out via email. This was the day after my arrest mind you, and he scheduled for me to meet with him the following day. It was then I realized I was not going at this DWI alone. He helped me not only with the legal aspects but also advised me on the driving side to assure my privileges remained intact. Gerald was a quick phone call or email away all the way through my court date. With Gerald, the projected costs of this arrest were a lot lower than anticipated and I credit his experience for that outcome. I would highly recommend anyone that finds them self in this situation I was in - to make their first move a call to Gerald. He will remind you that yes, what you are experiencing is a big deal, but you are not alone and it is not the end all. Thank you again Gerald."

St. Louis DWI Lawyer

Honest, Effective, and Accessible DWI Representation.

Affordable DWI Representation by an Experienced Attorney

Gerald W. Linnenbringer, Missouri DWI Lawyer

My name is Gerald Linnenbringer, and I would like to thank you for visiting my webpage dedicated to exploring the ins and outs of a driving while intoxicated charge, including an explanation of field sobriety tests, the possible defenses to your DWI charge, and the effect a DWI has on one's driver's license. Since opening my practice in 2008, I have helped over four thousand clients navigate through the legal system.Gerald Linnenbringer St. Louis DWI Attorney Whether DWI representation, a simple traffic ticket, or a complex criminal law matter, I put forth the effort and hard work to provide the best representation possible, all while remaining easily accessible to each and every one of my clients. You will not be my only client, but if I do my job correctly, you'll feel like you are.

Many attorneys seem to shy away from using technology to help provide effective legal services, but I try to use it as much as possible. Using e-mail for frequent, regular contact allows me to communicate quickly with clients, even when a phone call is impossible, like when I'm in court or out of town. The favorable disposition of a driving while intoxicated charge requires the client to complete a good deal of leg work in order to successfully handle his or her case. E-mail correspondence can help the client organize this all-important DWI to-do list, as well as put it writing, so the information is accessible to them wherever they can pull up their e-mail.

If you have had to use the services of an attorney in the past, you know that it can often times be frustrating trying to reach them. In contrast, I can easily be reached at my office (314) 238-1219, on my cell phone (636) 236-1488, or through e-mail. I do not use a secretary, paralegal, or associate attorney to handle my cases, screen my calls, or cover my court appearances. When you need to reach me, you can, whether through e-mail, text message, or phone call. When you expect to see me in court for your plea, you'll see me, not a first-year associate. When it comes to effective representation on a DWI charge, the personal attention I provide to each client absolutely matters.

Thank you very much for visiting my DWI webpage. There is an abundance of driving while intoxicated information located throughout this site, but please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or comments that you may have. I hope to hear from you soon.


Saint Louis University School of Law
Juris Doctorate, Concentration in Criminal Litigation
Saint Louis University School of Business
Masters in Business Administration
University of Missouri
BS in Business Administration


State of Missouri
State of Illinois


Madison Co, IL State's Attorney's Office
Federal Public Defender's Office
SLU Criminal Defense Legal Clinic
Law clerk, Law Offices of Thomas Green
Law clerk, Law Offices of Patrick Gadell


Avvo Clients' Choice 2012
Avvo Clients' Choice 2013
Avvo Clients' Choice 2014

Linnenbringer Law's Guide to the typical

St. Louis DWI

What the heck just happened?

If you've recently been arrested for driving while intoxicated, your head is probably spinning. If you are scared and confused, I don't blame you, the process surrounding a DWI can feel pretty overwhelming. So, what I've done for you below is provided a rundown of how a typical first-time DWI in St. Louis County (and most surrounding areas) will go.

Measuring Blood Alcohol Content
Driving While Intoxicated in Missouri
DWI Stop
Missouri Field Sobriety Tests
St. Louis DWI Arrest
Should I blow in Missouri if I got a DWI?
What to do if you receive a St. Louis, Missouri DWI
Affordable Driving While Intoxicated Representation
Gerald Linnenbringer, St. Louis DWI Lawyer
Wrapping Up Your St. Louis DWI



The Stop

The Tests

DWI Arrest

Blow or No

Next Day

DWI Lawyer

Two Cases

Wrapping Up

The Calm Before the Storm

Measuring Blood Alcohol Content
Before getting a DWI, you're going to need some drinks.

Your night starts off ordinary enough, enjoying a few lagers with some friends. You may not realize just how quickly your level of intoxication, measured by your BAC, or Blood Alcohol Concentration, rises past the legal limit. Factors that influence how alcohol affects one's BAC include gender, weight, physical condition, amount of sleep, medications, and what and how much the person has eaten. There are BAC charts all over the internet for you to peruse, but the gist is that it doesn't take much alcohol before you are legally impaired to drive. In fact, you may even feel okay to drive after a few drinks, but if your BAC is .08 or above, you're asking for trouble.

For sake of this DWI guide, let's assume Little Jerry here has had seven beers in the last hour or so, and he's ready to head home. Any BAC chart will tell you that, at a svelte 215 pounds, he's over the legal limit and definitely should not be driving.

Cruise Control with Your Hands at Ten and Two

Finally full of booze, it's time to head home.

This would be a great time for Little Jerry to call a cab or even risk being picked up by an Uber stranger. As you'll see as things progress, the inconvenience and expense of paying for a ride home is nothing compared to the expense and hassle that a DWI charge brings. Of course, more important than any financial considerations is the public safety risk one can avoid by choosing not to get behind the wheel after they've had a few drinks. But, again, for this guide, we need Little Jerry to do some unwise things, so here he is, driving home after drinking.

The most common offenses that you will see issued with a DWI are charges that relate to the reason for the stop (these are often called "probable cause tickets"). These include improper lane use, failure to maintain a single lane, swerving, speeding, etc. Of course, even if you aren't speeding or swerving, if the officer sees that you don't have your seatbelt on, or that one of your brake lights or headlights is out, or that your license plates are expired, that will warrant a stop as well. If you're going to drink and drive, at least make sure your seatbelt is on and that your registration is up-to-date.

Driving While Intoxicated in Missouri

The DWI Stop

DWI Stop
The officer approaches, the gum and mints come out.

Once the patrol car's lights flip on, one the scariest experiences you'll probably ever have - at least in a vehicular sense - has begun. Your mind will likely race as you attempt to quickly calculate how many drinks you consumed, how long of a time period your drinking spanned, and how much food you ate. The officer will approaches and ask if you know why he or she pulled you over. The correct answer here is probably just no, but the stress of the moment often causes people to talk more than they should.

As you and the officer discuss preliminary matters, he or she is looking for signs of impairment, such as slurred speech, glassy eyes, an odor of alcohol, etc. If you notice, these "observations" are extremely subjective, which can make them difficult - but, of course, not impossible - to effectively challenge in court. What happens next will be determined by what the officer observed during your initial interaction. If there were no signs of impairment, you'll be issued whatever ticket the officer determines is applicable and sent on your way. If there are signs of impairment, as there likely would be with Little Jerry and his seven beers, you'll be asked to exit the car for some field sobriety tests.

