As the weather finally breaks and the eternal winter finally gives into spring, we can finally return to backyard BBQs, baseball games and weekends at the lake. Unfortunately, for many, spring and summer fun can turn into questionable driving decisions and ultimately, a DWI. As the police lights flash behind them, many questions will run through their heads: am I intoxicated? Do I blow? Do I refuse? Am I going to jail?
While all of those questions are certainly important, they generally address only one part of the DWI charge. The criminal charge is extremely important, with many potential consequences as a result of a plea of guilt (for more information, see this article on the current laws regarding DWI enhancement), but that is only one piece to the puzzle. The administrative side, the side affecting your license, is just as important, and in some cases, even more so. A suspension or revocation of driving privileges can be a minor inconvenience to some, but to others, particularly those with a CDL, the results of an administrative action can have a devastating affect on a driver’s livelihood.
For whatever reason- misunderstanding of the law, money, or just plain unawareness- many people do not fight their suspensions, opting instead to suffer the consequences and lose their driver’s license. In the case of a refusal to provide a breath sample, a driver would be unable to drive for a year before being eligible for reinstatement. Even if a driver does not refuse, a minimum 90-day suspension will go into effect before a criminal charge is even filed.
After years of appealing these cases, I have come to the conclusion that all suspensions are worth fighting. By hiring an attorney experienced enough to recognize when the law is in the driver’s favor and when it is not, a driver may be able reduce the impact of an administrative suspension or even avoid it all together.
The statutes and regulations relating to the Department of Revenue (DOR) change on a regular basis, leaving most drivers confused about when their suspension goes into effect, whether they are eligible for a limiting driving privilege, and most importantly, how and when they can get their license back. For example, between August of 2013 and March 2014, the regulations relating to ignition interlock devices changed twice, having a significant impact on those drivers who plead guilty to an offense believing they would not have to install such a device on their vehicle, only to learn at the time of reinstatement that the laws had changed and they would now be required to install one at a significant cost. For some drivers, an immediate hardship license is available, but only with the installation of an ignition interlock device and more importantly, with the threat of an extended suspension should they have an issue with the device.
While driving in Missouri is viewed as a privilege, not a right, I have seen first hand the damage caused by leaving a person without the ability to drive in an area with limited public transportation. Loss of work, strained family relationships from the constant requests for rides, and traffic tickets for driving while suspended are just the tip of the iceberg. Many attorneys view administrative hearings as a lost cause, not putting any effort into questioning witnesses or procedures, but I firmly believe that these hearings are an essential part of the process. Your license is worth fighting for.
If you or someone you know is facing a potential suspension or revocation of their driving privileges, or if you simply have questions about the process, do not hesitate to contact Linda M. Freeman, one of our experienced DOR attorneys.