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

Providing evidence free of charge.

First, regardless of what the officer may tell you, you don't have to submit to field sobriety testing. If you refuse to perform the tests, you don't face any legal consequences (like you do for refusing to submit to a breathalyzer), although the officer may deem you uncooperative and treat you accordingly. Most individuals, whether because they think they have the superior coordination and athletic prowess necessary to pass the tests, even while intoxicated, or because they're scared and don't know any better, do end up consenting to field sobriety testing. The tests are usually performed on the side of the road, although I've seen a few cases where because of extreme weather, the officer brought the driver inside for testing. Generally speaking though, field sobriety tests are done on the side of the road, on potentially uneven ground, maybe on gravel, perhaps with wind swirling around you, and often with cars whizzing by at high speeds. As you can imagine, it's not a great environment to show how impressively you can walk a straight line. If you're being asked to perform field sobriety tests, the officer likely already believes you to be impaired and is simply looking for additional evidence of intoxication. Remember though, you don't have to give it to them.

The three tests Little Jerry will likely be asked to complete are the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, where the officer asks you to follow an object, usually a finger or pen, back and forth, the one-leg stand, where you, of course, stand on one leg, and the walk and turn test, where you're asked to take a number of steps, in a line, and then turn around and return back to the starting point. Other tests which the officer may choose to perform will involve you touching your finger to your nose, reciting the alphabet, or counting backwards. Of course, no matter what the test, the officer is looking for the driver to mess up - fall over, use arms for balancing, or to not follow the instructions. For poor Little Jerry, we'll assume he did not do too well (and, really, since the officer's opinion will be what counts at this stage in the game, if the officer thinks you're drunk, his or her perception of your performance will likely reflect that opinion either way).

Missouri Field Sobriety Tests

The DWI Arrest

St. Louis DWI Arrest
Little Jerry is headed downtown.

At this point, the officer believes he has the evidence to arrest you for DWI, so that's what he does. You'll be cuffed and tossed into the back of the squad car. If there is someone with you that has not been drinking, the officer may allow him or her to drive your car back home. Otherwise, the car will be towed, which is just the beginning of the very long, expensive road of handling a Missouri driving while intoxicated charge.

To dispel a popular myth, the officer is not required to read you your Miranda rights concurrently with the cuffs going on. I suppose Cops is to blame for that misconception. If a person is in custody (deprived of his or her freedom of action in any significant way), the police must read the Miranda rights if they want to use the answers they receive from their questioning in trial. In short, not being read your Miranda rights won't mean your case is thrown out.

Once at the station, the police officer will book Little Jerry, take his finger prints, take a mugshot (which, unfortunately, may end up online), and toss him in a cell. From there, the police will generally either release you after you've sobered up, or after someone comes to post bond and drive you home.

To Blow or Not to Blow

"You have to blow or your license will be revoked for a year."

I can't tell you how many of my DWI clients have been told by their arresting officer that, unequivocally, if he or she does not blow (i.e., not submit to a breath test), they will lose their license for a year. While this is true, to an extent, it also leaves out some very important information. Namely, that with the appropriate legal action, the license revocation can be likely be stopped. Why don't they tell you this? One, they don't have to. And two, they want you to provide the breath sample. If the officer can top off his report with a breathalyzer reading showing you were legally intoxicated, that goes a long way in validating his suspicions, and supporting his previous observations of intoxication. Please note, when an officer requests that you submit to a breath test, the officer is legally required to give you 20 minutes to attempt to contact an attorney.

The blow or not blow step is important, as it determines which of two possible avenues your administrative / driver's license case will go. If you call an attorney and tell him or her you received a DWI, the first question they'll likely ask, is "did you blow?". The reason for this is because it affects everything about how your case is handled. Let's compare the two avenues with these blue boxes.

Should I blow in Missouri if I got a DWI?
You took the Breathalyzer

Length of license suspension: Upon your arrest you will be given a notice that your driver's license will become suspended in 15 days. If you don't do anything - meaning you don't hire a St. Louis DWI lawyer, and you don't file the appeal yourself - on day 16 your driver's license will be suspended. Assuming this is your first alcohol-related offense, you'll be looking at a 90-day suspension. Keep in mind, however, that nothing happens automatically at the conclusion of that 90 day period. You can be eligible for reinstatement and still be suspended if you don't take the necessary steps to get your license back.

Stopping the suspension: You can press the pause button on the suspension, at least temporarily, if you file an administrative appeal with the Department of Revenue. You can do this yourself, theoretically, but I'd have to suggest you hire a decent DWI lawyer if you want any shot at winning. If you do win your administrative appeal, your license will not be suspended. However, it should be noted, that the Department of Revenue has a pretty high winning percentage for these administrative appeals. Even if the appeal is lost, it's not a complete waste of time, as the appeal itself, one, allowed you to get your affairs in order - including transportation help, in the event of a suspension - by putting a stay on the suspension pending the appeal and two, it allows your attorney to hear the arresting officer talk about your case, and provide potentially helpful information for the defense of your case, for the first time.

Winning the appeal: Most DWI lawyers will (and all probably should) tell you that most administrative suspension appeals are not going to be winners. If, however, you do win, you won't lose your license - alright!

Losing the appeal: Ok, so let's assume you appeal the suspension and you lose. Let's also assume you don't take the appeal up to the circuit court, or do any other legal maneuvering. You're accepting the loss and we're moving on. If you recall from the paperwork the arresting officer gave you, your suspension was going to start 15 days after the arrest, if you did not appeal. Since you appealed (but, for purposes of this guide, lost the appeal) your suspension will now start 15 days after the administrative judge who heard your appeal makes his or her final order. So, even if you have little hope of winning your administrative case, you can still see the benefit of filing the appeal, which is that it buys you some time. Time to get your finances in order, time to figure out the plan as it pertains to your driver's license, and time to start taking the steps necessary to get ready to handle your DWI charge effectively. The period of time following a DWI arrest can seem like a hurricane of confusion. Appealing the administrative suspension, even if a losing proposition, pumps the brakes a little bit and can help you get focused.

Getting your license back: A first-time DWI offender who took the Breathalyzer and did not win their administrative appeal will be looking at a 30 day suspension, with no driving privileges (unless... we'll get to that) at all, followed by 60 days of limited driving privileges (provided the driver has filed an SR-22 (essentially a certificate proving you have automobile insurance) with the Department of Revenue). So, if you took the breath test and did not appeal the administrative suspension, you'll have 15 days post-arrest where you are driving on the 15-day permit, followed by a 30 day period of no driving privileges at all (again, subject to a caveat, which I'll explain below). After that 30 day period, provided you have purchased an SR-22 from your insurance company and they've filed it with the Department of Revenue, you'll receive a limited driving privilege (or a hardship license, as it is commonly known). After that 60 days is up you are eligible for full reinstatement, but you will only actually be reinstated if you have completed SATOP and paid your $45 reinstatement fee to the Department of Revenue.

Don't want to lose your license a single day? It's possible. This is the previously mentioned caveat I mentioned earlier. In the past, the 30 day suspension with no driving privileges was unforgiving - you lost your license, completely, no exceptions, for 30 days, period. This past year, however, your Missouri legislature came to the reality that it is really, really hard to function at a high level in St. Louis without a driver's license. So, the legislature amended Section 302.525.1 of the Missouri Statutes to allow first-time DWI offenders to avoid the 30-day suspension by installing a ignition interlock device. First-time DWI offenders, then, now must weigh the cost and hassle of installing an ignition interlock versus the inconvenience of not driving for 30 days (or, driving and hoping you don't get pulled over). I have had a number of clients that - against advice of good counsel, of course - basically had to, due to financial limitations, choose to gamble on not being pulled over for the 30 day suspension, as opposed to getting the ignition interlock installed.

You refused to take the Breathalyzer

Length of license suspension: Upon your arrest you'll be given a notice that your driver's license will become suspended in 15 days. If you don't do anything - meaning you don't hire an DWI attorney to file a Petition for Review (explanation of what this is to come) - you will face a one-year revocation of your driver's license. The threat of the "inevitable" (it's not) one-year revocation is a popular method used by arresting officers to convince those arrested for DWI to submit to a breath test.

Stopping the revocation: In order to stop a revocation at a refusal to submit to a breath test, you'll need to hire an attorney. That attorney will file a case in the circuit court where your DWI arrest occurred, called a Petition for Review. The name isn't all that important, but it's function is, as it gives you an opportunity to avoid having your license suspended or revoked for even a single day. Your time for filing the Petition for Review is limited to 30 days after your DWI arrest and, if you or your attorney miss the filing deadline, you'll be out of luck.

"Winning" your Petition for Review: Just as with the criminal law aspect of your case, it is likely that your Petition for Review will be disposed of through a negotiated disposition with the opposing attorney. Whereas with the criminal law side of a DWI, where negotiations are done with the prosecuting attorney and will result in a plea bargain, the negotiations for your Petition for Review will be between your attorney and the attorney for the Department of Revenue.

Again, as is the situation with a criminal case, if an agreed-upon disposition is not reached on your Petition for Review, you will have to try to win your case at trial. A trial in a Petition for Review case involves your attorney cross-examining the arresting officer, as well the presentation of whatever other evidence you may have (including, your own testimony) that supports the claims made in your Petition for Review (specifically, that you weren't actually arrested or stopped, that you did not refuse to have your BAC tested, and/or that the arresting officer did not have reasonable grounds to believe you were operating a motor vehicle while in an intoxicated condition).

Losing the Petition for Review case: If you're one of the unlucky ones that is ineligible for a negotiated disposition that would allow for you to avoid the license revocation, you will have to take your Petition to Review to trial. If you lose (i.e., you can't disprove that you were actually arrested or stopped, or that you did not refuse to have your BAC tested, or that the officer had reasonable grounds to believe you were operating a motor vehicle while in an intoxicated condition), then your license is revoked for a year. Many people will find that not having a driver's license in a city like St. Louis is essentially impossible, so those individuals will want to explore the possibility of getting a limited driving privilege (more commonly referred to as a hardship license) for the pendency of the revocation. Eligibility for a limited driving privilege will vary depending on one's past driving record. Your attorney will be able to help you determine whether or not you can get a hardship license and, if you can, he or she can also explain the necessary steps to take and help fill out the appropriate paperwork in order to receive the limited driving privilege.

Getting your license back: A first-time DWI offender who refuses (and files a proper and timely Petition for Review) and is offered a disposition that allows him or her to avoid the license revocation, will not have to do anything to get their license back, since they'll never lose it in the first place. If the offender loses his or her Petition for Review case, or did not file one in the first place, they'll need to do a couple of things in order to have their license reinstated at the end of the one year revocation period. Specifically, the individual will be required to pay a $45 reinstatement fee to the Department of Revenue and file SR-22 insurance.

Don't want to lose your license a single day? When your DWI lawyer files a Petition for Review, he or she will also request a Stay Order be issued. The Stay Order is signed off on and ordered by a Judge, is sent to the Department of Revenue, and will essentially pause the impending revocation for the pendency of your Petition for Review case. You will carry the Stay Order with you when driving until you get your driver's license back. For the typical first-time DWI offender, the Petition for Review case will result in the offender avoiding the revocation altogether. So, between the Stay Orders that are issued throughout the course of your case, and the eventual likely outcome (at least for a typical first-time DWI) of the Petition for Review, the driver in a refusal case can avoid losing their license at any point in the process.

The Morning After

What to do if you receive a St. Louis, Missouri DWI
Advil, water, and Google.

Waking up with a hangover can be pretty rough. Waking up with a hangover the night after you were arrested for driving while intoxicated is even worse. Waking up in jail with a hangover the night after you were arrested for driving while intoxicated, is the worst. Hopefully after you were booked and processed for your DWI charge, the officers released you to a designated driver or allowed you to take a cab home. If not, you likely had to post bail. That bond money, assuming it was not posted by a bail bondsmen, is not lost. Assuming you do not fail to appear in court at anytime, that bond money will remain "yours," it is simply being held by the court to ensure you show up to court. If you do, you will be able to apply whatever bond you posted to the fines and costs you eventually owe the court (of course, if you take your DWI to trial and win, you'll receive your bond money back).

Once you get home and gather your thoughts, it should be time to start your research. You're in a time-sensitive pickle if you were just arrested for DWI, and you need to start sorting through the abundance of information available to you. Will you lose your license? Will you go to jail? Will you lose your job? For a first-time DWI offender, the answer to most of these questions won't be as bad as you imagine, but it's still imperative that you begin your search for a DWI lawyer immediately. The quicker you act, the better.

St. Louis DWI Attorney

All lawyers may be created equal, but, eventually, some are more helpful than others.

Your life is not over if you recently received a DWI, but it will be a little more difficult in the upcoming months. The three most important things to look for in a DWI lawyer, at least in my opinion, are that, first, he or she is accessible, whether by e-mail, telephone, or whatever - when you need to reach them, you can. Second, your DWI lawyer should be experienced in handling DWI charges and up-to-date on the constantly changing laws surrounding driving while intoxicated in Missouri. The best way to determine whether the attorney you're speaking with knows anything about DWIs is to meet with them and ask questions. Preferably, you'll be able to meet with two or three potential lawyers and compare the answers they give to your questions. You don't want to be told what you want to hear, you want to be told the reality of the situation. If you're almost inevitably going to lose your license for a period of time, you're better off knowing that upfront, than being sold a more positive, but unlikely, end result simply so the lawyer can sign you up as a client. Finally, your DWI lawyer should be able to develop and effectively communicate a clear cut, step-by-step strategy for you that will allow you to successfully handle your DWI, while working within the parameters of your budget.

Failure to adequately vet your choice in a DWI attorney can be a real headache. You can be left constantly wondering "what's next?" for your case, and clueless as to what you could be doing to progress towards a more efficient resolution. For instance, I have witnessed attorneys explaining SATOP to their clients on the night of the plea. I've seen attorneys trying to adequately describe what SIS probation is, and the effect an SIS will have on the client's license and record, just minutes before the client enters his or her plea. This is unacceptable representation, and the client, who likely paid a good amount for the representation provided by their DWI attorney, deserves better.

Affordable Driving While Intoxicated Representation

A Tale of Two Cases

Gerald Linnenbringer, St. Louis DWI Lawyer
Prepare for confusion.

Your DWI is broken down into two distinct, but interrelated, cases. You will have one case that deals with the criminal aspect of the driving while intoxicated charge (for a first-time DWI in St. Louis County, this case will often, but not always, be heard in the court of whatever municipality you were arrested in). In addition to the criminal case, you will also have a civil case that pertains to your driver's license (if you blew, you'll file for an administrative hearing or, if you refused, you'll file a Petition for Review). While the criminal and civil cases are completely separate matters, and could end up having completely different results (i.e., you could enter a not guilty plea in your criminal case and win at trial and still end up losing your administrative hearing or Petition for Review, or vice versa), there are situations where the outcome of one case can have ramifications on the outcome of the other case. Let's see if I can explain this better with fancy, overlapping boxes:

Your Criminal DWI Case

The criminal law portion of a DWI will be the type of case you're more familiar with. It's got the guilty/not guilty determination, the prosecuting attorney, the Judge, the verdict, and all the other courtroom action you've seen on Law & Order. This part of your DWI is generally out of the municipal court of whatever municipal police department arrested you. For instance, if you were arrested for driving while intoxicated by an officer of the Town & Country Police Department, the criminal law portion of your DWI case will most likely be out of the Town & Country Municipal Court. Your attorney will negotiate the disposition of your case with the Town & Country municipal prosecutor and, once resolved, you will enter your plea in front of the Town & Country municipal judge.

Generally speaking, what happens with the criminal portion of your DWI will have no affect on your driver's license (administrative/civil) case. There is one important exception to this, however, which I will outline in the "When Cases Collide" box, right here:

Your Civil/Administrative DWI Case

Your civil case will relate to your driver's license. If you blew, you'll have an administrative hearing. If you refused to blow, you will file a Petition for Review. Each case is filed with the intent to delay your suspension (or revocation) or, even better, to avoid it altogether.

Either way, your civil case, unlike your criminal case, will not focus on your guilt or innocence. Instead, they will focus on details leading up to the stop and/or arrest. For an administrative hearing (if you blew), the two issues will be whether or not the officer had probable cause to believe the driver was driving a motor vehicle while in an intoxicated condition and whether the driver's blood alcohol content was above .08%. The Department of Revenue only has to prove these two issues by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely true than not). For a Petition for Review (refusal case), the Department of Revenue's lawyer only has to show that you were arrested, that the officer had reasonable grounds to believe you were operating a motor vehicle, and that you refused to submit to having your BAC tested.

When Cases Collide

The civil and criminal portions of your DWI are two separate cases. However, in some circumstances, the outcome of one case can influence the outcome of the other. Here's how:

  • The civil case can allow for the gathering of evidence. The administrative hearing or the trial setting for your Petition for Review can be the defense attorney's first opportunity to get live testimony from the arresting officer, while that officer is under oath. This is a great opportunity to gather evidence that could help negotiate a better outcome on the criminal law portion of your case. For example, let's say that you file a Petition for Review and, for one reason or the other, a trial is required to resolve that Petition (generally won't be the case, as we'll get to next). During that trial, the arresting officer, while giving his or her testimony under oath, makes a comment that is contrary to what they wrote in the police report. Even if the officer's mistake won't end up swaying the criminal case from guilty to not-guilty, the fact that the officer has proven to be an unreliable witness could help in plea negotiations with the prosecuting attorney.

  • The much more important interaction between these two, distinct actions is in the case of a refusal. If you refuse to blow, you must file a Petition for Review in order to stay the license revocation. Once your petition is filed, your attorney will negotiate a disposition on your civil case - the Petition for Review - with the attorney for the Department of Revenue. In certain counties - St. Louis County and St. Charles County, for instance - the case can often be resolved in a way that avoids any license revocation at all. The caveat is, that in order for the defendant to avoid the one-year revocation, he or she must enter a plea of guilty on the underlying DWI charge. This disposition is generally a good risk-adverse compromise: the defendant can avoid one of the harshest possible penalties from a DWI refusal case (losing the driver's license for one year), while the Department of Revenue can ensure that the criminal portion of the case is resolved without a trial, and that the driver will be on probation for a period of time.

Wrapping up your St. Louis DWI

Jump ahead six months.

A typical DWI charge will take about six months, give or take, to wrap up. This varies greatly depending on the client, the type of case (i.e., refusal case or not), and whatever court your charge is pending in. Some of the municipal courts throughout St. Louis County, for instance, can take six months or more (from the date of the arrest) to issue a court date. Either way, once you've entered your plea, you'll have some work to do.

Assuming you enter a plea that involves a period of probation (which is extremely likely with a first-time DWI plea), you'll be given a period of time to complete the programs required by your plea. For example, in St. Louis County Municipal Court, you'll generally be given three months from the date of your plea to finish SATOP, the Victim Impact Panel, and community service, if applicable. If you don't complete the programs in a timely manner, the court can issue a probation revocation, where you'll be required to explain the delay to the Judge and ask for more time.

Most typical first-time DWI offenders will enter a plea that results in a suspended imposition of sentence. In that situation, after the period of probation is over (generally two years for a first-time DWI), the record of the case is sealed and, essentially, the DWI disappears from your criminal record.

Wrapping Up Your St. Louis DWI

Next Up: Missouri Driving While Intoxicated F.A.Q.
If you recently received a DWI, you probably have some questions. The upcoming section is my Missouri DWI F.A.Q., which will attempt to answer those questions with real-world, non-lawyerly speech.

Missouri DWI F.A.Q.

Authored by St. Louis DWI Lawyer, Gerald W. Linnenbringer

Did you just receive a DWI in St. Louis, St. Charles, or some other area of Missouri? Scared and confused? Not sure what to do next? I don't blame you, the laws, process, and consequences surrounding a Missouri DWI can be pretty daunting. To compound matters, a search for DWI help on the internet can lead to information that is outdated, irrelevant, or flat out wrong. In an attempt to help you gain a grasp on your DWI charge and what will be required in order to resolve it, I've compiled some of the most common questions that I get regarding driving while intoxicated and have attempted to answer those questions in easy-to-follow, non-legal jargon. Of course, please feel free to contact me with any follow up questions that you may have.

If you find this page helpful, please take a moment to give a Plus One!

How much does a DWI cost in Missouri?

The expenses associated with a typical St. Louis DWI (one disposed of through a plea bargain) can essentially be divided into four categories: (1) attorney fees, (2) court costs and fines, (3) costs associated with your probation (including court-mandated programs), and (4) the increased expense for your car insurance. The next few frequently asked question topics will address each in detail.

What is SATOP, and how much does it cost?

Let's say you received your first DWI, and you just entered a plea pursuant to a standard first-time DWI plea bargain. For any DWI plea I've seen, the defendant will be required to complete the Substance Abuse Traffic Offender Program, or SATOP, as it's more commonly known. If you took a breathalyzer and blew over a .08, you will actually need to do SATOP in order to have your license reinstated, so I always advise clients to get SATOP done immediately, prior to plea. SATOP can be broken down into two phases, your assessment and your treatment. Your assessment costs about $400.

Your SATOP assessment will consist of an employee at the SATOP provider (technically, by a Qualified Substantive Abuse Professional) screening you in order to determine what level of treatment you require. They'll check your driving record first, which will show prior traffic convictions and, more importantly, actions taken against your license as a result of traffic stops involving alcohol or drugs. After they check your driving record, you'll take a written test and undergo an interview, both relating to drug and alcohol use. The details of these tests are important, and we can discuss them in detail when the time comes, but the overreaching goal of this entire thing is to determine, essentially, if you have any sort of dependency issues and if you, as a driver, pose a risk to others on the road.

After your assessment, the good folks at SATOP will determine what sort of treatment you require, with the three categories being education, intervention, and rehabilitation. The prices of the programs within these categories varies greatly. Your goal will be to complete your assessment without giving the assessor reason to believe you require anything other than the lowest level of treatment, the Offender Education Program (OEP).

A large majority of my first-time DWI clients are found to be "low risk" and get OEP, the lowest-level education program, which is a good thing, as it costs less and takes less time than any other SATOP program. The time commitment is "only" 10 hours, and it costs about $100. If you're unlucky enough to be placed in a higher risk program, your program expense can start approaching the $1,000 mark, and you'll likely be required to commit some weekends to the SATOP experience.

Where can I complete SATOP?

After you get a DWI and are aware of things like SATOP, all of the sudden you'll start to notice that there are SATOP providers everywhere. Do a Google search for SATOP and your zip code, and it's likely you have an office relatively close. Here are a few of the more popular providers of SATOP: Eastern Missouri Alternative Sentencing Services, Inc. (EMass), Community Services of Missouri, Inc., Safety Council of Greater St. Louis, and Assessment and Counseling Solutions

What is VIP, and how much does it cost?

VIP stands for Victim Impact Panel. Like SATOP, completion of a VIP will likely be required by a first-time DWI defendant's probation. Unlike SATOP, which, in some situations, is required by the Department of Revenue in order to get your license reinstated after a DWI, the completion of a Victim Impact Panel bears no relation to your driver's license at all. The Victim Impact Panel is probably the easiest of the court-ordered programs to complete. It costs only $35 and is less than two hours long. I always advise clients to knock out the VIP right away, well before any court dates. Why? First, it's one less thing to worry about after the plea, when the clock is ticking on completing all of your programs. Second, it looks good to the prosecutor and the judge if the defendant has been proactive enough to get a few things accomplished voluntarily. If you're going to have to do it anyway, why not just get it done? St. Louis County Department of Justice Services (probation people) provides information regarding the Victim Impact Panel, including upcoming VIP dates and steps to enroll, on their website: St. Louis County Victim Impact Panel Information.

Besides SATOP and VIP, what else will I have to do while on probation?

Great question. For a first-time DWI plea, close to 100% of defendants are required to complete SATOP as a condition of probation. The requirement that VIP be completed is up there too, but not quite a prevalent - I'd say about 95% of those same defendants should expect to be required to attend a VIP. A slightly less common condition of probation for a first-time DWI offender, in my experience, is the requirement of community service. I would say maybe 85% to 90% of first-time DWI pleas that I've seen end up with sort of community service requirement - generally 40 hours for "normal" first-time DWIs, and occasionally up to 80 hours for first-time DWIs with special circumstances, like an extremely high blood alcohol content or, as was the case in a DWI I handled a few years ago, you lost control of your vehicle and smashed into the side of someone's house.

SATOP, VIP, and community service. Anything else?

There is always the possibility of a drug and alcohol evaluation with treatment through the Department of Justice Services (yes, in addition to the evaluation and treatment through SATOP), or defensive driving school, or, if there is was an accident, proof restitution has been paid to the victim, but those requirements are normally reserved for cases more severe than the routine first-time DWI offense. All probationers, however, will have a number of general conditions of probation that they will be expected to follow, in addition to the court-ordered programs like SATOP and VIP. For example, anyone on probation is expected to obey the law and not be arrested. If someone on probation is arrested, they are expected to notify the probation office immediately. Further, while on probation for DWI, the probationer can't (without the risk of violating his or her probation, at least) drink alcohol within six hours prior to operating a motor vehicle and, if they are stopped by the police, they are required, as a condition of probation, to submit to a breath or blood test upon the officer's request. In other words, if you're on probation for a DWI and you refuse to take the breathalyzer, the court can revoke your probation, even if you had not been drinking (which would beg the question why refuse to take the breath test, but that's another issue).

What post-plea expenses should I anticipate?

In addition to the court-ordered programs, community service, and general conditions of probation, all outlined above, you'll also be expected to pay the piper. Your post-plea expenses include court-ordered fines and costs, probation supervision fees, and a recoupment fee.

Court-Ordered Fines and Costs. The amount one owes the court in fines and costs will, of course, vary greatly depending on the circumstances surrounding the DWI arrest. However, generally speaking, there are two factors above all else for which the total amount owed to the court will be dependent on - first, how many charges, or tickets, you were issued with your DWI, and second, what court your case ends up being handled out in. If, for example, you received your DWI after you were pulled over for a broken taillight, you'll be responsible for the fines and costs associated with two charges: the DWI and the broken taillight. Not too bad. If, on the other hand, you were pulled over for a broken taillight and, during the course of the stop and investigation, the officer discovers that your license is suspended, you don't have insurance, your registration is outdated, and that you have a bag of weed and an open beer bottle, you should expect your fines and costs to be very high. I've had clients owe less than $100 in fines and costs after their DWI plea, and I've had clients owe over $1,000 in fines and costs.

While much of this difference was, as noted, a result of the tickets issued in conjunction with the DWI, the court from which the DWI was issued out of also heavily influences the amount of fines and costs owed to the court after a DWI plea. If you've watched the news lately, you know that a number of the 90 some-odd municipalities throughout St. Louis County rely heavily on the revenue from their municipal courts in order to keep their cities afloat. This may come to an end in the future, but for now, the practice of hitting defendants with unreasonably high fines and costs is still alive and well. Not all of our municipal courts are outrageous with the fines they assess, so the expense associated with your DWI can come down to pure luck, as a DWI in one municipality can end up costing significantly more than a DWI in another, even neighboring, municipality.

Probation Supervision Fees. You'll be required to pay the probation office. In unincorporated St. Louis County, probation is through Department of Justice Services. The fee associated with the supervision provided by that office is $200. If it rubs you the wrong way to have to pay an office that is providing a service you don't want anything to do with, just wait until you read about the recoupment fee you'll be required to pay.

DWI Recoupment Fee. An arrest for DWI requires, like any other arrest, police officers to perform the job they were hired to do. However, unlike when one is arrested for other criminal offenses, such as murder, armed robbery, or assault, if you are arrested for driving while intoxicated, you have to pay the police department back for the time and expense they incurred during your arrest. Yes, you will be required to reimburse the police department for your arrest. This is called a recoupment fee. The recoupment fee will vary in some courts, and be fixed in others. For example, in the municipal courts of St. Louis County, the recoupment fee is set at $85. The last DWI charge I handled in St. Charles, on the other hand, had a recoupment fee totaling just under $150.

Will I have to get ignition interlock on my car?

For a first-time offender, the likelihood of being required to get an ignition interlock on your vehicle is pretty low. However, a first-time DWI offender may elect to install an ignition interlock in order to avoid an administrative suspension. For example, if the first-time DWI offender blew, and did not appeal the administrative suspension (or did not win his or her appeal), the driver can elect to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle to avoid the 30 day suspension that follows an administrative suspension.

A second-time DWI offender will likely be required to install an ignition interlock. Depending on the disposition reached on his or her first DWI, the second-time offender will be required to install an ignition interlock as a condition of having his or her license reinstated. Even if the second-time defendant's driver's license is not dependent on having an ignition interlock installed, it will likely be a required condition of probation for a multiple-time DWI offender.

How much does the ignition interlock cost?

First, you will have to have the ignition interlock installed. The cost of the installation will vary, depending on the work required to install the ignition interlock on your particular car. Apparently ignition interlocks are more difficult, and thus more expensive, to install on luxury automobiles. Generally though, look for an approximate fee of $100 for the installation. Once installed, you will pay a maintenance fee each month of about $75.

Will I be required to wear a SCRAM bracelet?

SCRAM (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor) bracelets are used to monitor an individual's alcohol consumption. It's a bulky bracelet that goes around one's ankle. It monitors for and detects the presence of alcohol in the skin's perspiration. Most DWI defendants will not be required to wear a SCRAM bracelet. In fact, I do not believe I have ever had a first-time DWI client ever be required to wear a SCRAM bracelet. Second-time offenders sometimes have to, and it's very likely that anyone arrested for a felony DWI be required to wear a SCRAM bracelet as a condition of their bond. The cost of a SCRAM bracelet is relatively high, consisting of an installation expense in the $50-100 ballpark, as well as daily monitoring fees that can add up to hundreds of dollars per month.

Will I take points on my license?

For a first-time offender, probably, yes, you will be assessed points as a result of your DWI charge, but probably not from the DWI itself. Most first-time DWI charges as resolved with an SIS (Suspended Imposition of Sentence) and a period of probation. In that situation, since you are not being convicted of a DWI, you will not receive any points against your license as a result of the DWI charge itself. However, most prosecuting attorneys will want a conviction on the "probable cause" ticket (i.e., the charge the officer relied on as the reason for pulling you over). For example, let's say you received a DWI after being pulled over for weaving or improper lane use (a very common scenario). Assuming this is your first offense, and the DWI charge was disposed of with a plea of guilty (with an SIS), it is likely that the improper lane use ticket will end up being a conviction, and that your license will be assessed 2-points.

A second-time offender, on the other hand, will generally get an SES (Suspended Execution of Sentence) along with a period of probation. An SES does result in a conviction, so that individual will receive the points assessment for the DWI charge itself. His or her DWI lawyer may have an opportunity to avoid points for the companion ticket, like improper lane use, for what it's worth (which isn't much, when you consider the second-time DWI conviction comes with an 8-point assessment, and all subsequent DWI convictions with a 12-point assessment).

Can I get my old DWI plea expunged from my record?

Possibly. Missouri has a special statute relating to the expungement of first-time DWI (and Minor in Possession) charges. If your DWI or MIP conviction occurred 10 or more years ago, and you have had no other alcohol-related driving charges or actions since then (and, of course, nothing pending at the time of your expungement hearing), you could be successful in expunging your Missouri DWI charge. If successful in doing so, your expungement will essentially wipe out the arrest, plea, and any other legal record of the incident. The attorney fee for an expungement of a first-time DWI generally falls in the $1,000 range.

What effect will my DWI have on my car insurance expense?

It's going to go up. If you receive a DWI and you submit to the breathalyzer test, assuming you do not appeal the administrative suspension (or you do appeal it and lose), you will be required to carry SR-22 insurance for a period of two years in order to reinstate your driver's license. An SR-22 is simply a form, sent from your insurance company to the Missouri Department of Revenue, basically certifying that you have valid auto insurance in effect. If you fail to pay the insurance company or cancel the violation voluntarily, the insurance company will file another form with the DOR, telling them that you no longer have insurance which, in turn, will cause the DOR to suspend your license again. Obtaining an SR-22 means you'll have higher monthly premiums. On top of that, you may see another increase in your premium due to points you'll take against your license from tickets that are issued with your driving while intoxicated charge.

How much will the attorney fees be for representation on my DWI?

Attorney fees will vary depending on the facts of your case. The factors that influence what the DWI lawyer's fee will be include what court the charge is issued out of (i.e., whether the driving while intoxicated is charged out of a Circuit Court or a municipal court), whether it is a first-offense DWI, whether you blew or not, etc. However, for a first-time DWI, my attorney fee is generally in the $950 to $1,500 ballpark.

I just saw a billboard claiming that a DWI will cost me 10 grand. Is that true?

In short, no, probably not. Above you can find detailed explanation of each expense that accompanies a Missouri DWI charge. However, in the event you don't wish to read a wall of text, here are the CliffsNotes.

Cost of a Missouri DWI
SATOP: $400 (or more, if after your SATOP assessment you are deemed to require more extensive (and expensive) "treatment" than the typical first-time DWI offender.)
Victim Impact Panel (VIP): $35
Attorney Fees: $1,250 (give-or-take, dependent on what will be required of your individual charge)
SCRAM Bracelet (if req'd): Installation fee of about $100, and then monthly monitoring fees, which can be as much as $400.
Ignition Interlock Drive (if req'd): Installation fee of about $100 (depends on the type of vehicle and how long the installation takes), and then an average monthly fee of around $75, give-or-take.
Fines and Court Costs: Varies greatly depending on the tickets issued along with the DWI, as well as the court issuing the charges. I've had clients owe the court less than $200 at the conclusion of their DWI case, and I've had clients owe well over $1,000.
Recoupment Fees: Depends on the police department, but generally in the $100 range.
Driver's License Reinstatement: Not all DWI offenders will lose their license, but for those who do, expenses incurred in getting reinstated include SATOP (explained above), as well as a $45 reinstatement fee paid to the Department of Revenue, and SR-22 insurance (the exact expense of the SR-22 varies, of course, driver-to-driver, and insurance company-to-insurance company, but seems to fall in the $75 per month range, which is on top of your current monthly insurance expense (which you may also see an increase in due to the DWI charge)).

Please keep in mind, these are approximations of the typical costs incurred when resolving a driving while intoxicated charge in Missouri courts, and that some of these expenses may not even apply to your particular case.

I was recently issued a DWI in Missouri - what should my first step be?

Research as much as you can online and contact a DWI attorney you feel comfortable with. You can tell an awful lot about an attorney based on their internet presence. Do they provide their email address? Cell phone number? Can they provide reviews and testimonials? You check what the user rating is for a movie on Netflix before you watch it, why wouldn't you perform the same sort of vetting for the person you're about to hire for your DWI? Especially when it comes to a first-time DWI, the end result for a typical plea bargained case will not, generally speaking, be significantly different one attorney to the next. The management of your case, however, is another story.

You deserve to be kept up-to-date and informed as to the status of your case. Your emails and your calls should be returned quickly. When you ask the same question about SATOP for the fifth time, your attorney shouldn't be frustrated with you, he or she should answer the question again, and this time make an effort to provide a clearer explanation. My point boils down to this: if more than 90% of first-time DWI charges are disposed of through a plea bargain, you should be making an effort to find an attorney who is not only willing (and able) to defend bad DWI charges, but also who can (and is willing to) help you manage your DWI charge, and all of the things that must be accomplished in order to move on from the incident. The laundry list of things to complete in order to get your life back on track after a DWI is daunting, and the aggressiveness of your lawyer won't help you dissect it. Effectively and efficiently navigating one's way through all that is required by a DWI arrest requires a patient, accessible attorney. So, after all of that is said, your first step should be to call an attorney, sooner than later.

I took a breathalyzer and blew over a .08 - how long do I have to act?

In situations where you chose to provide the police with a breath sample, you have 15 days to file an Administrative Appeal. That information can also be found on the temporary driving permit you should have received after your DWI arrest. If you (either by yourself or with your DWI attorney) do not appeal the administrative suspension, your license will be suspended for a period of 30 days, followed by 60 days of restrictive driving. You'll only get the restrictive driving permit if you have SR-22 on file with the Department of Revenue. After the 60 days of restrictive driving is up, you'll get your license back if you have completed SATOP and paid your $45 reinstatement fee to the Department of Revenue.

To recap, in cases where you have taken the breathalyzer, assuming you have not successfully appealed the administrative suspension, you will have 30 days of no driving, following by 60 days of restrictive driving (school, work, etc), but only if you have SR-22 on file with the DOR. After that 60 days is up, you will be fully reinstated if you continue to maintain your SR-22, complete SATOP, and pay the reinstatement fee to the DOR.

I refused to blow but was still issued a DWI - what should I do now?

Whether you blow or not, your first step is still the same - talk to an attorney experienced in handling DWI charges immediately. It may sound self-serving, and I suppose it is to a degree, but DWI charges really need to be handled by a DWI lawyer. This is not your standard traffic ticket, and the timing in which things are done post-arrest is very important. So, really, whether it's me or some other DWI lawyer, hire one you are comfortable with, as soon as possible.

The steps your DWI lawyer takes after he or she is hired will be different depending on whether you blew or not, but in both situations your timeframe in which to act is very limited. In Missouri, if you refuse to blow after you are stopped, your attorney will file a Petition for Review in the Circuit Court of the county in which you were stopped. The Petition for Review will temporarily put a stay on your license suspension, and allow your attorney to look into the specific facts surrounding your stop. In some situations, a defendant can avoid the license revocation altogether through their Petition for Review.

Will I go to jail for my DWI?

Jail time is a possibility with any DWI, sure, but jail time is extremely unlikely for a first-time DWI offense. Subsequent offenders can expect a much stronger possibility of jail time, but even then, I've certainly had a number of second-time DWI clients avoid jail time. It is not necessarily always the case, of course, but it is not rare. The bottom line is that for first-time DWI defendants, jail time is very unlikely.

Is there anyway to keep the DWI conviction off of my record?

Yes, beyond taking the case to trial and winning, there are also alternative ways in which a DWI can be kept off of your record. One possibility is an amended charge. This is when a DWI charge is amended, or reduced down, to something less serious, like careless and imprudent driving. It is not easy to get a DWI amended to a lesser charge, but it does happen, particularly if the prosecutor has a weak case. The more common method in which a DWI conviction is kept off your record is through a Suspended Imposition of Sentence (or SIS). An SIS involves the defendant being put on a term of probation, usually for 2 years for a first-time DWI case. Provided the defendant completes probation without incident, and completes all required programs associated with their probation, the defendant will not receive a conviction for the charge. At the end of probationary period the record becomes sealed.

How long will I lose my license?

The answer to this question depends on a variety of factors. For an analysis of your specific situation, please contact me. Generally, however, for a first-time offender who agrees to do a breathalyzer and does not file an administrative appeal, the driver will face 30 days of no driving privileges followed by 60 days of limited driving privileges (subject to the possibility of avoiding the suspension altogether by installing an ignition interlock). The limited driving privileges will only be available, however, provided that the individual has filed SR-22 insurance with the Department of Revenue. At the conclusion of the 60 day restricted driving period, the driver is eligible to be fully reinstated provided they have completed SATOP, maintained SR-22 insurance, and paid their reinstatement fee to the Missouri Department of Revenue.

If the driver did not blow, and he or she hires a competent DWI lawyer who files a timely Petition for Review in the Circuit Court of the county in which you were arrested, it's quite possible the driver will avoid a suspension or revocation all together. If, however, a Petition for Review is not filed (or not filed on time), the driver/defendant in a refusal case faces a one-year revocation.

Will I be required to appear in court for a DWI?

Yes, almost certainly you will be required to appear in court to dispose of your DWI charge. In the off-chance your case is dismissed, or amended down and/or does not involve probation, you may be able to avoid court, but those situations are few and far between. Disregarding the occasional dismissal or amendment, anyone with a DWI charge should expect to appear in court at some time. A good attorney, however, will understand the importance of minimizing the impact a DWI charge has on their client's time, and will aim to minimize the number of times a client needs to appear in court. An overwhelmingly large majority of my clients appear in court only one time, and that is generally for the purpose of entering plea and closing out their case.

It's the day of court, what should I expect?

Probably lots of nervousness and then, if your attorney has done their job, a good deal of relief, along with the realization that it wasn't half as bad as you thought it would be. A DWI attorney should do a number of things in the course of quality representation. They should listen to your story, honestly evaluate the facts and your options, and they should navigate you through the court system with as little hassle as possible. Most of the municipal courts, if not all, proceed on a first-come-first-serve basis. That being the case, I make every effort to be one of the first attorneys in court, and will expect the same of my clients. Once we're both in court, we'll go through the paperwork (which will simply reiterate exactly what I explained to you outside of court, weeks prior to our court date), and we'll get a few signatures. I'll give you a quick heads up about the idiosyncrasies of your particular judge, if any, and, once the judge arrives, we'll go through your plea. Once your plea is entered, which will generally take just a few minutes and require very little speaking on your part, we'll sign you up for any programs you haven't completed yet (although I will have advised you to get everything out of the way prior to the plea) and then we're done. The following day, you'll hear from me by e-mail (or regular mail, if the client doesn't use e-mail for day-to-day communications) with a recap of the previous night's court appearance and a rundown of what is expected from you going forward. Clients appreciate this organized, systematic approach to their DWI case, as it minimizes the inconvenience, expense, and overall impact of the DWI charge on their life.

What types of payments do you accept?

Anything, pretty much. MasterCard, Visa, American Express, checks, money orders, cash, whatever the client prefers. Payment can be made online, over the phone, through the mail, or, of course, in-person at my office (by appointment only). The form of payment, and how payment is made is completely up to the client - whatever is most convenient for him or her.

What types of payments do the courts accept?

Varies from court-to-court. Many of the courts now take credit/debit card payments, but not surprisingly, they'll hit you with a surcharge if you choose to use a card. All the courts take money orders, so far as I know, and most take cashier's check. The biggest restriction is on personal checks. Many of our area municipal courts do not take personal checks. You need to be diligent in making sure the court has received and accepted your payment. I had one client mail in a personal check for their fines and costs a few days prior to their payment due date. The particular court did not accept personal checks, so they mailed it back with a letter explaining their policy. Unfortunately, the letter reached my client after his pay date had passed, and the court issued a warrant. As you may have heard, many of the municipal courts are extremely strict and unforgiving. If it were my charge - DWI or otherwise - I would drive the payment to the court and, until they figure out a way to ensure that all of St. Louis County's many, many municipal courts are managed with some degree of competence, I would keep the receipt in my vehicle the rest of my natural life.

Can I leave the state when I'm on probation? Will I have to check in?

Most DWI pleas will involve probation. For first-time offenders, that probation is generally of limited nature. You'll set up your programs - like SATOP, VIP, and community service - through probation and provide the probation office with proof of completion as you move through each program. You'll pay a small fee, relatively speaking ($200 for St. Louis County, for example), and notify the office of any changes in address or phone number. You will also be required to report any new arrests or law enforcement contact with probation. For a typical first-time offender who does all of their programs and completes all conditions of probation in a prompt manner, there's not much interaction with the probation office. This is not felony probation, or anything resembling such, so for limited probation you can leave the state, vote, own a firearm, etc.

What happens if I violate my probation?

The resolution to one's probation violation depends mostly on what caused the violation. The most common reasons defendants find themselves back in court for a probation violation are for, one, not doing his or her court-ordered programs or, two, for picking up a new charge of some sort. If the court violates your probation for not completing a program - say, for example, you haven't done SATOP. Generally you'll be given a final chance to resolve the issue. In other words, you'll be given one last shot to do what you were supposed to do. If you do complete the unfinished work, and show up to your probation revocation hearing (with a DWI lawyer, I would suggest) with proof of completion, you will likely be in a good position to simply be continued on probation. If, on the other hand, you are on probation for DWI and you pick up a new DWI charge, you could very well likely be looking at a revocation.

My question is not answered here - how can I contact a DWI attorney?

The information provided here is for educational purposes only and should not be relied on as if legal advice pertaining to your individual situation. I will be happy to speak with you regarding any questions you may have regarding your driving while intoxicated charge. Contact info: Missouri DWI lawyer.

Next Up: Costs associated with a St. Louis DWI
If you've read through the DWI FAQ or spoken to anyone who has ever gotten a DWI, you know that a driving while intoxicated charge is expensive to deal with. It takes time, energy, and, of course, money. In the next section, you'll find out the cost of legal representation for a typical DWI charge.

Cost of a Missouri DWI

Getting a DWI is going to cost you more than money. Effectively handling a Missouri DWI charge will also require a great deal of time, and physical and mental energy. But, with some hard work and effort, you can quickly move on from a DWI.

If you look at what search terms lead people to finding my DWI website, you will see that the cost of a DWI in Missouri is of the upmost importance to many. This is evident by four of the most commonly used search terms that lead people here, including "cheap DWI lawyer", "affordable DWI attorney", "how much does a DWI cost in Missouri?", and "how much does a St. Louis DWI lawyer charge?" This isn't surprising, of course, as everyone knows the cost of a product or service is an important factor when making a purchasing decision. In my Missouri DWI FAQ, I outlined and explained many of the expenses you will face when working through your driving while intoxicated charge. In addition to recapping those fees below, I have also provided an explanation of my flat fee pricing philosophy. The goal of which, as you'll see, is to provide the client with an accurate estimate of exactly how much their DWI charge will cost to resolve, and how to properly time those expenses so they can better fit into each client's particular budget.

Attorney Fees for Driving While Intoxicated Representation

Missouri Only

Criminal Case

First-time DWI defense from $1,000
Second (+) DWI defense from $1,500

Civil / Administrative Case

Petition for Review (refusal cases) from $500
Administrative Appeal from $350
Affordable DWI Defense
Fines and Court Costs

How much you'll end up paying in fines and costs for a DWI charge varies greatly on a number of factors. The most important two factors being how many companion charges you were issued with the DWI charge (i.e., how many other tickets, like speeding or failure to maintain a single lane, for example, that you got along with your DWI) and, from which court the charge is pending (i.e., some courts are simply more expensive than others, charging higher fines and court costs). When we discuss your particular case, I can give you an idea of what to expect in terms of fines and costs for your particular charges.

Programs, Classes, Ignition Interlock, Probation.

The programs associated with resolving your DWI charge will be some of the most financial taxing parts of resolving your DWI charge. SATOP alone, for example, will cost almost $500 when it's all said and done (and that's for the lowest level of SATOP; the costs could be higher if you're placed in more intensive treatment). Your probation fees - the fees you pay to be supervised by probation - can be a couple of hundred dollars as well. If you're unfortunate enough to be required to get an ignition interlock installed, then you'll have an installation fee, followed by a monthly maintenance expense.

Automobile Insurance.

Your DWI charge will probably increase the cost of your automobile insurance. This occurs in two ways, basically. First, if you blow, and do not successfully win an administrative appeal, your license will be suspended. Not only will an administrative alcohol suspension show up on your driver's record (even after it's over), which can raise premiums going forward, you will also be required to have your insurance company file an SR-22 with the Department of Revenue, which is a pretty expensive monthly expense. Second, many prosecuting attorneys will be adamant that the Defendant take the points (i.e., enter a guilty plea) on one of the "lesser" offenses (e.g., speeding, failure to signal, etc.) that are often issued along with a driving while intoxicated charge, even if the Defendant is avoiding a conviction for the DWI charge itself through an SIS or amendment or some other means. In that situation, your insurance will increase based on the assessment of 2 or 3 points against one's driver's license (2 or 3 points is a fairly standard amount of points for a companion ticket such as speeding or failure to maintain a single lane).

Next Up: Contact a St. Louis DWI Lawyer
Hopefully you've learned a few things while perusing the site. If not, please feel free to ask me any questions you may have regarding Missouri driving while intoxicated charges. Clients and prospective clients are welcomed to call, email, or even text me to discuss their pending DWI.